The Dodgers enter their third World Series in the past four years with a loaded roster, the momentum of a thrilling National League Championship Series victory and no excuses.
How they were built:
Amateur Draft: Matt Beaty, Cody Bellinger, Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin, Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May, Joc Pederson, Edwin Ríos, Corey Seager, Will Smith
International signings: Pedro Báez, Victor González, Kenley Jansen, Julio Urías
Free agents: Joe Kelly, Jake McGee, Max Muncy, AJ Pollock, Blake Treinen, Justin Turner, Alex Wood
Trades: Austin Barnes, Mookie Betts, Dylan Floro, Brusdar Graterol, Enrique Hernández, Adam Kolarek, Chris Taylor
Postseason standout: Seager
Seager's remarkable regular season was obscured by the shadow of Betts, but his postseason power display has awakened the nation to how productive he is again after elbow and hip operations knocked the 2016 NL Rookie of the Year Award winner off the radar. He was named NLCS MVP.
October surprise: Urías
After injuries and shifting roles, Urías has turned a crossroads season into a time to shine, and he’s already rung up more wins in the postseason than he had in the regular season.
Memorable playoff moment: Smith's three-run homer in Game 5
Nothing wrong with Bellinger’s game-saving thievery of Fernando Tatis Jr.’s home-run bid in the NL Division Series, but Smith’s dramatic blast in the sixth inning -- off Braves reliever Will Smith, of course -- prevented what looked like a quick elimination.
Key offseason acquisition (ever): Betts
It’s no secret that Betts is basically the perfect player, but it’s still stunning how much better he made a team that was already really good. He impacts games in ways that can’t be imagined.
Managerial decision: Urías in NLCS Game 7
In years past, Dave Roberts would have turned the deciding game over to Kershaw or Jansen, and one can only imagine the outcome. This time, he stuck with Urías for a three-inning save.
Defining season stretch: Aug. 13-Sept. 4
The Dodgers didn’t move into first place to stay until an Aug. 13 win, their second in a 19-3 run that built a six-game cushion in the NL West by early September.
Breakout player: Smith
Smith showed power and poise at the plate in his half-season with the Dodgers last year, but the improvements he’s made in his offensive approach were on display against the Braves. He has gone from a wild swinger to one of the most disciplined, dramatically slicing his strikeouts while compiling some of the most impressive hard-contact metrics in the game. And it hasn’t cost Smith any power, as all three of his slash-line numbers were up from last year. Defensively, he checks the mandatory organizational box for framing.
Calling card: Threats across the board
At various points all season, each aspect considered a strength wobbled. What has kept the Dodgers at the top of the heap is that they can beat you in so many ways, because they get contributions from so many players. For every Betts who gets and deserves national attention, there’s a Taylor or a Smith who would be prominent in the conversation if there weren’t so many marquee players sharing the spotlight.
Memorable moment: Betts' extension
As much sense as it made, the landmark 12-year, $365 million extension Betts signed on the eve of Opening Day was a shocker for a franchise in the midst of a stealth youth movement. It reinforced a message to fans and the clubhouse that the front office expects to continue winning indefinitely.