It’s easy to be gloomy. After a stunning and heartbreaking loss in the NLDS, the Dodgers haven’t done much this offseason, while the Padres and Giants have both worked hard to improve their teams. The natural pessimism of L.A. fans has been boosted by the inactivity.
But there are reasons to be optimistic, if you look for them. We know not everyone wants to be optimistic, so we understand if this article isn’t for you. But if you’re looking for reasons to smile as we head into the 2023 season, here are three things to be optimistic about.
The Young Bucks
Miguel Vargas didn’t exactly set the world on fire in his big-league cup of coffee in 2022, but the kid can hit like crazy. Vargas posted a .915 OPS in Triple-A last year, and his overall minor-league OPS is .878 despite being two to four years younger than league average at every single level. Vargas will hit in the big leagues, too, hopefully right off the bat in 2023.
Other youngsters will be around, too. James Outman might be an everyday starter for L.A.; even if not, he’ll get a lot of at-bats for the team. Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone will likely debut on the mound at some point this year, too, which will be a couple highly anticipated beginnings.
There’s a youth movement afoot in Los Angeles, and that’s awesome.
Can Thor regain his 100-MPH fastball to go along with his vast repertoire of offspeed pitches? That’s his stated goal, and there are plenty of reasons to think it could happen. This will be his second season since Tommy John surgery, so some natural progression should be expected. Throw in his new pitching coach, Mark Prior, who has a history of helping pitchers to be their best, and we could see Syndergaard at his best in 2023.
At his peak, Syndergaard was the kind of pitcher you used to make time to watch. His stuff, his attitude, his personality — everything about him was something you wanted to watch. If he can get that swagger (and stuff) back, Los Angeles could walk away with the steal of the offseason.
The Bounce Back
Last year, the Dodgers won 111 games in the regular season despite subpar performances from several of their star players. Chris Taylor was awful at the plate, and Max Muncy had a very slow start before turning it on later in the season.
Even some of the players who had good seasons weren’t at their best. Will Smith hit well, but it was also his worst season so far, which says a lot more about his 2019-21 seasons than his 2022. Mookie Betts set a career high in homers, but he was inconsistent and had a low OPS by his standards. Gavin Lux had his best offensive season, but he also struggled quite a bit after a neck injury late in the season.
Obviously, we can’t expect every single player to bounce back to their peak performance, but it’s not crazy to think the Dodgers’ offense could be as good as it was in 2022, when they led the majors in runs scored.
There are other reasons for optimism, too, but we’ll stick with three for now. Enough to whet your whistle and get you ready for pitchers and catchers to report to spring training in just six weeks.
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