The Los Angeles Dodgers carved a brutal swath through the rest of the MLB landscape in 2022, winning 111 games, the most by an NL team since the 1906 Cubs, and fourth-most all-time. It wasn’t much of a fluke: they led the majors in position player fWAR and finished second in pitching fWAR, making good on preseason forecasts that saw them as MLB’s best team. It was, in some ways, only a slight improvement for a team that’s made the playoffs in 10 straight seasons, hasn’t finished below .500 since 2010, and hasn’t had back-to-back losing seasons in my lifetime (1986-1987). The Dodgers have been consistently expected to be one of the best teams, if not the best team, for much of the recent baseball past, and have lived up to those expectations, finishing outside the top two records in MLB less frequently than finishing with a top-two record for more than the last half-decade.
And yet, their 2023 roster looks... vulnerable isn’t the right word, but, less gaudy, I guess. The Dodgers endured an offseason marked by departures and uncertainty in the salary department. With the dust now cleared, they head into Spring Training without the usual Dodger-esque overkill in their roster construction — looking like a good team, but not necessarily a great one. That creates an interesting situation for this franchise: can they exceed expectations, now that it’s possible to do so? Or does the appearance of a step back make itself manifest once games are played?
Does the fact that the Dodgers were bounced from the NLDS by the Padres, who are now projected to rival or exceed them in roster strength sting more in retrospect? Only the 2022 Dodgers, who do return much of their roster, can answer that.
Expectations for 2023
To be very clear: most teams would still love to be the Dodgers. The Fangraphs playoff odds model (Steamer and ZiPS blend) has the Dodgers with 88 wins and MLB’s sixth-best record in 2023, but sizably behind the Padres in the division. ZiPS alone has both the Dodgers and Padres tied atop the NL West with 91 wins apiece.
That said, it’s still a weird world where the Fangraphs World Series championship odds for the Dodgers right now are just at 5.1 percent — the first time it’s been below 10 percent since these odds were made available ahead of the 2016 season.
Per Roster Resource:
- Mookie Betts - RF
- Freddie Freeman - 1B
- Will Smith - C
- Max Muncy - 3B
- J.D. Martinez - DH
- Gavin Lux - SS
- Trayce Thompson - CF
- David Peralta - LF
- Miguel Vargas - 2B
Austin Barnes - C
Miguel Rojas - INF
Chris Taylor - INF/OF
Jason Heyward - OF
- Clayton Kershaw
- Julio Urias
- Tony Gonsolin
- Noah Syndergaard
- Dustin May
Between Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, the Dodgers are still stacked with some of the game’s premier position players. Will Smith gives them a third truly standout performer. That triumvirate will be hard for most teams to contend with, and while again, this isn’t the piled-to-the-rafters roster we’ve seen in Los Angeles in recent years past, having the game’s top-ranked projection at first and a couple of other top-two finishes is heady stuff.
The Dodgers spent much of the offseason without a clear solution in left field, and never really fully solved that particular conundrum. They signed David Peralta for a modest sum, but Peralta isn’t really projected to provide regular-level production anymore. For a team that can slide Chris Taylor around the diamond to patch gaps, a heavy dose of left field isn’t a great option, but there aren’t many alternatives available between “force someone else to provide depth” and “start Peralta most of the time in left field.” Sure, James Outman might hit the ground running, or maybe Jason Heyward ends up having a resurgence in L.A., but left field is the most un-Dodgers aspect of this roster at this point.
Reinforcements from the Farm
One thing that really hasn’t changed about the Dodgers — a torrent of near-ready prospects that will probably patch whatever holes turn up during the season. On the pitching end, Bobby Miller will likely make his MLB debut in 2023; Ryan Pepiot came up and ate some innings last year (terribly) and provides rotation depth. On the position player side, the Dodgers are looking like they’ll go with Miguel Vargas at second, and have Michael Busch to slot in to an underperforming corner or DH position should they need him. Keep an eye on Jorbit Vivas, who finished last year in High-A but might be a midseason attempt to catch lightning in a bottle if he keeps raking, and could be an aggressive solution if Vargas can’t handle the keystone while Taylor is needed to patch up a mess in left field.
Braves and Dodgers Matchup History
It’s hard to give an overview of the Braves’ ascent to arguably the best team in MLB without recounting how, in years past, the Dodgers served as an unyielding Goliath to the Braves’ best attempt at playing David. In 2018, the Dodgers crushed the surprising contender Braves in the NLDS. In 2020, they prevailed in a knock-down, drag-out NLCS. 2021 was perhaps a case of the third time being the charm, as the Braves finally felled the Dodgers in the NLCS and went on to win the whole damn thing.
Amid all this, though, the Dodgers have consistently had the Braves’ number in the regular season. The Braves haven’t won a season series against L.A. since 2013 (they actually somehow split six games with them in 2015), and Chavez Ravine, in particular, has been a house of horrors: the Braves have a 5-20 regular season record there going back to the start of the 2014 season, which fits neatly with their 1-4 postseason record there over the same span. Unsurprisingly, the Braves lost both of their series to the Dodgers in 2022.
But, the Braves are kind of the Goliath now, compared to the Dodgers, at least preseason expectations-wise. How will this play out? We’ll find out on May 23-25, when the Braves host the Dodgers for a weekday series in Atlanta, and then again from August 31-September 3, the latter being a bizarre cap to a three-city swing out West that features a trip to San Francisco, backtracking to Denver, and then heading back out to L.A., with no travel days on the trip but bookended by days off.