3 reasons the Los Angeles Dodgers will win the NL West in 2019
For the past six seasons, the National League West has known no king but the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have established a stranglehold on the division in the midst of three straight NLCS appearances and back-to-back World Series berths.
While Los Angeles has been busy this offseason, most of the moves the organization has made have been internal. They extended Clayton Kershaw for three years–though Kershaw opted out with two years remaining on the current deal, so they basically just restructured his contract–and shed payroll by dumping Yasiel Puig, Matt Kemp and Alex Wood.
Much has been made of the Dodgers’ determinism to stay under the luxury tax for the next few years, but they have also become increasing favorites to land Bryce Harper:
For what it’s worth, my source who is close to Bryce Harper tells me #Dodgers and #Cubs were 1st choices all along and he prefers not to sign with #Phillies. I’ve been hearing all winter that Harper does not want to play for Gabe Kapler due to analytics and quirky personality
— Randy Miller (@RandyJMiller) February 26, 2019
Even without Harper, however, Los Angeles has their core from last season mostly intact, and face relatively thin competition in an NL West division that–for the moment–is mostly rebuilding.
Here are three reasons why the Dodgers will win the NL West for the seventh consecutive season:
1. Mashers everywhere
This is one of the deepest lineups in all of baseball. If everyone is healthy, nearly every single starting positional player (minus Austin Barnes) can hit 20-plus homers.
Justin Turner might be the most underrated player in the game. All he did after missing all of April–and 59 games in total–was hit .312 with 14 homers and a 151 OPS+ while posting just a 12.7 percent strikeout rate.
Max Muncy was first in the NL with 11.3 at-bats per home run. Cody Bellinger hit 25 in a “down” year. Chris Taylor still hit 17 in what was also a down year. Joc Pederson has light-tower power and has seriously cut down on his strikeouts.
A.J. Pollock, one of the Dodgers’ lone signings in free agency, hit 21 homers in just 113 games and was putting up MVP numbers before an injury cost him half of May and all of June and a .189 average in August put a damper on his year. Pollock has played in at least 130 games just twice in his career, but one of those years (2015) was an All-Star campaign.
And then there’s Corey Seager, who missed nearly all of 2018 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. Seager was establishing himself in that class with Francisco Lindor and Javier Baez as one of the best shortstops in the game before the injury.
Seager finished third in MVP voting in an NL Rookie of the Year performance in 2016, and followed with similar numbers in 2017. Adding another left-handed impact bat to the lineup means the Dodgers are totally stacked from both sides of the batter’s box.
2. The rotation could be scary good
We know about Kershaw’s dominance. When a 2.73 ERA in 26 starts is your worst since 2010, you are pretty damn good. But Kershaw aside, the Dodgers are loaded with good arms.
Walker Buehler had a 2.62 ERA and 9.9 K/9 in 23 starts and was dominant in Game 3 of the World Series. Hyun-Jin Ryu has quietly been one of the most reliable starting pitchers in baseball when healthy, and posted a 1.97 ERA and career-high 9.7 K/9 in 15 starts.
Left-handed veteran Rich Hill continues to impress with his longevity and ability to mix pitches, and both Kenta Maeda and Ross Stripling are equally good options to fill out the final spot in the rotation.
Although Kershaw already has experienced shoulder soreness and has been a cause for concern this season, he has battled through injuries for the last three years. He will do the same this season.
Buehler could be the X-factor. Given his age and stuff, he could take a massive leap forward into Cy Young contention in his second season, which would immediately catapult the Dodgers to the tope of the league.
If everyone is healthy, watch out.
3. They find ways to win
Seager, Turner, Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Kenley Jansen all missed significant time due to injuries last season. Those are arguably the top five players in the organization, who all went down for extended stretches. And yet, the Dodgers still won 92 games.
The “next man up” mentality is something that is embodied by manager Dave Roberts, who ignited the Boston Red Sox in Game 4 of the 2004 ALCS by stealing a base and scoring the tying run off of Mariano Rivera, eventually setting the stage for Boston’s historic comeback from a 3-0 deficit.
From Kike Hernandez to David Freese to Ross Stripling, the Dodgers had players step in and perform when called upon. How many teams in baseball would have been able to sustain that many injuries and still win the division? Not many.
Of course, Los Angeles would add Manny Machado in the second half and enter the home stretch fully-healthy, but Roberts showed managerial excellence in helping the Dodgers stay in the hunt throughout in what was a fairly competitive division last year.
Should the divisional race comes down to a battle of wills, the safe bet is on the Dodgers to come out on top yet again.