How will Dodgers' 3 MVPs line up in batting order?

February 25th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- While most teams are wrestling through key roster decisions, the Dodgers are just trying to get through Spring Training with no injuries. It’s a roster with very few unknowns heading into the season.

Instead, one of the biggest questions around Dodgers camp is one that all of the other 29 teams would love to have. Coming into the spring, the Dodgers had to decide how to line up , and -- three former MVPs -- atop their order.

It’s already publicly known that Betts will continue to hit leadoff. Betts has made it known in the past that he feels best leading off, though he was open to making adjustments if needed. Betts has also proven that he’s one of the most productive leadoff hitters of his generation.

The question now is where Freeman and Ohtani will hit behind Betts. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has already made the decision, but he has yet to announce it. Freeman joked he wasn’t going to be the one to reveal where Ohtani would hit in the order. It’ll ultimately be unveiled whenever Ohtani gives the thumbs up on his health.

“There weren’t any strong opinions,” Roberts said. “I think that having the conversation, but also their openness, was really important. And to a man, they said it doesn’t really matter where they hit.”

As of now, Ohtani is set to appear in a Cactus League game on Tuesday. Freeman hinted that the lineup could be unveiled when the two superstars take the field together for the first time.

Until then, it’s been left up to some speculation. Both Ohtani and Freeman have experience hitting both second and third in lineups. In modern lineups, the most dangerous hitter is usually hitting second. With the Yankees, for example, Aaron Judge has most often been the No. 2 hitter. The Dodgers, of course, now have three players capable of handling that responsibility.

In his career, Freeman has hit second in 363 games and third in 1,146. In '22, the Dodgers had a similar situation with Trea Turner. Freeman hit second in 83 games and third in 76. He put up similar numbers in each spot, but he did post a .980 OPS in the three-hole (compared with .863 batting second).

Ohtani has hit in all nine spots of the batting order throughout his career. The two-time unanimous American League Most Valuable Player has seen most of his success hitting second, posting a 1.013 OPS in 240 games. Ohtani has an .856 OPS in 247 games hitting third.

Given their past numbers, it would make sense to have Ohtani hit second and Freeman behind him. But there’s also some value in having Ohtani hit third behind Betts and Freeman in order to have more RBI opportunities.

“I’ve hit both, so it doesn’t really bother me where I hit,” Freeman said. “I think you can ask all of us, one, two, three, four, five, it doesn’t matter. It’s just about trying to get the best out of everyone else in the lineup."

Buehler, Sheehan updates

It has been established that Walker Buehler will start the season on the injured list as he continues to recover from a second Tommy John surgery. It’s still unknown exactly how much time he’ll have to miss.

But his recovery might be moving along a little slower than the Dodgers were expecting. Buehler threw another bullpen session on Saturday. The club was hoping the next step would be live batting practice. But Roberts said Buehler will likely need another bullpen session because he’s “still searching.”

“Walker is a guy that has really good feel for his body, body awareness, where his hands are supposed to be,” Roberts said. “He’s just not repeating it and getting the feels that he feels like he needs to have.”

The Dodgers, however, are encouraged that Buehler continues to feel good physically.

As for Emmet Sheehan, Roberts said the right-hander is dealing with “general body soreness,” which has contributed to him still not facing live hitters. Roberts said that Sheehan’s availability for the regular season shouldn’t be affected.