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Predicting Opening Day '21 Dodgers lineup

@kengurnick
November 6, 2020

LOS ANGELES -- Having finally ended the 32-year drought for a championship, the Dodgers’ next project is to end the franchise-long drought of never winning back-to-back World Series. Some teams follow a title with a teardown, but that’s not happening with the Dodgers, even with the possible loss of free

LOS ANGELES -- Having finally ended the 32-year drought for a championship, the Dodgers’ next project is to end the franchise-long drought of never winning back-to-back World Series.

Some teams follow a title with a teardown, but that’s not happening with the Dodgers, even with the possible loss of free agent Justin Turner. You don’t sign Mookie Betts to a 12-year contract without trying to win every year.

For countless reasons, Turner could just stay put, but that might require him to take a hometown discount in money or years at age 36. The Dodgers also might want to know if the National League will have a designated hitter before they commit.

Should Turner leave, expect the Dodgers to be rumored in trade talks for Francisco Lindor, because the Dodgers are always rumored to be in trade talks for the biggest names. They already made a run at Lindor last year, but that was before Corey Seager turned back into Corey Seager. A Lindor acquisition would require Seager to replace Turner at third, a position switch Seager has fiercely resisted.

Catcher (2): Will Smith, Austin Barnes
Judging from the postseason, the tandem of Smith and Barnes provides a complementary combination of offense and defense. With Keibert Ruiz knocking on the door and Diego Cartaya a few years behind, there’s depth in the Minor League system providing trade chips.

First base (1): Max Muncy, Matt Beaty
Injured in Summer Camp, Muncy never fully recovered and was a disappointment offensively, but the club won a World Series with him as the cleanup hitter. Management apparently remains committed to him as the everyday first baseman.

Second base (2): Chris Taylor, Gavin Lux
Taylor was the starting second baseman for a championship team, while Lux couldn’t make the roster. The former top prospect needs to re-establish his credentials in what could be a make-or-break Spring Training, with Taylor the productive and versatile fallback.

Third base (1): Edwin Ríos
Uncertainty over the return of Turner makes third base a challenge to handicap. Turner is still an advanced hitter and his intangibles are off the charts, but power and defense have slipped. A platoon with Ríos would make sense, but it could come down to money. Ríos, meanwhile, has light-tower power and through hard work has dramatically improved his third-base defense.

Shortstop (1): Corey Seager
We finally saw a healthy Seager in 2020 and it was quite a sight. Even before he went off in the postseason, he was explosive enough offensively to beat out Betts as the Dodgers’ candidate for the Hank Aaron Award for best hitter in the league. Critically important, he remained relatively healthy, albeit for a shortened season. That won’t be enough to stop the Lindor rumors, but this is the most comfortable the club has been at shortstop since Seager was a rookie.

Outfield (3): Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, AJ Pollock
A pair of MVPs is a pretty good start with Betts and Bellinger, while Pollock had a solid season at the plate and can handle left field. DJ Peters and Luke Raley could advance into bench roles.

Utility (1): Zach McKinstry
Assuming Enrique Hernández can find a multiyear deal elsewhere, the club will be looking for a multi-purpose replacement. The overachieving McKinstry is the in-house option, but management will likely bring in someone with more Major League experience as competition. And if Lux rebounds enough to start at second base, Taylor becomes the versatile answer to a Hernández departure.

Starting pitchers (6): Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, David Price
Buehler and Kershaw anchor a rotation that for now includes Urías, May and Gonsolin. Price, who did not play in 2020 because of COVID-19 concerns, remains an uncertainty for the same reason.

Relievers (9): Dylan Floro, Victor González, Brusdar Graterol, Josiah Gray, Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, Adam Kolarek, Dennis Santana, Mitch White
It’s the bullpen that always has everybody worried, especially with Jansen losing the closer role in the postseason. Graterol will need to pick up the slack assuming setup right-handers Pedro Báez and Blake Treinen leave as free agents. Kelly remains an enigma whose erratic performance doesn’t match his electric stuff. Urías, May or Gonsolin could assume the hybrid relief role Urías filled so well in the postseason.

Injured list (1): Caleb Ferguson
Ferguson is not expected to pitch in 2021 after undergoing Tommy John surgery.

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