Its July and the Arizona Diamondbacks lead the National League West just as no one in the baseball world predicted. As of the last day of June, the defending champions, the Los Angeles Dodgers, are in third place, 2.5 games behind the Diamondbacks. The mighty Padres, winners of the offseason, are 10.5 games out of first place.
The reincarnation of Nostradamus wouldn’t touch a prediction like these standings with a ten-foot bat full of pine tar.
The Dodgers are playing up to par according to the moves made during the offseason. Andrew Freidman decided to give the rookies in the farm system an opportunity to earn a spot in the major league club and sign a couple of one-year contracts to save money for bigger fishes on the verge of becoming free agents after the 2023 season.
Three Hot Takes for the Remainder of the Dodgers Season
During the previous offseason, Andrew Freidman’s moves differed from any of his previous winters.
Instead of signing one of the highly regarded free agent shortstops like Xander Bogaerts and Trea Turner, the Dodgers decided to give Gavin Lux a shot at the position. The front office decision led to a season-ending injury to Gavin Lux and a trade for Miguel Rojas to hold down the position until next year.
Instead of bolstering the rotation to help Julio Urias defend the National League West pennant with long-term contracts to veteran pitchers, the Dodgers signed Noah Syndergaard and Clayton Kershaw to one-year contracts and counted on Dustin May to return to his pre-Tommy John surgery form.
The decision proved to bite them as the previously mentioned decision, as the front office’s bet on Syndergaard and May to support the starting rotation forced the bullpen to expose their flaws. Whenever a franchise is grouped with teams like the Oakland A’s, the Kansas City Royals, the Nationals, and the Colorado Rockies, always expect the worst. The Dodgers bullpen currently holds a 4.74 ERA, the fifth-highest ERA in the league behind the previously mentioned teams.
Still, the Dodgers are nine games above .500 and are only 2.5 games behind first place. A couple of trades before the deadline to fill up some of the holes in the roster and a winning streak or two can only guarantee another playoff berth for the eleventh year in a row. Here are three hot takes for the month of July that can solidify a deep run in October and another shot at the World Series.
The Dodgers Will Trade Away Top Prospect
The Dodgers current top prospect, not currently playing in the majors, is a catcher hitting .198 with double-A Tulsa Drillers by the name of Diego Cartaya who is predicted to make the big league club during the 2025 season. Will D. Smith is on the Dodgers hook until 2026 but will hit arbitration before the 2024 season.
Smith has proven to be the future of the Dodgers backstop. As of June 30th, Smith is hitting .283 with 122 home runs and an OPS of .906, he is also on the cusp of becoming an All-Star for the first time in his career. If Smith doesn’t keep his current form in the future, the Dodgers’ next option is Dalton Rushing, the organization’s fourth prospect.
The farm system’s abundance of catchers allows the Dodgers to trade Cartaya for a worthy player. Maybe someone that can help the offense and pitch every 5th day to relieve Kershaw from carrying the team on his broken back. They can’t continue to hoard their prospects, the Dodgers need to swing for the fences now and earn first dibs at pitching their organization to a once-in-a-lifetime talent.
Clayton Kershaw Will Become a Cy Young Candidate
Since Julio Urias was placed on the injured list, Clayton Kershaw has transformed himself into a vintage version of himself, leading the pitching staff in ERA, wins, and strikeouts. During his last outing, Kershaw pitched a no-hitter against the Rockies into the 6th inning before removing himself from the game due.
“I just finished in the game and the shoulder was a little cranky there in the sixth inning, so I shut it down,” said Kershaw to Yahoo Sports before the last game of June. “So somewhat optimistic that it should be good to hopefully not miss a start. With the All-Star break coming up, we have some time to potentially shift things around, so we’ll see. But as of now, I’m kind of on the same day-to-day basis.”
Dodgers fans can breathe again and should start asking themselves how many Cy Young votes Kershaw will earn. Since his long contract with the Dodgers ended, Kershaw has focused on one-year deals that motivate him to pitch at a high level and pitch the team into a position that gives them an opportunity to win the World Series.
In the previous two one-year contracts, Clayton Kershaw has finished the season with an ERA under 3.00 and posted double digits in the win column. His WAR average from the last two seasons is above three games.
With Urias showing a decline, Kershaw will continue to pitch as well as he has and become a Cy Young candidate. Everyone loves a comeback story.
The Rookies Are Here To Stay
Since being called up, Miller has demonstrated he can pitch in the majors with consistent numbers. Miller has earned three wins, while losing one and maintained an ERA of 4.13 that converts Noah Syndergaard’s plus-seven ERA into an expendable asset.
Sheehan has been outstanding in his first two starts with the Dodgers. During his first appearance, he pitched a no-hitter into the sixth inning and earned his first win against the Houston Astros, and kept his ERA under two.
Even if Syndergaard comes back and turns into the hard-throwing pitcher from years past, the rookies are here to stay. If their help is not needed in the starting rotation, their help can bolster the bullpen while developing them in the major league in the way the Dodgers developed Julio Urias during the 2020 championship run.
During their World Series run, Urias became a lethal weapon out of the bullpen earning a 3-0 record with a 3.27 ERA in 11 appearances. He became a part of Dodgers’ history as he closed out game 6 to clinch the series over the Tampa Bay Rays.
Urias’ trajectory can be telling of what’s to come for Miller and Sheehan.
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