Currently the Dodgers sit 35-32 and six games behind the Giants for first place. It has been a rough start to their season, but they are still in the race due to a group of young players leading them. While veterans like Adrian Gonzalez, Yasiel Puig, Justin Turner, and Yasmani Grandal have had down seasons, Corey Seager, Joc Pederson, and Trayce Thompson have led the Dodgers through the first two and half months. Seager, Pederson, and Thompson are first, third, and fifth respectively in terms of fWAR so far in 2016 for the Dodgers.
Corey Seager has not only been the best player on the Dodgers, but the most valuable too. According to Cot's Contracts, he is making $510,000 in 2016 -- the least of all the Dodger players. He has given tremendous value with his cheap salary and 2.7 fWAR, which is nearly double that of the second best player on the Dodgers in Chase Utley and his 1.5 fWAR. Also, Seager leads the team in Z-Swing% at 77.5, showing a great deal of plate discipline for a youngster. As of this writing, Seager has 15 home runs, a 128 wRC+, and a .357 wOBA with fine defense to boot. It is not out of the question to expect a 30 home run season out of Seager from a position not offensively inclined.
Joc Pederson is tied for third on the Dodgers in fWAR at 1.2. Similar to Seager, Pederson's salary is toward the bottom of the Dodgers' payroll; he is the most expensive of himself, Seager, and Thompson at a measly $520,000 this season. His 11 home runs are second to Corey Seager, but his .249 ISO leads the team. In a full season last year, Pederson hit 26 home runs and is lining up to finish around that number this year, but perhaps more importantly he has improved his strikeouts a bit, which hampered him in the second half of 2015. The extra contact (an almost 10 percentage point increase!) will help him tap into his power more than last year.
Another young player that has contributing in a big way is Trayce Thompson. He has started to receive consistent playing time with the injury to Yasiel Puig, and he has taken advantage of the opportunity. Thompson is ever so slightly more expensive than Seager, costing the Dodgers $512,500 this season. There were periods of Thompson's career when he exhibited power in the minor leagues given the chance to play everyday, hitting over 15 home runs on four different occasions.
Through his first 175 plate appearances Thompson has ten home runs and is second on the team with a .245 ISO. While it is in 110 fewer plate appearances than Seager, Thompson leads the Dodgers in wRC+ at 132. Thompson is fifth on the Dodgers with 0.9 fWAR, and if he continues to receive consistent playing time he may hit over 20 home runs.
To put in context just how good and how cheap the three young stars of the Dodgers have been, let's compare them to Carl Crawford. Recently released by the Dodgers this week, Crawford is costing them $21,607,143 this year. Seager, Pederson, and Thompson are costing the Dodgers a combined $1,542,500. In the 30 games Crawford played, he accumulated a total fWAR of -0.8. The three young stars are all above 0.9.
If the Dodgers are going to catch the Giants and win the NL West or at least win one of the Wild Card spots they will need more production from their veterans like Gonzalez, Turner, Grandal and Puig. For now, Seager, Pederson, and Thompson are doing their best to carry the Dodgers, and they are doing a great job. At the very least the Dodgers are realizing their lineup has three players to build around for the future.
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Carl Triano is a contributor at Beyond the Box Score and Minor League Ball.
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