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The Los Angeles Dodgers with Shohei Ohtani in the lineup just might be unstoppable

Shohei Ohtani of the LA Angels hits
Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports

The Los Angeles Dodgers lineup was one of the best in baseball in 2023. On Saturday, they added the best hitter in baseball in Shohei Ohtani.

Oh yeah, and he can pitch, too, just not in 2024. L.A. signed Ohtani for 10 years and $700 million, which is the largest contract in sports history. Just think about it: Over the course of ten years he’s set to make pretty darn close to a billion — with a “b”— dollars.

According to baseball insider Ken Rosenthal, the majority of that contract is going to be deferred so that his deal doesn’t hinder the team’s quest to keep adding on.

According to wRC+, the Dodgers ranked third in team offense at 116 (100 is the league average). The Braves’ historic offense finished at 125.

In terms of runs scored, the Dodgers move up a spot, passing the Rays (118 wRC+), with 906 runs scored. They still slot right behind the Braves, who mustered 947 runs.

Ohtani also clubbed 44 home runs in 135 games. J.D. Martinez had a solid year for the Dodgers out of the DH spot in 2023, mashing 33 homers and finishing with a 135 wRC+.

Ohtani was still light years ahead. On top of the 44 homers, he also finished with a 180 wRC+ — that’s 80% better than league average — best in baseball.

Ohtani’s 2023 campaign was the seventh-best season by wRC+ since 2018. Two of the players with better seasons are Mookie Betts in 2018 with a 185, ranking fifth, and Freddie Freeman in 2020 with a 186, ranking fourth. The trio are now teammates. Aaron Judge’s 62-home run campaign in 2022 and Juan Soto’s 2020 season ranked one and two.

So how good will the Dodgers’ lineup be with the addition of Ohtani? Let’s take a look.

L.A. Dodgers projected lineup with Shohei Ohtani

Credit: Thomas Shea-USA TODAY Sports

Now, we can argue over the placement of certain players in the lineup, but we have a pretty good idea of who the starting nine players will be on a regular basis. Those players are: Mookie Betts, Freddie Freeman, Shohei Ohtani, Will Smith, James Outman, Chris Taylor, Max Muncy, a returning Gavin Lux, and Jason Heyward.

Freeman, Betts, and Ohtani are three of the top six hitters in baseball from this past season. Still, Ohtani was already a part of a lineup that was comprised of stars with the Angels, paired up with Mike Trout, and at times Anthony Rendon or Albert Pujols. The Angels were still arguably a two-man wrecking crew. Outside of those top three, the Dodgers are still a very deep lineup.

Will Smith is one of the best-hitting catchers in baseball. He slugged 19 homers, drove in 76, and had a .359 OBP.

Max Muncy hasn’t quite been at his peak (or his maximum Muncy) the past two seasons, but he still finished 18% above league average last season, slugged 36 homers and drove in 105. That’s five ridiculously talented bats.

Taylor, Outman, and Heyward are no slouches either. They each have 20+ home run potential and the ability to get on base at a high clip, setting up the sluggers.

How dangerous this lineup proves to be could depend on Gavin Lux. Now 26, he is coming off of a knee injury that required surgery, causing him to miss the ’23 season.

He’s also played a total of just 273 career games in the big leagues, so while he’s a known name, he’s still a work in progress. If he comes out and plays like the guy he was in 2022 (.276 average, .346 OBP, 114 wRC+), then this lineup could be a nightmare for opposing pitchers on a nightly basis.

L.A. Dodgers’ ideal lineup

Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

Again, there are many schools of thought about how to piece together a lineup. You could go the traditional route, with your best hitter batting third and your biggest power threat batting cleanup.

Or, you could go with the more new school way of thinking and bat your best hitter second, giving them more plate appearances and more opportunities to impact the game or season.

The big question heading into the 2024 season will be where Freeman and Ohtani end up. Betts will likely remain at the top. He hit .307 with a .408 OBP last season. He’s an excellent table setter.

With Ohtani, he’s arguably the best bat in any lineup, so slotting him second would make a ton of sense. Coming into this, that’s where I thought I’d have him, too.

Yet, Freeman hit .331 with a .410 OBP and 29 home runs. Ohtani hit .301 with a .412 OBP and 44 home runs. Given that they have similar profiles outside of the power numbers, it may be best to slot Ohtani third. If Betts and/or Freeman get on, then a blast from Ohtani is an instant two or three-run lead.

Using that same logic, however, we could see Freeman slotted up to the leadoff spot. His OBP was over .400 and he showed off the least power last season with Betts clubbing 39 homers.

This option is unlikely because Freeman is also the slowest option of the three, and getting him as the lead runner in a rally could make things a little trickier for first-to-third or second-to-home situations.

So here is my Dodgers lineup for Opening Day: Betts, Freeman, Ohtani, Smith, Muncy, Outman, Taylor, Heyward, Lux.

With the shortstop coming back from injury, starting him off in a low-pressure spot is probably the right move. Heck, even if he gets going over the course of the year, he’d be a nice table setter for the top of the lineup, too.

Let’s talk about the money for Shohei Ohtani

Credit: Kiyoshi Mio-USA TODAY Sports

The contract that was handed out to Ohtani is insane. Not in a bad way, but more in a mind-blowing sense. There is going to be plenty of discourse for all eternity over whether he is “worth” it.

If the Dodgers didn’t feel he was, he wouldn’t have gotten the deal. It’s their money.

Yes, there are questions about his injury history, which necessitated surgery on his UCL in September, cutting his 2023 season short. That said, the expectation as of right now is that he’ll return to the mound in 2025.

Say Ohtani never pitches again. We saw Aaron Judge sign for nine years, $360 million last off-season. That’s $40 million per season. If you tack on a 10th year, that’s $400 million.

Ohtani and Judge can do similar things at the plate, so say that is how much Ohtani got for his bat. How much is the marketing does Ohtani provide for the Dodgers? All of the memes with him in your jersey? The guest appearances he can make in Los Angeles?

Would you pay Ohtani $30 million a year to promote your brand? Of course, you would!

So even if he doesn’t throw a single pitch for the Dodgers, this deal could turn out OK financially. He’s quite literally the biggest star in baseball, and he’s beloved internationally.

A picture of Ohtani holding his dog a couple of weeks back got nearly three million views on Twitter alone. If Ohtani does pitch, he has a career 3.01 ERA across 86 starts. That’s pretty good. Add him to a rotation with Walker Buehler and that’s a pretty formidable one-two combo.

After a couple of off-seasons where Los Angeles took their foot off the gas in free agency, they were waiting for this winter. This free agent. This international superstar. And they got him.

The Dodgers are going to be great in 2024.

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