The greatest Dodgers lineup ever included a litany of legendary names.
In 1953, that collection of All-Stars, MVPs and future Hall of Famers was the backbone of the highest-scoring team in Dodgers modern-era history (since 1901). They amassed 955 runs, averaging 6.16 per game. They had a .285 team batting average and almost as many walks as strikeouts. And they bludgeoned opponents en route to a National League pennant, their fourth in a seven-year stretch.
The 2022 Dodgers are hoping to do something similar. With their own star-studded lineup of such big names as Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman, Trea Turner and Justin Turner, Will Smith and Max Muncy, this year’s roster looks primed to be the best in baseball — and perhaps one of the most prolific offensive squads ever assembled.
They have three former MVPs, seven All-Stars expected to play regularly and a seemingly ideal mix of power, patience, and left/right balance. They have players with long regular season track records and ample postseason experience. And they, too, are aiming for what would be a fourth NL title in six years.
Of note: The 1953 squad lost in the World Series to the New York Yankees.
This year’s team is hoping to win it all.
Ahead of opening day, here is a breakdown of the team’s likely lineup with a look at the pros and cons of each regular in the batting order.
RF Mookie Betts
Pro: For most of his career, Betts has been one of the best all-around players in baseball. A five-time All-Star and 2018 MVP, he helped key the Dodgers' World Series run in his debut season with the club in 2020 and still posted decent — if not his typically dominant — numbers last year despite a nagging hip issue.
Con: Betts’ health is the biggest thing to watch this year. He said throughout camp he is healthy, but did struggle during Cactus League play before finishing the exhibition season with a two-hit performance Tuesday.
1B Freddie Freeman
2021 stats (with the Atlanta Braves):
Pro: One of baseball’s most consistent hitters over the last decade, Freeman is about as good as they come from the left side of the plate. Last year he batted .300 for the fifth time in the last six years while leading the majors in plate appearances. He also recorded his third 30-home-run campaign.
Con: Despite the home runs, Freeman’s .503 slugging percentage in 2021 was his lowest since 2015 (in part because he hit only 25 doubles, a career-low for a full season). It might have been the result of bad luck for the 32-year-old, however, as he ranked among the top 5% of big leaguers in expected slugging, according to Baseball Savant.
SS Trea Turner
2021 stats (combined during time with the Dodgers and Washington Nationals):
Pro: Despite being traded from the Nationals to the Dodgers at the deadline, Turner still amassed one of the best seasons of any player in 2021. He won the NL batting title, led the league in stolen bases and ranked first among all major league position players in Fangraphs’ version of wins above replacement.
Con: The only real question is whether Turner, an impending free agent, will remain with the Dodgers long-term. He has insisted he’d be open to staying in Los Angeles but said this week talks about a potential extension went nowhere this spring.
DH Max Muncy
Pro: Muncy was one of the Dodgers' most important hitters last year, a fact that became plainly obvious as they struggled in the postseason without him after he suffered an elbow injury on the last day of the regular season. Since joining the Dodgers in 2018, his 118 home runs rank fourth in the majors. And with Freeman now occupying first base, he can play elsewhere in the infield or slot in as a regular DH.
Con: Muncy spent most of the offseason recovering from his elbow injury, which included a torn ligament resulting from a collision at first base. While he will be ready for the start of the season, he talked this spring about the physical and mental hurdles he’s had to clear in order to get back on the field. Still, the Dodgers are hopeful he can bounce back to being one of the most dangerous sluggers in the game.
3B Justin Turner
Pro: The longest-tenured player in the Dodgers' lineup, Turner last year earned his second career All-Star selectionwhile matching career highs in home runs and games played. The addition of the DH should help him maintain that workload, too, keeping him in the lineup even on days off defensively.
Con: Turner finished last year in a slump, hitting .241 over the final two months before going four for 34 in the playoffs. Age is also increasingly a factor for the 37-year-old, who could be a free agent after the season if the Dodgers don’t pick up his club option.
C Will Smith
Pro: Despite being one of the few non All-Stars in the lineup, Smith has blossomed into one of the best catchers in the game. Not only did he rank top-five among major leaguers at the position last year in home runs, RBIs and on-base-plus-slugging percentage, but he also improved his pitch framing, according to Baseball Savant.
Con: Smith is still one of the least-experienced players in the lineup, with last year representing his first full-length season in the majors. He also has a 24% career caught-stealing percentage, which is just below league average. The good news: The DH should also benefit him, giving the Dodgers the option to lighten his workload behind the plate without sacrificing at-bats.
CF Cody Bellinger
Pro: There was no sugar-coating Bellinger’s performance during a disappointing, injury-plagued regular season last year. Silver lining: He bounced back in the playoffs, batting .353 in 12 games while also recording the game-winning hit in the decisive fifth game of the NLDS against the San Francisco Giants.
Con: Bellinger was still struggling to find consistency — in both his stats and his swing — during spring training. The Dodgers are hopeful he can rediscover prodigious power at the plate, and get back to something resembling his MVP performance in 2019. So far, there aren’t many signs he’s close yet.
LF Chris Taylor
Pro: Taylor was a first-time All-Star last year, contributing again from his utility role in the lineup. It led to the free agent getting a four-year, $60-million contract from the club this offseason. And after last week’s trade of AJ Pollock to the Chicago White Sox, the team is planning to use Taylor this season as its primary left fielder.
Con: Taylor struggled down the stretch last year, batting .187 over the final two months of the regular season while battling a pinched nerve in his neck. While he rebounded with a strong postseason, he underwent surgery on his elbow in the winter, though he says he’s healthy now.
2B Gavin Lux
Pro: After struggling again at the start of his third MLB season, Lux found a groove at the plate following a return from the minor leagues late in the year. While getting increased playing time following a move to the outfield, the former first-round pick batted .360 over the final month, showing off his potential over an extended stretch at the big league level for one of the first times.
Con: A streaky hitter, Lux still hasn’t shown much consistency with the Dodgers. And after the Pollock trade, he’ll be asked to take on a bigger role, likely to feature at both second base and as a backup option in the outfield.
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.