This part of the offseason is when projections start coming out, and we’ve already seen a couple projections that haven’t painted the Dodgers in the most positive light. A simulation based on Steamer projections had L.A. at 89.7 wins in 2023, for example, which would be a drop of more than 21 games.
Dan Szymborski, the creator of the ZiPS projection system, is more bullish on Los Angeles, ending his article about them by saying he expects a tight race between L.A. and the Padres, but “with a bit of luck, they could easily win 105 games and lap the NL West.”
Still, one area where Szymborski isn’t yet sold is the outfield.
Where ZiPS remains concerned is the non-Mookie outfield positions. Trayce Thompson did terrific work in 2022, and there’s a lot to like about James Outman, but ZiPS is definitely not sold on them necessarily being plan Bs. The LF/CF mix of Thompson, Outman, leftover infielders, Jason Heyward, and a dash of JDM and maybe Bradley Zimmer feels a lot more like the backup plan rather than the one you start April with. It really feels like there should have been a big offseason addition at at least one of these positions.
This is why we keep hearing rumors about Los Angeles looking to trade for a center-fielder. Getting someone like Bryan Reynolds would allow L.A. to play Outman in left field, with Thompson and maybe Heyward as the extra outfielders. Heyward could have a resurgence and Outman could turn into a superstar in center, but those aren’t the most likely outcomes, and betting on both of them would be crazy. Thompson played well in 2022, but he also had one of the highest strikeout rates on the team and showed some holes in his swing.
Szymborski is absolutely right when he says this outfield feels “more like the backup plan.” There’s still over a month before spring training starts and nearly three months before Opening Day, so Andrew Friedman has plenty of time to pull some rabbits out of his hat. At this time last year, Freddie Freeman wasn’t a Dodger, and three years ago Mookie Betts was still a pipe dream.
I guess what I’m saying is, these projections will look even better with Mike Trout starting in center field. (Just kidding. Or am I?)
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