2021 Dodgers’ Season Preview: Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, AJ Pollock & The Outfield
Baseball season is finally here, and the Dodgers are once again positioned for a deep October run. After finally winning it all in 2020, there are plenty of expectations for them to do so again this year.
As we look ahead into spring training and the start of the season, we will be previewing the projected roster, position by position. In this article, we’ll take a look at the outfield depth across the organization and what to expect from them heading into the 2021 regular season.
Related: Starting Pitching Outlook
- Left Field: AJ Pollock
- Center Field: Cody Bellinger
- Right Field: Mookie Betts
The Dodgers will boast of one of the league’s top outfield groups, both offensively and defensively. Betts is coming off of an impressive debut with Los Angeles and should be an MVP favorite once again in 2021. Cody Bellinger, meanwhile, had a down season by his standards. Even so, he managed to hit 12 home runs and drive in 30 runs with just a .239 average. Cody is not far removed from an MVP season in 2019 and has notoriously been an elite odd-year hitter (2017, 2019, 2021…?) so the hope is that he will be able to bounce back once again.
One thing to watch with Bellinger will be his recovery from shoulder surgery. Of course, he injured his right shoulder celebrating the go-ahead home run that sent LA to the World Series. While the center fielder has yet to begin taking full swings ahead of spring training, Dave Roberts and the training staff seem to believe that he is progressing well and should be ready for opening day. Still, this will be a story to watch as team workouts get underway.
As for AJ Pollock, the old man of the group had himself a sneaky good season in 2020. His 16 home runs were tied for most on the team with Mookie Betts, and he was also third in RBI with 34. Pollock’s production came in stretches, but he seemed to have found a routine that worked for him. He should have the first crack at playing in left field every day with Chris Taylor giving him a day off every now and then.
The good news is that the Dodgers don’t need Pollock to be great. As long as he can contribute, they should have plenty of offense from their outfield group. Should he show traces of 2020, however, this team will be even more fun to watch.
Major League Depth
- Chris Taylor
- Matt Beaty
- Zach McKinstry
Chris Taylor may not have a regular position in 2021, but he will be one of the Dodgers’ most important players. He can play all over the field, including all three outfield spots, which makes him the perfect guy to give others a day off every now and then. And given the departures of Joc Pederson and Kiké Hernández, Taylor will most definitely see his usage rate go up. His offense has improved steadily each of the past three seasons, all while playing impeccable defense at every position.
Matt Beaty and Zach McKinstry are less experienced options, but they are more than competent should the need arise for them to see significant playing time in the outfield. Both players are more comfortable in the infield, which is where we are likely to see them a majority of the time.
Minor League Depth
- DJ Peters
- Zach Reks
- Luke Raley
The minor league crop of outfielders has had a total of 0 at-bats in the majors, but that doesn’t mean they don’t provide some solid depth. Peters announced himself as a power bat during last season’s spring training. His minor league career backs it up as well, having hit an impressive 92 home runs over 4 minor league seasons. The strikeouts are still a concern with Peters, but he is more than capable of providing outfield depth throughout the season if needed.
#Dodgers fans getting a glimpse of DJ Peters' power. The 2016 4th-round #MLBDraft pick, who has homered 23 times or more in each of the past three seasons, represents the @Dodgers on our list of each organization's top power prospect: https://t.co/PWzBvP151T pic.twitter.com/vDzhTAN27V
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) February 28, 2020
Zach Reks is an interesting name to keep an eye on this season. He has a career .300 batting average in 3 minor league seasons and found his power stroke in 2019 with 28 home runs in 121 games. The 27-year old could make an argument for a callup at some point this season with a strong showing in Spring Training.
Luke Raley is another player who will be looking to have a strong spring training heading into 2021. After returning to the club that drafted him in 2016, he made a nice impression on the coaching staff during spring training, despite being blocked at the blue league level. But this year will be different in the sense that Pederson and Hernández will not be there. Raley, Reks, and Peters should all be given an opportunity to compete for call-up consideration, especially considering how thin the depth is at the major league level this year.
According to FanGraphs, the Dodgers are projected to get a combined 12.8 WAR from their starting outfield, the highest total for any team. The duo of Betts and Bellinger alone should help make this one of the most productive outfields in recent history, and Pollock should be a nice piece of the puzzle as well. The fact that Chris Taylor can play all three outfield positions should allow the Dodgers to give their starters a day off every now and then, also allowing Taylor to get in a healthy dose of at-bats.
It wouldn’t be surprising at all to see this outfield produce around 100 HR and 250 RBI’s combined, perhaps even more if you include Chris Taylor in the equation.
At the end of the day, the reigning champs should feel extremely comfortable with whatever outfield group they put out there every game. After all, not every team can say they have two former MVP’s leading the way.
NEXT: What Would Have to Go Wrong in LA For the Padres to Take the West
Pollock will be the story of the year as he picks up the gantlet thrown down by Betts and Bellinger.
pollock will be fine. i think bellinger will be the story. the dodgers have some of the sweetest left handed swings in the majors with seager, muncy, and beaty. belli’s unorthodox stance and all or nothing swing is easy to pick on. he relies on pitcher mistakes. i wish he’d copy seager’s stance and swing so he can cut down the strikeouts. ya think?
Why isn’t management given Ruiz, a great catching and batting prospect, some opportunities to learn to play first base? They could use another solid right handed batter and Muncy needs rest days..
If given a real look during ST, Sheldon Neuse could make the roster and to some degree take Kike’s spot on the roster.
I agree, Paul. He has made some sparkling plays on defense as well as hit well. He looks trimmer than his weight is listed on baseball reference, too. Should be an interesting last week and a half of spring training.