LOD’s 3 Players to Watch: Los Angeles Dodgers
For this series, LOD writers will pick three players from each MLB team that we feel are players to watch in the 2023 season.
The Los Angeles Dodgers have dominated the NL West by finishing in first place for nine of the last 10 seasons. In that time frame, they won one World Series (2020), were runners up in the World Series (2017/2018) and have made the postseason for the past 10 seasons. In 2022, they won 111 games and won their Division, but lost in the NLDS to the San Diego Padres. In the offseason, the Padres built a powerhouse team to make a run at the division crown, while the Dodgers watched some of their top stars file for free agency and leave for greener pastures. Now they look to see if they can hold on to their dominance in the division and National League with a slightly different looking team.
One of the new additions to the Dodgers and most intriguing is Noah Syndergaard. The man they once called ‘Thor’, has not been as dominate as he was in 2016 with the New York Mets, when he was 14-9, with a 2.60 ERA, and 2018 strikeouts in 183.2 innings. Since then, he has been marred by injuries; a right ulner collateral ligament tear (2020), which resulted in Tommy John Surgery.
He returned for two games in 2021, and on September 28th he threw one inning, allowing no hits and struck out two. Then on Oct 3rd, he tossed another inning and took the loss which happened to be the last game he would pitch for the Mets. Syndergaard filed for free agency on November 3, 2021 and signed with the Los Angeles Angels on November 16, 2021.
Syndergaard was 5-8, with a 3.83, spanning 80 innings in 15 starts in 2022, before being traded to the Philadelphia Phillies on August 2, 2022. He finished the rest of the season with the Phillies and was 5-2, with a 4.12 ERA in nine stats. He also appeared in four post season games, including the World Series and combined he was 0-1, with a 3.24 ERA in the postseason.
At the end of the season, he filed for free agency again and on December 16th, he signed with the Dodgers. So far in Spring training he has not had much success on the mound and the question will be, will he be able to regain the dominance he once enjoyed in the middle of the diamond.
Ryan Pepiot was drafted by the Dodgers in the 3rd round of the 2019 June draft out of Butler University. In his first two minor league seasons, he showed promise by posting a 1.93 ERA in 2019 through 10 starts and two teams (Rookie and Class A Full season) and was 3-4, with a 2.87 ERA in 13 starts in Double A in 2021.
The Dodgers then promoted Pepiot to Triple A that same season and he struggled in 11 appearances (nine starts) with a 7.13 ERA and opponents batting .305 against him.
But LA showed their confidence in him as he started in Triple A in 2022 and the 6’3″ right hander rewarded that decision by going 9-1, with a 2.56 ERA in 19 appearance (17 starts), while striking out 114 batters in 91.1 innings pitched. It’s safe to say, Pepiot figured it out real quick.
Pepiot was invited to spring training for a third straight year, and this year so far has been his best as he is currently 1-0, through four starts in four games, with a 2.00 ERA, and 13 strikeouts through nine innings.
The #6 Dodgers Top Prospect can easily break camp with the big club and join a pitching staff looking for depth. Unsure what the plan is yet, but do expect him to make his MLB debut in the near future.
Freddie Freeman is entering his 14th season in the majors, and his second with the Dodgers, having spent 12 with the Atlanta Braves. The 6-time All Star and former MVP, signed a six year contract with LA before the 2022 season and he rewarded his new club by batting .325, with 47 doubles, 21 home runs and drove in 100 runs. In last seasons postseason, he batted .357 (5 for 14), with three doubles and a home run.
Freeman left the Braves after he won his first World Series and joined a Dodgers club that was expected to reach the World Series in 2022, giving him a potential back to back rings. But the Dodgers collapsed in the NLDS, after winning 111 regular season games, which prevented that from happening. And now in 2023, Freeman will be looked on to lead a team that may be looking up to the Padres for the division.
What is a fact is that Freeman will do his part and put up his numbers, but will he be enough for the Dodgers to overcome the skeptics and shock the world and dominate again?
It should be out of the question that they will come anywhere near 100 games won again, but with Freeman in the middle of the lineup, they may surprise some teams.
Freddie Freeman is a must watch in his second season with the Dodgers.