Dodgers' Complete Guide, Preview for 2nd Half of 2021 MLB SeasonJuly 15, 2021
Dodgers' Complete Guide, Preview for 2nd Half of 2021 MLB Season
The Los Angeles Dodgers entered the All-Star break at 56-35, a winning record that trailed only the rival San Francisco Giants in the National League West standings and leaguewide.
Aside from a 5-15 stretch of games in late April and early May, they have been dominant as expected with a balanced lineup and enviable depth that has allowed them to overcome several key injuries.
On the heels of last year's World Series win, it is once again title-or-bust for this team. And in a stacked NL West, it will no doubt be eyeing at least a few additions at the trade deadline.
Ahead, we've provided a preview for the second half of the season, complete with potential X-factors, a trade deadline outlook and a blueprint for this Dodgers team to reach the postseason.
SS Corey Seager
Gavin Lux still has a chance to be an important part of the future for the Dodgers, but with a .231/.314/.358 line and 87 OPS+ he has been a clear downgrade offensively at shortstop with Corey Seager on the shelf. Sidelined since the middle of May with a fractured hand, Seager is expected to return shortly after the second half begins.
"Once we've finished that Colorado series (next weekend), we'll reassess and see where he's at, physically, and make a decision," manager Dave Roberts told reporters. "Right now, there's no thought of a rehab assignment. It's more of just getting live at-bats in Arizona."
CF Cody Bellinger
Two years removed from winning NL MVP honors, Cody Bellinger was a non-factor for the Dodgers during the first half of the season. He hit .176/.291/.303 for a 66 OPS+ with four home runs in 141 plate appearances for a 0.1 WAR in 34 games.
Even if he can return to last year's level of production, when he had a 113 OPS+ with 12 home runs and 30 RBI in 56 games before slugging four home runs in the postseason, he would be a significant in-house addition for the stretch run.
RHP Josiah Gray
With Clayton Kershaw on the injured list with forearm inflammation, Dustin May out for the year following Tommy John surgery, and Trevor Bauer on administrative leave while sexual assault charges against him are investigated, the Dodgers rotation has been stretched thin.
Josiah Gray is the team's top pitching prospect, and he has a 1.64 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 11 innings through his first three starts at Triple-A. The 23-year-old ranked No. 68 on Baseball America's Top 100 prospect list at the start of the year.
Trade Deadline Outlook
The Dodgers have one of the most complete rosters in all of baseball, but there are still areas that could stand to be upgraded at the deadline, starting with the bullpen.
With Victor Gonzalez and Jimmy Nelson both currently on the injured list and David Price shifted back into starting duties for the time being, they have had to do more mixing and matching ahead of Blake Treinen and Kenley Jansen of late.
Phil Bickford has been a nice find and Joe Kelly is pitching well, but they could still stand to add at least one more late-inning option.
Pittsburgh Pirates closer Richard Rodriguez and Seattle Mariners free-agent-to-be Kendall Graveman are two names to monitor, while Texas Rangers right-hander Ian Kennedy would also provide a welcome veteran presence.
Depending on how things play out with Trevor Bauer and the status of Clayton Kershaw's forearm injury, the Dodgers could also be in the market for another starter.
A rental of Max Scherzer would be a big swing, while a rental of division-rival Jon Gray would be a smaller-scale addition that could serve a similar purpose.
With Will Smith entrenched as the starting catcher and prospect Diego Cartaya rapidly rising prospect lists, Keibert Ruiz could be the trade chip that brings back a big piece this summer.
The Dodgers Make the Postseason If...
FanGraphs currently gives the Dodgers a robust 99.5 percent chance of reaching the postseason, the best odds of any team in baseball.
In other words, a lot is going to have to go wrong for this team to be sitting at home in October.
The Dodgers have had some rough stretches this year but have proved capable of weathering the storm and coming out the other side no worse for wear.
As long as they are not decimated by injuries, specifically to the pitching staff which has already been stretched a bit thin, they should be on track to defend their World Series title when the 2021 postseason begins.
All stats courtesy of Baseball Reference.