Roster Breakdown: How the Dodgers Broke Their 32 Year Title Drought
It was certainly a very different MLB season this year as we had a shortened regular season, expanded playoffs, and various rule changes. As I look back at the 2020 season there were a lot of unexpected things that happened, in fact the whole season itself really was unexpected, however at the end of the day the best team in the league took home their first World Series Championship in 32 years, that team being the Los Angeles Dodgers.
The Dodgers have been nothing short of dominant for nearly a decade now, with a core that has revolved around generational talent Clayton Kershaw, they’ve been able to stay consistent despite their lack of deep postseason success.
Eight straight division titles is no fluke, in fact it’s the third longest streak of all time, and the longest N.L West streak in league history. Consistency is key, and it’s what every organization strives to accomplish. Once you get to that winning peak how do you stay there? That’s the question that the Dodgers have seemed to answer, a question that has puzzled other organizations for decades. But how did they get here? How did the Dodgers build this super star powered roster that has finally reached the pinnacle of the baseball world? That’s what I want to take a deeper dive into in this blog.
Clayton Kershaw: Drafted 7th overall by the Dodgers in 2006, Kershaw has gone on to be a Dodgers legend during his 12 seasons on the team. A career ERA of 2.43 should speak for itself, but Kershaw is the cornerstone of this roster and his homegrown development is a rather common theme with the Dodgers.
Walker Buehler: Another first round pick that was absolutely nailed by the Dodgers, the 26-year old Kentucky native is quickly turning into one of the best pitchers in the National League. An all-star in 2019, Buehler has had a sub 3.50 ERA all three full seasons he’s had in the majors, and was a lockdown pitcher for the team in the playoffs this year.
Julio Urias: A Mexico native, Urias signed with the Dodgers in 2012 on the day of his 16th birthday. He will forever be remembered for recording the last out for the team in the 2020 championship run, but he has been a really good, underrated pitcher, who is seldom talked about by anyone in the league. He has a 2.79 ERA in 38.2 postseason innings, a very nice total. He’s been just as good in the regular season, pitching to a 3.50 ERA or under in three of his four full seasons with the team.
Dustin May: May, a recent top prospect in the Dodgers system, was very impressive in his first full season with the team. The former 2016 3rd round pick by the Dodgers pitched in 12 games this season, starting 10 of them, recording a 2.57 ERA in these appearances as well as a very slim 1.09 WHIP. May is just another young arm in the Dodgers rotation who will be relied on heavily over the next few years, May will also be in the running for the Rookie of the Year award this year.
Kenley Jansen: If you want an example of a player who had a tedious process to get to the big leagues, look no further than Kenley Jansen. Undraffted in 2004, he signed with the Dodgers as a catcher and was later converted to a pitcher in 2009, where he was much more successful. Jansen has been the teams closer since 2012 and will go down as one of the best relief pitchers in franchise history. A 3 time all-star, Jansen has a career ERA of 2.39, along with 312 saves, the most in team history. Jansen is another guy who the Dodgers did an excellent job developing, despite his unusual backstory.
Blake Treinen: Treinen, a former all-star and top 10 finisher in Cy Young voting in 2018, was solid for the Dodgers this season as he tried to regain his 2018 form after a disappointing 2019 season. Treinen signed with the Dodgers on a one year deal this past offseason, but he was a solid reliever, who the Dodgers relied on heavily as he appeared in 27 of 60 games during the regular season. Treinen may have not had his best numbers with the Dodgers, but he was still a solid pitcher who delivered when he needed to, as well as also being an affordable option for the team.
Joe Kelly: Kelly brought a ton of postseason experience when he signed with the team coming into the 2019 season, and it definitely helped the team this year as he won his second World Series ring, his first with the Dodgers. Kelly is definitely a solid pitcher, but his presence on the mound is what makes him more famous than most, as he is known for being a hot head challenger who is not afraid to come at anyone or start a fight. Kelly still has a 3.89 career ERA, a very respectable total, but he will be remembered for his team chemistry and personality when it’s all said and done.
The Others: Besides the already highlighted the Dodgers had a few other pitchers on their roster which included Alex Wood (signed with team coming into 2020 season), Pedro Baez (signed with the Dodgers in 2007 as international free agent), Brusdar Graterol (acquired from the Twins as a part of Mookie Betts trade prior to 2020), Dylan Floro (claimed off waivers in 2017), Victor Gonzalez (signed with Dodgers in 2012 as international free agent), Jake McGee (signed with team coming into 2020), Tony Gonsolin (drafted by Dodgers in 9th round of 2016 draft), Adam Kolarek (traded for in 2019)
Justin Turner: The captain of the offense, Justin Turner was signed by the Dodgers in 2014 on a minor league deal after he was released by the New York Mets. Since 2014, Turner has been the Dodgers starting third baseman, with one all-star appearance and two top 10 MVP award finishes. During the World Series, Turner also broke the Dodgers franchise record for most postseason home runs, a very impressive feat. He hasn’t always been the best hitter in the league, but he’s dependable and a great teammate, as well as someone who the Dodgers can always rely on.
Cody Bellinger: The 2019 MVP and 2017 Rookie of the Year is already building quite the impressive resume just four years into his career. Drafted in the 3rd round of the 2014 draft by Los Angeles, Bellinger is already one of the best power hitters in the National League, slugging 123 home runs in the past four seasons.
Mookie Betts: The Dodgers made a major splash this past offseason when they traded for former MVP and four time all-star Mookie Betts, and then promptly signed him to a 12-year $365 million contract. Betts was a major piece of the Dodgers World Series run this past year and is a prime example of how the Dodgers can turnover prospects and assets for top players, without it affecting their future.
Corey Seager: A North Carolina native, Seager was drafted by the team in the 1st round of the 2012 draft. Seager’s mix of defense, contact, and power, has made him one of the strongest shortstops in the National League. During his time with the Dodgers he’s made two all-star teams, along with a top three finish in the N.L MVP voting in 2016.
Max Muncy: Muncy is another guy who really found his way with the Dodgers after he was released. Let go by the A’s and signed by the Dodgers in 2017 Muncy can really swing the bat for power. Since 2018 he has mashed 82 home runs with the team, including back to back 35 home run campaigns in ‘18 and ‘19. Muncy has turned into another great power bat who can play many different infield positions for the team.
Joc Pederson: Pederson, who was drafted by the Dodgers in 2010, has been a staple in the Dodgers lineup since his all-star campaign in 2015. Not known for his contact hitting, Pederson has always been one to swing for the fence, swatting more than 25 home runs four times in his career.
The Others: Other hitters on the Dodgers World Series roster include: Chris Taylor (traded to the team in 2016), AJ Pollock (signed as a free agent going into 2019), Kiké Hernández (traded to the team in 2014), Will Smith (drafted in the 1st round by the Dodgers in the 2016 draft), Austin Barnes (traded to the team in 2014), Matt Beaty(drafted in the 12th round by the Dodgers in the 2015 draft) , Edwin Rios (drafted in the 6th round by the Dodgers in the 2015 draft)
Of the Dodgers 28-man playoff roster here is the rundown:
11 players were drafted by the Dodgers
7 signed as free agents
6 were acquired via trade
3 signed as international free agents
1 was claimed off waivers
What this shows is that the Dodgers can develop superstar talent through their farm system (Kershaw, Seager, Buehler, May, etc.) while also trading and signing big time pieces that fit into the lineup well such as Mookie Betts (trade) and Justin Turner (signing). The team has had an insane amount of top tier talent pass through the roster between their first division title of this run in 2013 and their current title in 2020. Some of these players include former Cy Young winner Zack Greinke, former N.L. MVP runner up Matt Kemp, and former all-stars such as Adrain Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, Hanley Ramirez, Hyun Jin Ryu, and Yasmani Grandal.
Los Angeles has the money to spend on big time free agents, but they also have top tier scouts and coaches which have helped them stay as strong as they’ve been for almost a full decade now. Whether you like them or not, a championship was eventually going to happen, but the question now is, how many more can they win? Many of the pieces will remain around for the next few years and they will certainly be the team to beat heading into next season.