The Dodgers have stunned the baseball world, having MLB’s best record by 13 games as off August 26th. They also have the highest payroll, beating the Yankees by over $30 Million dollars. It would be easy to credit their current destroying of the NL West to them buying it. Take a closer look, and you will see an organization with a stellar record of developing players.
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Let’s start with 2017 All-Star, Justin Turner. Over the last four years, he has averaged a .310 batting average while averaging 16.75 homers per year. He spent four years as a utility infielder for the New York Mets before being let go in 2014. The Dodgers saw something in him and took a chance on a guy who never had hit more than four home runs in a Major League season. Between Turner’s will to never give up on his dream and the Dodgers coaching staff, he’s now blossomed into one of the best third basemen in the game today.
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The Dodgers have a repeated history of this. This years Justin Turner? A forgotten utility man named Chris Taylor. Chris Taylor has been a revelation on a team who has struggled at second base this year. An aging Chase Utley and a scuffling Logan Forsythe have not been the answer the Dodgers have been searching for since letting Dee Gordon go. Chris Taylor batted .170 for the Seattle Mariners in 2015. His slash line for the Dodgers in 2017? .310/.389/.539. The Dodgers coaching staff deserves a lot of the credit on turning what are utilityman into baseball stars.
It would be impressive if it stopped there, two guys who were thrown away by different organizations turned into stars, but it does not end there. On the pitching side, Alex Wood has arguably pitched toe to toe with Clayton Kershaw this year. Alex Wood has a little different story then Turner or Taylor. He had his big breakout year in 2014 with the Atlanta Braves, going 11-11 with a 2.78 ERA. His biggest knock, however, was his injury proneness, and to this date has not reached 200 innings in his career. For the rebuilding Braves, they could not seemed to not want to wait on what seemed to be a blossoming ace, dealing him to the Dodgers in 2015, recieving the now out of baseball Hector Olivera in return. 2016 was a lost year of productivity to to injuries, but 2017 has been his second swan song. While as I am writing this, Alex Wood is on the DL, but he has a 14-1 record with a 2.41 ERA while striking out 9.3 per 9 innings. While Hector Olivera had some promise back then, the trade looks like a swindle now. If he had avoided the DL, he could have beaten out even Clayton Kershaw for the NL Cy Young award.
Those are just a couple examples of the Dodgers essentially getting stars for free. It’s not just throwing money, but their player development program that has lead them to where they are today. You could talk all day about Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, and Kenley Jansen, but the real key for Dodger success is their scouting and development, not their checkbook.