The Los Angeles Dodgers were one of the best teams in Major League Baseball in the 2010s, even though they don’t have any championships to show for it. It isn’t easy to have sustained success for such a long period of time in the era of free agency and players changing teams frequently. To continue having so many winning seasons, a team has to be able to develop its own talent so losing players to free agency doesn’t hurt as much. Success in the draft and player development is one area in which the Dodgers excel more than any of the other 29 teams in MLB.
The Dodgers’ strong run in the 2010s
After a slow start to the 2010s, the Dodgers have won seven straight division titles in the National League West, dating back to 2013. They have won at least 91 games each season during that stretch, with 100-win seasons in 2017 and 2019.
Los Angeles appeared in the National League Championship Series four of those seven years, with back-to-back World Series appearances in 2017 and 2018. The first year, the Dodgers lost to the Astros in seven games while the Red Sox beat them in five in 2018. Despite the lack of titles, the Dodgers have proven to be among the elite teams in the National League over the last several years.
What the Dodgers do better than every other MLB team
Drafting the right players is essential to having sustained success like the Dodgers have had of late. In MLB.com’s 2020 Pipeline Poll, the site surveyed general managers, scouting directors, and executives from all 30 teams to find out their anonymous thoughts about farm systems and prospects. The Dodgers performed well in the polling. Here are some of the categories where the team ranked highly.
- The Dodgers finished first for the question about which team uses the draft the best, garnering 28% of the vote.
- The Dodgers tied with the Braves for third place (13%) regarding the team that hordes prospects the most.
- Los Angeles and the Yankees tied in fifth place (7%) regarding the team that best develops pitchers.
- They are the team that best develops hitters, according to the poll’s results. They won that category with a landslide, getting 54% of the vote; the Rockies were second at 14%.
Not surprisingly, given those results, the Dodgers have some highly touted prospects in their farm system. Shortstop Gavin Lux ranked as the second-best hitting prospect in the poll (14%), behind the Rays’ Wander Franco. Voters also thought that pitcher Dustin May is among the best future closers in the league; he tied the Astros’ Forrest Whitley for third in that category with 9% of the vote.
Prospects who have become stars
The Dodgers strong drafts go back more than a decade, with some of their top picks from the mid-2000s still among the game’s top stars today. Clayton Kershaw is a prime example of that. The Dodgers took him with the seventh pick in the 2006 draft, and he has been one of the best pitchers in the league since making his MLB debut in 2008. Among his accomplishments are three Cy Young awards, the pitching Triple Crown, and the 2014 NL MVP award.
More recently, the Dodgers have turned OF Cody Bellinger into an MVP after he was a fourth-round pick in 2013. He first came up to the majors in 2017, when he was named the NL Rookie of the Year, and he has just gotten better since then. He was the MVP of the 2018 NLCS, and Bellinger won the 2019 MVP award in the National League. And at just 24 years old, Bellinger may not even be in his prime yet.
Kershaw, Lux, and Bellinger figure to be the backbone of the Dodgers in 2020, and they’re all homegrown stars. Pitcher Julio Urias is, too. The Dodgers excel at finding talented players in the draft, grooming them in the minors, and having them contribute to the big league club. That’s why Los Angeles has remained a perennial contender for the better part of 10 years.