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Dodgers NLCS Hitting Preview

Oof this team is good.

National League Division Series Game 3: Los Angeles Dodgers v. San Diego Padres Photo by Kelly Gavin/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Alright, lets get this out of the way...the Dodgers are insanely good and if there is a gap between the two teams in terms of overall talent, it is on the offensive side of the ball which is crazy when you think about how good the Braves’ offense was in the regular. They put up a run differential of +136, thanks partially to excellent pitching as well, and the team finished with 12.6 fWAR on offense compared to 11.2 for the Braves. In short, they are very good. Before we go too deep into what their lineup is going to look like against the Braves, this is your reminder that the Dodgers have a lot of ways they configure their lineups based on who is pitching, giving days off, and defensive choices. The below projections on who will be where are educated guesses, but expect LA to leverage the positional versatility on their roster as needed.

Anyways, here is what the Dodgers are likely to run out there.

Catcher - Will Smith

The Braves are also going to see Austin Barnes in this series especially if this thing goes 6 or 7 games, but the guy to keep an eye on is Smith who is turning into a monster behind the plate. Smith slashed .289/.401/.579 in 2020 which, for a catcher these days, is pretty insane when you think about it even though we are a bit spoiled given the run that d’Arnaud has been on. Whats crazier is that at 1.3 fWAR this year, Smith was just the fifth best Dodger hitter this year.

First Base - Max Muncy

Muncy is a guy that can get moved around the infield a bunch with second and third base being options as well, so don’t get wedded to the notion of seeing him at first. Muncy was one of those great success stories of the Dodgers finding a diamond in the rough, but the 2020 season has not been kind to him for one reason or another as he has posted a slash line of .192/.331/.339. However, as the Braves are well aware, Muncy is still very capable of hitting mistakes out of the park and he still draws a lot of walks. Even in a down year, this guy could be a problem.

Second Base - Chris Taylor

Remember when I mentioned all of the Dodgers’ positional versatility? Well, here is another example as Taylor has seen time at second, shortstop, and all three outfield positions in 2020 although he has been getting all the starts at second this postseason. Gavin Lux is an option here as well, but he has had a rookie campaign to forget. Taylor has been really good for the Dodgers this year with a .270/.366/.476 line. He isn’t the power threat that some of the other Dodgers are, but he still ended up as the third most valuable Dodger this season in terms of fWAR at 1.5.

Shortstop - Corey Seager

Man, this Dodgers team has an embarrassment of riches. With Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy having relative down years for them, they just have another former Rookie of the Year step up in Seager. With a wRC+ of 151 on the season including 15 homers, Seager has been one of the best hitters in the league period...not just at shortstop. The defensive metrics don’t like him as much, but when you are getting well over a .900 OPS from your shortstop, you will take a little bit of a drop-off with the glove.

Third Base - Justin Turner

It is still wild that Justin Turner went from decent player for the hapless Mets to really good everyday guy with the Dodgers. Turner was excellent at the plate yet again with a .307/.400/.460 line, but he also had to deal with a hamstring injury that cost him some time this season which is worth keeping an eye on.

Left Field - AJ Pollock

Joc Pederson, Taylor, and others are possibilities here as well, but the Dodgers keep starting Pollock here in the postseason, so we will go with it. Pollock put up a 132 wRC+ for the Dodgers in 2020 which is more in line with the production they thought they were going to get from him when they signed him as a free agent, but that is a testament to how good he can be IF AND WHEN he is actually healthy. Defensive metrics have not liked him much this season, which is weird given how good he was in Arizona, so that is worth monitoring.

Center Field - Cody Bellinger

Bellinger is a pretty known quantity at this point, although the former Rookie of the Year and MVP is having a down year by his standards with JUST a 114 wRC+ in 2020 thanks in part to a rough relationship with the BABIP gods this season. However, he has looked good this postseason at the plate with over a .900 OPS and defensively, so he cannot be overlooked based on his numbers from the regular season...which were still pretty good.

Right Field - Mookie Betts

Oh right, the Dodgers have Mookie, too. What else is there to say about Mookie Betts? He is great on both sides of the ball and is likely the primary competition with Freddie Freeman for the 2020 MVP award which is exactly what the Dodgers wanted when they signed him to an extension for Scrooge McDuck money. He posted a wRC+ of 149 with 16 homers in 2020 and that wRC+ has jumped to 180 this postseason. He can field, he can steal bases, he can hit and hit for power...yes, this guy is a problem.

Designated Hitter - Joc Pederson/Misc.

The Dodgers haven’t been wedded to one guy at DH which is a clear advantage for the Braves as they have arguably the best DH in the league with Marcell Ozuna. When Austin Barnes gets starts at catcher, Will Smith is likely to slot here. If not, it will depend on if there is a lefty or righty on the mound as well as who else in the lineup may need a day to not be in the field which, if this thing goes long, could be any number of guys. Joc Pederson is the name I chose for this spot as he hasn’t been mentioned anywhere else yet, but this spot is going to alternate pretty freely in all likelihood.

Bench - Austin Barnes, Gavin Lux, Edwin Rios, Terrance Gore, Matt Beaty, Kike Hernandez

Barnes will the back-up catcher and while his offensive numbers are not great, he can really play his position well and his offensive peripherals show that he has the ability to impact the ball. Beaty and Kike are super-utility options and Braves fans are well aware of Hernandez as he has given them fits in the past. Lux has the prospect pedigree, but there is a chance he doesn’t make the NLCS roster has he has been quite bad and there is a chance that Edwin Rios returns from a groin injury, although that is not a certainty so for now...we will put both of their names here. Terrance Gore’s sole mission in life is to be a pinch-runner and a scary one at that.

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