The Dodgers are no stranger to excellence. They reached the World Series in 2017 and 2018, won a championship in 2020 and had three former MVPs on the roster in each of the last two seasons. It’s fair to wonder whether any team has had a trio like they do now, though.
Two-time MVP Shohei Ohtani signed a record-shattering 10-year, $700 million contract with the Dodgers on Saturday, adding his powerful but patient bat to a lineup that was already among baseball’s most dangerous.
The lineup will be the only place Ohtani makes an appearance in 2024. He won’t pitch next season as he recovers from Tommy John Surgery, though the Dodgers’ hope is certainly that he will be able to get back on the mound in 2025. Ohtani also won’t play the field, filling out his customary designated hitter role.
In a lineup that pitchers already struggle to work around, however, Ohtani’s presence can’t be easily ignored.
Here’s what you need to know about the Dodgers’ projected lineup entering 2024 and what Ohtani brings to the mix.
Dodgers 2024 lineup projection
Dave Roberts has never had a hard time filling out what’s often been an ultra-talented Dodgers lineup, but he’s never had an MVP trio like this one. Here’s a look at what Los Angeles’ lineup could be on Opening Day.
- Mookie Betts, 2B
- Shohei Ohtani, DH
- Freddie Freeman, 1B
- Will Smith, C
- Max Muncy, 3B
- James Outman CF
- Chris Taylor, LF
- Jason Heyward, RF
- Gavin Lux, SS
While the bottom half of the lineup had its share of ups and downs in 2023, the Dodgers are banking on the excellent group at the top leading the charge.
Los Angeles also has time to add more pieces, but with James Outman’s breakthrough late in the 2023 season and the impending return of Gavin Lux — plus the reality of committing an obscene amount of money to Ohtani — this could very well be the group the Dodgers roll out entering the season.
Los Angeles signed Muncy to a two-year contract extension earlier in the offseason and re-signed Heyward in November.
What Shohei Ohtani brings to Dodgers lineup
The Dodgers expect Ohtani to pitch again in 2025 and beyond, but in 2024, his bat is all they will get. How valuable could he really be?
While it’s tough to say Ohtani’s bat alone makes him worth a cool $70 million per year, the Dodgers are adding one of baseball’s most well-rounded hitters. The two-time MVP is averaging 41.3 home runs over the last three seasons, and his power has never been a question.
Outside of the home runs, however, Ohtani seems to be improving each year. His strikeout rate was an elevated 29.6 percent during his 2021 MVP season, but he lowered it to 24.1 percent in 2022 and 23.8 percent in 2023. In turn, Ohtani has become more patient. He shattered his career-high in on-base percentage (.412) in 2023, also raising his batting average to a career-best .304.
Power remains the most intimidating aspect of Ohtani’s profile, but trends over the last three seasons paint a picture of a hitter who is continuing to get better at picking his pitches and laying off others.
When facing the Angels’ lineup, pitchers could often afford to pitch around Ohtani. Even when Mike Trout was healthy, the rest of the Angels’ lineup was a dramatically more favorable matchup for pitchers. Pitchers facing the Dodgers won’t have that luxury if the top three hitters are healthy. Any pitcher who pitches around Ohtani will have to deal with Freeman, who just set a career-high with 211 hits and is on a Hall of Fame track. Betts also graces the top of the lineup after a near-MVP season in 2023, and Will Smith, who could hold down the cleanup spot, is one of baseball’s strongest offensive catchers.
How big of a difference could this make for Ohtani? Take Juan Soto, for example. The Padres built their lineup in a way that made it more dangerous to pitch around a notoriously patient Soto in 2023. Before Fernando Tatis Jr. returned from suspension, Soto hit .190 with a .790 OPS over the first three weeks of the season. Once Tatis returned and filled out the top of the Padres’ lineup a bit more, Soto surged. He hit .285 with 31 home runs and a .948 OPS the rest of the way, finishing the year with a career-high in home runs.
The Padres’ season didn’t go according to plan, but that wasn’t Soto’s fault. As long as Betts and Freeman are healthy and in the lineup, Ohtani might get more opportunities than ever before.
Source : ESPN.com