The Dodgers Need More From These Five Young Players

The Los Angeles Dodgers are hanging just two games above .500 through their first 24 contests. Could these players be part of the problem?

Gavin Lux of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on while at bat against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park.
SAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA - SEPTEMBER 17: Gavin Lux #9 of the Los Angeles Dodgers looks on while at bat against the San Francisco Giants at Oracle Park on September 17, 2022 in San Francisco, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)

The Los Angeles Dodgers spent a historic amount of money this offseason to bring in some of the game’s brightest stars. However, while the Dodgers were shelling out money on external projects, they were still going to need contributions from their internal foundation.

The Los Angeles lineup is indeed star-studded with Shohei Ohtani, Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman at the top, but there are spots lower in the order (and positions in the outfield) where the Dodgers have some early concerns. So far this season, Los Angeles left fielders have combined to slash .090/.240/.103 in 96 plate appearances. The team’s center fielders are slashing .179/.250/.286 in 92 plate appearances.

Similarly, in the starting rotation, Tyler Glasnow, Yoshinobu Yamamoto, and James Paxton have combined for a 3.36 ERA. All other starters have combined for a 5.02 mark.

As the Dodgers enter Tuesday’s opener against the Nationals at 13-11, there is still plenty of season left for Los Angeles to evolve into the juggernaut that most MLB fans envisioned before the campaign began. However, for that to happen, these five young players are going to need to find their footing.

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James Outman

The main reason Dodgers center fielders are struggling so badly this season is James Outman. The 26-year-old is certainly enduring some growing pains after finishing third in last year’s National League Rookie of the Year balloting.

Outman enters the Washington series slashing .179/.267/.299 with 23 strikeouts in 75 plate appearances. Part of the problem has been what he has done so far this season with runners in scoring position, hitting .083 (2-for-24). On the positive side, he has driven in six of his seven runs with RISP.

Compare those numbers to last season when Outman made his way onto the team thanks to a hot spring training and slashed .248/.353/.437, and you can see why the Dodgers are hoping he finds his groove soon.

Gavin Lux

After missing all of the 2023 season with a knee injury suffered early in spring training, Gavin Lux returned to the Dodgers this spring with plenty of questions about just how reliable his defense could be.

While Lux has seemingly put some of those issues behind him (he has not committed an error yet this season), there is now growing concern about the numbers he is putting up at the plate. Through his first 67 plate appearances of 2024, Lux is slashing .148/.224/.164 with no home runs and just a pair of runs batted in. His OPS+ currently sits at 11.

Yes, those numbers are tough to look at, but if there is a silver lining, it is that Lux is still producing with runners in scoring position. While he is struggling overall, the second baseman is 5-for-16 with two RBI with RISP.

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Gavin Stone

In his first four starts of 2024, Gavin Stone has logged a 6.00 ERA and 1.778 WHIP, giving up 22 hits and 10 walks in 18.0 innings. Yet, with a 3.10 FIP, there is reason to believe the 25-year-old right-hander has run into some hard luck this season.

Stone appeared in eight games last year for the Dodgers, making four starts and posting a 9.00 ERA/6.64 FIP/1.903 WHIP. However, with Los Angeles in need of reliable starting pitching early in the season (Bobby Miller, Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler and Ohtani are unavailable because of injuries), Stone’s early struggles have been magnified.

Bobby Miller

While Bobby Miller is currently on the 15-day injured list (retroactive to April 10) with right shoulder inflammation, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts has indicated that Miller will begin playing catch early this week, starting his road back to the mound.

Like Stone, Miller hasn’t had many chances on the mound early in the season, but his three starts have produced a 5.40 ERA/3.89 FIP/1.457 WHIP. Compare that to last year’s 3.76 ERA/3.51 FIP/1.102 WHIP in 124.1 innings and you will see there is some work for Miller to do once he returns to the mound to get back to last year’s levels of effectiveness.

Michael Grove

The 27-year-old right-hander started 2024 about as ice cold as possible, allowing 10 earned runs in his first 7.2 innings spread over four outings. However, since then, Michael Grove has locked in, surrendering just one hit over 6.2 scoreless innings in four games. That has lowered his ERA from 11.74 to 6.43.

While Grove’s current 6.43 ERA is coming down, so is his FIP, currently sitting at 2.71. Dodgers fans are hoping that the bad luck he encountered early in the season is in the past and that he may be able to improve on last year’s 6.13 ERA/4.36 FIP/1.478 WHIP he posted in 69.0 innings over 18 games (including 12 starts).

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It’s likely a matter of when, not if, Los Angeles starts to pile on the wins. When the Dodgers get to that point, don’t be surprised if part of their rise has something to do with one or more of these young players turning their seasons around.