T-minus two weeks now until the Los Angeles Dodgers open their 2021 season against the Colorado Rockies at Coors Field.
Coming off their first World Championship in over 30 years, and winning it during a shortened pandemic year, the whole team is out to repeat as champions. They would like to celebrate as a group and with the city of Los Angeles. Repeating is hard, but if any team is built to do such a thing, it would be this team.
Most of the World Series team is back with the squad this season, but next season has the potential to look very different. Clayton Kershaw, Kenley Jansen, and Corey Seager all have deals that end after this season, among others.
We all know that Kershaw has nothing to prove. By the time he finishes his illustrious career, he will have most of the Dodgers’ pitching records, three Cy Youngs, an MVP, and most importantly, at least one championship ring.
But there are others on the team that have things to prove for one reason or another. I’ve highlighted three below.
The long time closer, as stated above, will see his contract end after this season, and his closing days numbered. After many struggles through the past four postseasons, Jansen saw a group effort close out the postseason with Julio Urías, and not Jansen, getting the bulk of the work.
Tag-teaming bullpen usage in the playoffs is nothing new, but to have your ‘closer’ pretty much relegated to non-leverage situations is never a good thing for said closer. During a meeting with reporters, Kenley had some thoughts on last year and the year to come.
Jansen told the media that not being on the mound to close out the World Series really hurt, but that riding with Urías was the right option, as he was the hottest pitcher in the bullpen at the time. He’s also just happy to be a World Series champ.
As for this upcoming season, Jansen said that he’s worked harder this offseason than he has in the past, not even going back to Curaçao to visit family. He stated that he’s going to do everything within his power to prove to the team and fans that he is still the dominant closer he was years ago. Kenley also said that this being a contract year, he will not take a single day for granted and has loved nothing more than having been in the Dodgers organization for the past 17 years.
It might seem silly to say that the 2020 NLCS and World Series MVP and 2016 Rookie of the Year has something to prove. But Seager has missed big chunks of seasons due to injury, and his upcoming free agency class is full of other top shortstops.
Fans of the Dodgers hope that Seager will sign an extension while still a member of the team, but there is no news on that front, with Seager stating he is not willing to talk to reporters about that.
This one has been discussed many times amongst fans and talking heads. Lux has been a high prospect in the Dodgers system for a few years, but he also has had some false starts while with the big club. This season feels as though it is a make or break season for the 23 year old.
In 2020, Lux only hit .175 in 63 at bats, appearing in only 19 games while spending most of his time at the alternate site. He only had one plate appearance in the 2020 postseason, striking out in the NLDS.
Much has been made that Lux is the second baseman of the future, and with things mostly back to normal, Lux can prove that indeed he will be.
Not surprisingly, all three players mentioned above are off to great starts in Spring Training. Jansen has pitched 5.0 innings and has only allowed two hits. Seager has five home runs and a .462/.548/1.038/1.587 slash line. And Lux is 10-for-27 and seems to be seeing the ball very well.
Players with something to still prove are great for a team that is trying to repeat and also full of talent. A season that could see big names play for the Dodgers for the last time will add an extra element to the year.