Imagine telling someone in October 2021 that in less than 1,000 days, defending NL MVP and World Series champ Freddie Freeman and soon-to-be AL MVP Shohei Ohtani would play on the same baseball team. Oh, and that team happens to also have Mookie Betts, who would be playing shortstop. It would be impressive if that person could keep their jaw off the floor.

When you expect to be one of the best baseball teams of all time, anything but total domination counts as a bit of a surprise. And the 2024 Los Angeles Dodgers have looked totally dominant at times, but less so at others. It's been a roller coaster ride off the field, of course, but there have been plenty of twists and turns on it as well.

So while the coming weeks will start to determine if the Dodgers truly are destined to be great, let's take stock of a wild and wacky season so far and highlight the biggest surprises for this juggernaut squad so far–both the good and the bad.

The “Big 3” in the lineup is more of a Big 4

Through 16 games, the Dodgers' ridiculous top-of-the-order trio has done nothing but live up to their expectations. Coming into play Saturday, Betts, Ohtani and Freeman were the only 1-2-3 hitters with over a 1.000 collective OPS, with no other team even topping .900. But although Betts and Ohtani are the two best performers in the lineup thus far, Freddie Freeman, despite hitting perfectly well, is not the third best.

Catcher Will Smith, fresh off inking a 10-year, $140 million contract extension, has been hitting like the dickens. He leads the team with a .381 batting average, is third in OPS and RBI and has only struck out nine times in 60 plate appearances.

At 29, Smith only just made his first All-Star team in 2023 despite finishing the season with an OPS just barely below .800 for the first time in his career. He's quietly been a top-five catcher for a while now but since the star talent surrounding him has never been greater, there's actually a bit more pressure on Smith at times. He's already found himself hitting with multiple runners on base at a higher clip than ever before and to his credit, he's delivering. This version of Will Smith can be a huge reason for the Dodgers' eventual championship parade if it indeed comes.

The role players are struggling big-time

In addition to the stacked top half, we all spent the offseason marveling at how deep the Dodgers' lineup was from 1-9, especially because they had a platoon for every possible situation. But through 1/10 of the season, every name that manager Dave Roberts has Sharpied onto the bottom third of the lineup card seems to be failing to perform.

Max Muncy and Teoscar Hernandez have performed more than adequately in the fifth and sixth spots in the lineup and finally, James Outman started to wake up in Minnesota with a pair of home runs. Beyond those three, it's been a black hole. Gavin Lux, in a season that seems to be the most important of his entire career, is slashing .163/.217/.186. Chris Taylor is even worse, with an astonishing 1-32 line at the plate. And the Dodgers have gotten nothing from fan favorite Kiké Hernandez this year, either.

So where does that leave the Dodgers? Does Miguel Rojas have a legitimate chance to win a starting role over Lux and slide Betts back to second base? Will the team's urgency to trade for a premier talent like Willy Adames increase? (By the way, look at where the Brewers are in the NL standings.)  It's uncertain, but there will be nights both in the regular season and postseason where LA will need more from its supporting cast.

The Dodgers' best pitcher so far is… James Paxton?!

Los Angeles Dodgers starting pitcher James Paxton (65) throws in the third inning against the San Francisco Giants at Dodger Stadium
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

It really is unfair that they keep doing this. No matter who the Dodgers end up signing or trading for to take the mound in Chavez Ravine, you can be certain that they'll be elevated to All-Star caliber. They did it with Tyler Anderson in 2022, Ryan Brasier in 2023 and now it's happening for James Paxton.

After putting up a 6.98 ERA in 40 innings post-trade deadline, Paxton was available for a paltry $7 million this offseason, with the chance to up that to $13 million if he hit a bunch of various incentives, per CBS Sports. He already added an extra $2 million by making the Opening Day roster, but decided he wasn't quite satisfied and went out and twirled two absolute gems to start the season.

It's a long season and the Dodgers know they'll need more from bigger names like Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Bobby Miller in the long run than they will from Paxton, who may only be filling in for Clayton Kershaw until late in the summer. But it really is stunning how easily the Dodgers seem to fix up veteran arms the second they don Dodger blue. Paxton has seemingly turned back the clock to his early Mariners days.