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.
6 thoughts on “Three Dodgers with Something to Prove in 2021”
Two others that I think have something to prove are Bellinger and Muncy. At this point I think most people view them as good players who each had an off year, but if they follow their 2020 performance with a similar one in 2021 they may be looked at players who had a good beginning to their Dodger career which they never matched.
Jeff, I agree with you, on Muncy and Bellinger. Muncy’s batting average this spring last I checked was 105 points BELOW the Mendoza line! AND Roberts just came out with a quote stating how Muncy was in a great place mentally! I don’t know about you but if I had a crap season in 2020 and this spring I was batting.095 I would be seriously concerned! Yes, it is Spring but you are also batting against many guys that are destined for AA or below.
Bellinger is recuperating from shoulder surgery. My Daughter is a PT working with Olympic and professional athletes. The biggest problem is attempting to hold them back so they do not re-injure themselves attempting to recuperate. That said it was shoulder surgery and everyone heals at a different rate. I am more concerned about his new batting stance as his last one most professional guys agreed he was too close to the plate and his hands were too high.
Lux should be very good if not great this season. He looks good has simplified his swing mechanics and is being aggressive, he took too many strike 3’s last year.
I am not sold on Jansen,. Last year he lost velocity and control of his cutter and other pitches. I like Kenley and wish him a great season. I am not convinced that he should be the closer or anyone should be the designated closer. Baseball these days is managed by stats. Why not bring up the pitcher in a critical inning that has the best statistical chance to get the guys coming up out?
Totally agree with you on the closer situation Tmax. Use your guys where they can do you the most good. We keep hearing how bullpen guys like to have a defined role. Well they used to say that about position players and, for the most part, Dodger management has now gotten most everyone to buy in to moving all over the field, wherever they are needed. It may just take a little while longer to get pitchers to subscribe to that strategy.
Seems to me that every time I see a Muncy at bat this spring, he’s grounding out to the right side, often times hitting the ball hard. For this year, he’s going to need more elevation or train himself to hit to the left side of the infield once in a while. For next year, he just needs to make sure that Manfred makes the shift illegal or at least only allows two guys to the right side of second base. That would easily add 100 points to his average.
Belli says he feels very comfortable in his new stance. I’m sure I’m just imagining things, but to me he actually looks more comfortable. He sure looked comfortable on that homer he hit today. As I mentioned in my comment below, it seems to me that the open stance makes his swing less complicated and if I’m right that can only help.
Starting 8 hitting on all cylinders today. Bellingers new stance has not yielded results yet, but it has only been two games. Muncy is still not squaring up any pitches. Seager looks ready to start the season as does Betts and Lux. Price goes 2.2 so far giving up 2. Santana in to relieve. Great catch by Pollock in left to close out an inning.
After you made your comment Bear, Belli got into gear. Hit his first homer of the year and made a very nice running catch.
I like his new look at the plate. Somehow he looks more comfortable to me with what is now a much more open stance. I don’t think he needs to go through as many contortions to get his swing into gear. Maybe I’m being over optimistic because of the homer he hit, but so far so good, considering he’s just beginning to get his at bats this spring.
I thought exactly the same thing, and all of the conversations they have had with him he says it is really comfortable. I think he is going to have a really good year. I want to see Muncy make harder contact. He has been topping the ball a lot.