The Los Angeles Dodgers are the standard of excellence in Major League Baseball right now. At 91-38, L.A. is 50-plus games over .500 and 19 games ahead of the second-place Arizona Diamondbacks. They’ve already run away with the division and appear on a clear path towards their seventh World Series title. The Dodgers’ run won’t conclude with the final pitch of the 2017 World Series, however. Unlike other recent teams that dominated the sport for a season, Los Angeles is well on its way to becoming baseball’s next dynasty, rather than a one-hit wonder.
The Dodgers have seemingly been knocking on the door of the World Series for several seasons, reaching the playoffs every year since 2013, but have nothing of significance to show for it. With the highest payroll in baseball since 2014, playoff appearances were expected, too. So what’s new this time around? An infusion of youth and surprise contributors on the big league squad.
The Dodgers’ 2017 success can be attributed to a few players who were unknown factors heading into the year. Rich Hill, Alex Wood, Yasiel Puig and Kenta Maeda have put together solid bounce-back seasons, while Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger have burst onto the scene to become crucial contributors. Without these players, the Dodgers aren’t dominating teams like they are. There’s reason to believe they will continue their success beyond 2017, as well. The 21-year-old Bellinger, in particular, is primed to be one of the sport’s top players for years to come — but the youth movement doesn’t end with him.
Image via Bleacher Report
Current big leaguers Bellinger, Puig, Taylor, 23-year-old Corey Seager and 25-year-old Joc Pederson will soon be joined by a host of Dodgers prospects that all rank among the best in the minors. That’s even after L.A. traded several of its top prospects to the Texas Rangers for starter Yu Darvish at the July trade deadline. Rarely does a team with the league’s highest payroll simultaneously boast one of the major’s best farm systems, but it’s worked out that way for L.A. It’s the mix of talent franchises can usually only dream of. With talented veterans leading the way, the kids are going to be all right.
Justin Turner, the utility man who has finally put it all together this season, is the team’s unquestioned leader — and for good reason. As a first-time All-Star at 32 years old, Turner has experienced enough highs and lows as a professional ball player for the entire team. He can pick up the last man on the team struggling to stay in the majors and keep the superstars grounded. He’s the perfect glue guy for this Dodgers team and, after signing a four-year contract last off-season, he’s here for the long haul.
Keeping the rest of the core intact for the ride, however, will be key to any dynasty aspirations. While under contract through 2020, Clayton Kershaw can opt out of his deal following next season. Wood will be a free-agent this winter, while Puig and Hyun-jin Ryu will hit the market the following seasons. Also looming are the first big contracts for Seager, Pederson, Bellinger and Taylor. That said, expensive aging vets Andre Ethier, Adrian Gonzalez, Brandon McCarthy and Scott Kazmir will all be coming off the books soon. Plus, if there’s any franchise capable of keeping an expensive band together, it’s Los Angeles.
Image via Yahoo Sports
There’s always going to be competition, but the National League picture appears to be getting clearer, too. While the Chicago Cubs aren’t going anywhere anytime soon, the 2017 season has been a wet blanket on the dynasty dreams of the defending champs. The Washington Nationals’ championship window, meanwhile, is closing quickly with superstar Bryce Harper set to hit free-agency after the 2018 season and ace Max Scherzer nearing his mid-30s.
The Dodgers have what it takes to be baseball’s next dynasty. Having what it takes and actually accomplishing this are much different stories, though. To become a multi-title winner, Los Angeles needs to finally get over the hump this year. With what should end up being one of the best records in baseball history, finishing the job is imperative to maintaining the strong bond between this team and keeping the core together. There’s no more dodging it.