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Spring training is here for the Dodgers, and so are expectations

On reporting day, a look at sky-high projections for 2021

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2020 Los Angeles Dodgers Photo Day Photo by Adam Glanzman/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Pitchers and catchers are expected to report to Dodgers camp on Wednesday in Glendale, Arizona. That means 39 pitchers and six catchers finding their way to Camelback Ranch, with a first workout set for Thursday.

Two of those pitchers — left-hander Caleb Ferguson and free agent signee Tommy Kahnle — are coming off Tommy John surgery, and it’s likely one of them will be placed on the 60-day injured list at some point soon, clearing a 40-man roster spot for whenever the Dodgers make the Justin Turner contract official.

The position players will all soon follow, with a first full-squad workout set for next Tuesday. Then come spring games, and soon a full regular season, a suddenly daunting task after playing only 60 games last year.

Well, the Dodgers actually played 78 games, thanks to them making it all the way to the end, and winning their first World Series in 32 years. Now, the Dodgers are trying to become the first MLB team to repeat as champions in 21 years, and judging by preseason projections and predictions, they are very well equipped to do just that.

Last year the Dodgers were coming off a 106-win season and added Mookie Betts. Then they won 71.7 percent of their games (a 116-win pace) and a title, and followed that by signing the reigning National League Cy Young Award winner. Sure, there were other moves in both offseasons, but on a simplistic level, the Dodgers are trafficking in excess.

“At every turn, and in the six-plus years I’ve been here, ownership has been incredibly supportive of doing everything we can to win, and to reward the amazing fans that we have to bring a world championship back to LA, which had been a long time coming,” Andrew Friedman said last week. “Now their mind set is, ‘Let’s do it again. Let’s flip the switch and have the mindset of repeating.’”

FanGraphs unveiled their projected 2021 standings this week, and the Dodgers are projected for 99 wins (rounding up from 98.8), with a 97.9-percent chance of making the postseason. Both are tops in MLB, and their 65.8-percent chance of winning the National League West (over a 95-win Padres team with the third-highest projected win total in the game) is second only to the Yankees’ 70.9-percent odds to win the American League East.

Here’s the thing though: 99 wins counts as a low projection for the Dodgers this year.

Baseball Prospectus in their initial PECOTA projections had the Dodgers set for 103 wins, but that was before their re-upped their third baseman. Now, with Turner on board, PECOTA sees the Dodgers as a 104(.3)-win team with an 83.3-percent chance to win the division, and with a projected 944 runs scored owners of the best offense in the sport, the only MLB team projected to score even 900 runs this year.

Jeff Sherman at SuperBook Sports in Las Vegas set the Dodgers over/under at 103.5 wins in 2021, eight more than the next-best Yankees.

The odds are similar at Draft Kings Sportsbook, with the Dodgers the heaviest favorites to both win their division (-250 to win the NL West, so you’d have to bet $250 to win $100) and win the World Series (+350).

USA Today didn’t use statistical models, but their six-person panel guessed records for all 30 teams, and pegged the Dodgers at a whopping 105 wins, 10 games clear of the Padres, owners of the second-best record in MLB in these projections.

Those are all lofty expectations, but that comes with the territory the Dodgers find themselves in.