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Team Roundups

MLB Team Roundup: Los Angeles Dodgers

by Jorge Montanez
Updated On: November 10, 2021, 9:38 am ET

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2021 Record: 106-56 
2nd place, NL West
Team ERA: 3.03 (1st in MLB)
Team OPS: .759 (6th in MLB) 

What went right?

The Dodgers followed their 2020 championship campaign with another incredible season, winning 106 games on their way to an NLCS appearance. The 106 wins tied a franchise record set just two years ago in 2019, a testament to how good the team has been in recent years. The pitching led the way this season in Los Angeles, as the team recorded an MLB-best 3.03 ERA. The pitching staff was the best in baseball, and it wasn't particularly close. The Giants finished with the next lowest ERA at 3.25. Walker Buehler had his finest season as a pro, winning 16 games while posting a 2.47 ERA, 0.97 WHIP, and 212 strikeouts over a career-high 207 2/3 innings. Julio Urias broke out to a 2.96 ERA, 1.02 WHIP, and 195 strikeouts over 185 2/3 innings while winning a team-high 20 games. Team icon Clayton Kershaw had his season cut short due to injury but remained effective when on the field with a 3.55 ERA over 121 2/3 innings.  The Dodgers got a 2.59 ERA over 107 2/3 innings from Trevor Bauer before his legal troubles ended his season. And Max Scherzer came through for the Dodgers after the trade deadline with an incredible 1.98 ERA, 0.82 WHIP, and 89 strikeouts over 68 1/3 innings on his way to a Cy Young nomination. It wasn't just the starters that held it down for the Dodgers. The bullpen collectively posted a 3.16 ERA -- second best in MLB. Kenley Jansen proved he wasn't done, recording a 2.22 ERA with 86 strikeouts over 69 innings while converting 38 saves. Blake Treinen was dominant behind Jansen, finishing the year with a 1.99 ERA, 85 strikeouts, seven saves, and 32 holds over 72 1/3 frames. 

Offensively, this was without a doubt the deepest team in baseball, overcoming injuries and an abysmal season from Cody Bellinger -- more on that later. Max Muncy looked to be on his way to MVP candidacy before slowing down in the second half, finishing with a 249/.368/.527 slash line and 36 home runs. Justin Turner reportedly entered the season in fantastic shape. Whatever he did, it helped him reach 612 plate appearances. He had previously eclipsed the 600 mark just once in his career. The 36-year-old veteran hit .278/.361/.471 with 27 home runs. Catcher Will Smith blasted 25 homers, and the team got excellent contributions from A.J. Pollock and Chris Taylor. But trade deadline acquisition Trea Turner came in stole the show, hitting .338/.385/.565 with ten homers and 11 steals over 226 plate appearances with the team. 

What went wrong? 

It's crazy to think that a 106-win team could have been even better. But really, it could have. While Corey Seager did his thing with a .306/.394/.521 triple-slash and 16 homers, he was limited to just 95 games due to a broken finger suffered in May. Mookie Betts wasn't his MVP-level self as he dealt with a hip issue that limited him to 122 games. He still put up a solid .264/.367/.487 line with 23 homers and ten steals. Gavin Lux hasn't quite lived up to the prospect hype he earned in the minor leagues. The 23-year-old hit .242/.328/.364 across 381 plate appearances. Most disappointing of all was the 2019 MVP, Cody Bellinger. The 26-year-old outfielder hit just .165/.240/.302 with ten home runs over 350 plate appearances, recording a miserable 48 wRC+. 

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Fantasy Slants

** The Dodgers have officially let Walker Buehler loose. The 27-year-old right-hander pitched at least six innings in 29-of-33 starts after he did so just once in 2020. With that volume of elite innings, he has an argument to be one of the top pitchers taken in 2022 fantasy drafts. There's a tier of top four for me in Gerrit Cole, Corbin Burnes, Max Scherzer, and Walker Buehler. Include Jacob deGrom if we're putting injuries aside. While Buehler may not provide the strikeouts the others do, he may just be the safest. 

** Much of the same applies to Julio Urias. The 25-year-old left-hander pitched a career-high 185 2/3 innings with an excellent 2.96 ERA and a whopping 20 wins. Urias displays impeccable control with a 5.1 percent walk rate. And he rarely gives up hard contact, with a hard-hit rate of 30.3 percent among the 94th percentile in baseball. Like Buehler, he doesn't get the strikeouts a typical ace would. But it's safe to consider Urias a dependable second starting pitcher in fantasy. 

** One of the biggest beneficiaries of a universal designated hitter could be Dodgers catcher Will Smith. The 26-year-old backstop was one of the best fantasy catchers in 2021, hitting .258/.365/.495 with 25 home runs, 71 runs scored, and 76 RBI across 501 plate appearances. His heavy fly ball tendencies cap his batting average upside, but few catchers can match his power. And hitting in the middle of a stacked lineup, he should be in line to produce plenty of counting stats. Smith is likely to go as the third catcher off the board in drafts after Salvador Perez and J.T. Realmuto

** An offseason to get healthy should have Mookie Betts primed for a bounce-back season. The former MVP still managed to swat 23 homers and score 93 runs in just 122 games. Betts should still be considered one of the top outfielders selected in the first round of fantasy drafts. 

** The Dodgers acquired Trea Turner at the trade deadline with one year left before the 28-year-old hits free agency. He was an absolute superstar, hitting .328/.375/.536 with 28 homers and 32 steals across 646 plate appearances. Turner can do it all, producing elite numbers across five categories. In 5x5 roto leagues, he has a good case for the first overall selection. 

Key Free Agents: Max Scherzer, Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw, Chris Taylor, Kenley Jansen

Team Needs: When it comes to the lineup, the Dodgers really just need to stay healthy. A bounce-back season from Cody Bellinger would go a long way. Is the team ready to give Gavin Lux an everyday role? Or will they look for a replacement among the high-profile free agents? That could be the case should Seager sign elsewhere. The team is more likely to spend their resources filling the rotation. Scherzer could be on the move, and Kershaw would be welcomed back, but it's no guarantee. And questions remain regarding Trevor Bauer's future in the league. With some key relievers hitting the free-agent market, the team will likely be looking to add a bullpen arm or two. 

Jorge Montanez

Jorge is a baseball writer for NBC Sports Edge and FantraxHQ. You can follow him on twitter @Roto_Nino.