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4 Dodgers storylines for the 2020 season

@kengurnick
June 30, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- Remember way back when the biggest Dodgers challenges of 2020 were getting the focus off the bitter end to 2019 and the sign-stealing scandal that might have cost the 2017 World Series? That narrative was rewritten with the blockbuster February trade that added a superstar MVP entering

LOS ANGELES -- Remember way back when the biggest Dodgers challenges of 2020 were getting the focus off the bitter end to 2019 and the sign-stealing scandal that might have cost the 2017 World Series?

That narrative was rewritten with the blockbuster February trade that added a superstar MVP entering his prime in Mookie Betts and a former Cy Young winner in David Price.

Dodgers FAQ: Details on the upcoming season

With teams set to report to Summer Camp this week and a season slated to begin in late July, here's a look at four more pertinent Dodgers storylines for this unprecedented 2020 season:

1. The “new” guys
Betts immediately made an impact in the clubhouse, challenging his new teammates not to settle for just an eighth straight division title. While Betts’ bat at the top of the order was disappointing in Cactus League games, he gives the Dodgers a second MVP in the outfield to flank Cody Bellinger in a batting order that is the franchise’s scariest since the late 1970s, if not the original Boys of Summer six decades ago. There will be less platooning and better balance with the right-handed Betts creating havoc leading off. Betts’ free-agent platform season is now truncated, but at least it looks like he’ll have one after concern that he might never even play in a Dodgers uniform had the season been canceled. Price, eight years after his Cy Young win, in March appeared to be healthier than expected coming off wrist surgery and should settle into the No. 3 starter role behind Clayton Kershaw and Walker Buehler. His generous and classy financial support of Minor Leaguers he’s never met only furthered his reputation as a role-model teammate. And in the sidebar trade, the Dodgers almost couldn’t believe how good 21-year-old reliever Brusdar Graterol looked for someone that throws an effortless 100 mph fastball but somehow failed the same physical exam that Alex Verdugo passed with a back fracture. Now they don’t need to ration Graterol’s workload.

2. The Driveline bandwagon
Yes, even Kershaw made the trek to Kent, Wash., ground zero of the data-driven pitching revolution. In his first spring start, Kershaw’s fastball topped at 93 mph, offering hope that with a healthier body and a better understanding of its functioning, he can improve on a 2019 that was better than pretty good. Kenley Jansen is also a Driveline convert as he tries to recapture his cutter, as is fifth starter Alex Wood, looking awfully healthy for somebody who made only seven starts last year. Add Joe Kelly to the Driveline list, as he seeks to better understand how his slender frame generates high velocity but also resulted in last year’s late fade. And that’s just the Dodgers pitchers we know about. The staff fanaticism led the Dodgers to hire 24-year-old Driveline guru Rob Hill as a pitching coordinator.

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3. Is the bullpen a strength?
That’s what manager Dave Roberts had been insisting, and he ticked off the assets – a revitalized Jansen, a workhorse Pedro Báez, a healthy Kelly, Blake Treinen bouncing back, the versatile Ross Stripling, an emerging Dennis Santana, depth from Dylan Floro. And from the left side, Caleb Ferguson with a new slider and improved curve, a healthy Scott Alexander after hand surgery and sidearmer Adam Kolarek. On paper, another loaded department.

4. Most improved?
Remember Corey Seager? Rookie of the Year, two-time All-Star, two-time Silver Slugger? He’s back. Last year’s version wasn’t whole, still on the rebound from elbow and hip operations that ruined the 2018 season. The Seager on display this spring was different -- healthy, ready to play every day and stronger than at any point last year. He also sounded more confident in his body and it showed on the field.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.