The Dodgers 2020 World Series win not only signified the first trip for the Commissioner’s Trophy back to Los Angeles proper since 1988 but it more importantly crossed the City of Angels off the most dubious list of baseball’s “almost” teams. This notorious list, which I have dubbed the “why God why” list, consists of teams who managed to lose the World Series in 7 games during a stretch where they reached the playoffs at least four out of five straight seasons and never were able to bring a title home at any point. Alone once again are the 2016-2020 Cleveland Indians and the 1995-2001 Cleveland Indians (bet you had no idea I am a Cleveland fan).
The Champions of our COVID shortened season not only dominated during the regular season and were the deserving champion in a year where more teams made the playoffs than ever before, but they seemingly got better in the offseason. The offseason additions are headlined almost exclusively with pitching additions, mainly reigning Cy Young winner Trevor Bauer, but the Dodgers offense hardly needed any additional new fire power as they have plenty of bats who are looking to take a leap forward for a team that won 71.7 percent of the their games last year. Let’s take a gander at how this offense will help our fantasy teams:
Catcher: Will Smith, Austin Barnes, Keibert Ruiz, Tim Federowicz, Stevie Berman, Hunter Feduccia
Smith won the battle of his namesake in the NLCS when he took the Braves lefty deep for a 3-run shot in Game 5 in a moment that cemented this version of a Will Smith in the national baseball fan’s eyes. For those of us who have been playing fantasy baseball, we have been well aware of what this Will Smith is capable of since the Dodgers took him in the first round of the 2016 draft. An imposing power bat throughout his rise through the minors, Smith immediately produced at the big league level when called up for the first time at the end of May (and again at the end of July) in 2019. In 2020, he continued a linear progression of growth and turned his 134 OPS+ into a 164 OPS+ while raising his triple slash .036/.064/.008. Right now the consensus No. 3 Catcher behind JT Realmuto and Salvador Perez in redraft leagues, he’s my clear No. 1 in dynasty. His youth, current production, and ties to an elite offense and team give him the best profile going forward in any league, especially when you remember he’s four years younger than the soon to be 30-year-old Realmuto and 31-year-old Perez. Beyond Smith’s skillset, Austin Barnes is one of the better backups in OBP leagues and certainly would be a starter on at least 10 other major league clubs, but what hinders Barnes immediate appeal is top prospect Keibert Ruiz waiting in AAA to step right in should Smith get injured. It’s not unreasonable to think if Smith goes down, Ruiz finishes clearly inside the Top 10 at catcher given the support that the Los Angeles offense can give to a 22-year-old rookie backstop. Both Barnes & Ruiz are not getting selected in the Top 40 catchers due to the roadblock at this Will Smith, but given their discounted price and upside, there are three catchers on the Dodgers that are going too low in drafts. That’s how good this Dodgers team is.
First Base: Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Edwin Rios, Matt Beaty, Matt Davidson, Rangel Ravelo, Nick Yarnall
The Dodgers have an embarrassment of riches on the right side of the diamond, even if their Top 2 options might see more starts at other positions. Bellinger is expected to be the primary CF with Muncy taking the majority of at bats at 1B or 2B, depending on who wins the most playing time between Edwin Rios and Gavin Lux. Bellinger is a former MVP winner entering his age 25 season coming off a “down” season where he was still on pace to hit 32 homers and swipe 16 bags. He’s currently the No. 2 1B getting drafted behind MVP winner Freddie Freeman. Meanwhile Muncy is the 12th 1B, 10th 2B, and 14th 3B off the board. While there is nothing wrong with taking either in these slots, neither put up an OPS over .800 in 2020 and the room for positive growth and ROI specifically in 2021 is limited. The player where you can get the most return on your purchase is Edwin Rios, who currently barely inside the Top 50 of all 1B and 3B. Like Ruiz at catcher, Rios path to playing time will take injuries, but unlikely Ruiz an injury to Bellinger, Muncy, Lux, or Justin Turner could open the door to consistent playing time. Over the course of his short career Rios has 12 dingers in 139 PAs with a 154 OPS+. For context, that puts him on a 32 homer per 162 game pace (like Bellinger) and an OPS+ 13 points better than Bellinger’s career. Buy Rios stock where you can stash and wait, and reap the rewards when an injury occurs.
Second Base: Gavin Lux, Chris Taylor, Sheldon Neuse, Zach McKinstry, Michael Busch, Jacob Amaya, Omar Estevez, Andy Burns, Elliot Soto, Carlos Asuaje, Clayton Daniel, Deacon Liput, Jeremy Arocho
As previously mentioned, the Spring Training matchup to watch is Edwin Rios vs Gavin Lux, although Lux is the clear favorite. Somehow a forgotten man on a World Series winning team, Lux uber prospect status seems like a distant memory, yet was only 2 years ago. Entering his age 23 season, 2021 could easily be the breakout year where Lux finishes as a Top 5 2B, and given that his getting drafted between the 20-25th out of all 2Bs there signing flashing BUY-BUY-BUY could not be any brighter. All the pieces are there: high round draft prospect, elite team, recent Top 5 overall prospect, excellent lineup protection that can force pitchers to challenge him, and a clear path to playing time. The only real drawback is the Dodgers are so deep he might not play more than four times a week every if he’s performing, yet you should still pay for this potential upside. As for the additional depth, Chris Taylor should be filling a super sub rule across 2B/SS/OF once again and should the injury bug bite the Dodgers heavily and he gets consistent playing time, he will once again be a solid streaming add, but his early 20s draft today might be a bit high. This position and subsequent playing time is Lux to lose.
Third Base: Justin Turner, Kody Hoese, Devin Mann, Miguel Vargas, Cristian Santana, Brandon Lewis, Luke Heyer, Jimmy Titus
Justin Turner has quietly been one of the best players in all of baseball over the past decade. .294/.370/.473 across nearly 4,000 plate appearances is insanely reliable, but in fantasy baseball we are always looking forward to the future. While in 2021 Turner should still be capable of easily replicating that those percentages in a deep Dodgers lineup, Turner’s two-year contract will more than likely be the last two years of being a full-time starter in any line-up and that’s optimistically thinking he won’t regress at all. Right now his ADP is the 25th 3B taken, which considering his high floor for his age seems like it might be too low. Nick Solak, Andres Gimenez, Jean Segura and Austin Riley are the 3Bs getting draft immediately after Turner, and only Gimenez is a guy I look at as someone with clear long term fantasy upside. Like we’ve mentioning in the previous blurbs, Edwin Rios will be waiting in the wings should Turner struggle and he is an excellent cheap target, but we also want to keep in mind that Kody Hoese could make a cameo in the bigs should both Turner and Rios be injured/not perform. Hoese would become an immediately buy with consistent at bats, but those will likely not come for a few years for the Dodgers top hitting prospect.
Shortstop: Corey Seager, Nicholas Shumpert
The true heir to Justin Turner’s bland, hidden, elite production is Corey Seager. Now entering his age 27 season, Seager is a career .295/.362/.500 hitter 26 homers and 72 total XBHs per season with a 129 OPS+ at shortstop. Outshined lately by Bellinger and Mookie Betts, Seager is still a two-time All Star who has received multiple MVP votes in three separate seasons. Unlike everyone else on this roster, Seager does not have any real competition for playing time. Chris Taylor might spell him occasionally, but he was on pace for 140+ games last season while on pace for 40 homers. It’s tough to definitively slot him ahead of any of the shortstops on the board, but as the 10th SS getting draft he seems like a clear steal. His floor is insanely high, the ceiling is insanely high, and he’s coming off a .307/.358/.585 season and a top 10 MVP finish. Buy Seager shares.
Outfield: Mookie Betts, AJ Pollock, DJ Peters, Luke Raley, Zach Reks, James Outman, Andy Pages, Jeren Kendall, Drew Avans, Donovan Casey, Jon Littell, Carlos Rincon
Oh look! It’s the No. 1 overall fantasy outfielder and MVP runner up Mookie Betts. There’s not much to say other than Betts is a 5-tool player who is a fantasy godsend smack dab in the middle of his prime who is a career 135 OPS+ with a .301/.373/.522, 126 runs, 45 doubles, 5 triples, 30 homers, 97 RBIs, 26 steals and 75 walks per season guy. I guess that was actually a lot to say, but yeah, buy Betts at any price. He’s a No. 1 overall pick candidate and whoever has the first pick look elsewhere, he’s the guy I want with the next pick. The interesting question is who will be the third outfielder, AJ Pollock is the uninspiring 60th best OF getting drafted who even tired to this lineup seems destined to be in a low value platoon. Chris Taylor and Matt Beaty will get at bats, the sneaky value might lie with DJ Peters. Currently outside the top 125 OFs and unlikely to crack the Opening Day roster, Peters has mammoth power and on base skill, and could put up Will Smith-equse numbers if he can sneak his way into the lineup. He’s a great late flier if you can roster him. This is a running trend with anyone not immediately slated for ABs but is next in line on this Dodgers team in case you haven’t noticed.
Man, this team is really, really, really good. This offense is really, really, really good. Anything short of a World Series birth will be a disappointment in LA, but I wouldn’t bet against it. This offensive is good and deep, and even if five significant injuries crop up at the same time, the Dodgers can withstand that type of blow and barely miss anything on offense. I’ll be excited to invest in anyone on this team, and I’ll be excited to watch. Can’t wait.