Major League Baseball
Betts or Ohtani? Alonso's future with Mets? Dodgers vulnerable? 5 burning questions
Major League Baseball

Betts or Ohtani? Alonso's future with Mets? Dodgers vulnerable? 5 burning questions

Updated Apr. 19, 2024 1:21 p.m. ET

Three weeks into the season, the Dodgers and Mets are side by side in the National League standings. Mookie Betts and Shohei Ohtani are one-upping each other daily, despite the Dodgers dropping five of their past seven games. Pete Alonso is off to a fast start in his walk year, while the Mets have won four consecutive series following an 0-5 start to the season. 

The star power and contrasting trends will come to a head this weekend, as the superteam Dodgers host the reimagined Mets for a three-game set in Los Angeles (Saturday's game will air on FS1 at 4:05 p.m. ET).

FOX Sports MLB experts Rowan Kavner and Deesha Thosar tackle these topics and more in this week's roundtable.

1. Which team's record are you more surprised by: the 12-9 Dodgers or the 10-8 Mets?


Kavner: I'd say both are about as expected — let's remember the Dodgers won 100 games last year despite starting the year 10-11 — but I'm a little more surprised (and impressed) by the Mets' start. Their thin rotation is missing Kodai Senga. Their offense has yet to see Francisco Lindor (.478 OPS) get going. To still have a winning record through 18 games is a testament to the rest of the starting pitchers, who collectively have a 3.29 ERA, and a bullpen doing terrific work led by strikeout machines Edwin Díaz and Reed Garrett, who I guess is just unhittable now?

Thosar: The Mets. Though, it's not so much their record I'm surprised by, as I am how they got to this point. Starting out the season 0-5 when the entire league and rival fan bases were clowning New York, it was all too easy for the club to continue feeling bad about itself. It was harder, much more in fact, for this bunch to put the winning run together that it did. Through the season's first handful of games, at the point when teams sport the most optimism, the Mets got punched in the gut, and it served as a crucial reality check. It's not like their schedule let up either, as they hosted white-hot clubs like the Royals and Pirates. But their momentum from defeating the Braves, in Atlanta no less, carried the Mets into their homestand and they just kept winning. It's been a fascinating start for a Mets team that most industry insiders counted out in 2024.

2. The Dodgers have lost three of four series, all to teams that didn't make the postseason last year. Are there any long-term concerns with their roster?

Thosar: A few of the issues currently encompassing the Dodgers' lineup seem like they could easily mushroom into season-long problems. There are certainly some curious trends in Los Angeles, including Freddie Freeman's power outage, but I expect that to reverse itself as the season progresses. The offense's apparent inability to come through in the clutch is concerning, especially because the Dodgers were one of the best teams with runners in scoring position last year. It's also pretty eye-popping that the Dodgers offense leads MLB in strikeouts. 

The Dodgers seem to be depending on one or two players to get it done. That's just not how a "superteam" should operate. It's often difficult to adjust and turn some of these stats around during the season. If the players on the roster aren't clicking, for whatever reason, the offense could end up being a season-long issue for the team.

Kavner: I don't anticipate any of their issues preventing them from winning the division again, but the bottom of the lineup is a problem right now without an easy fix. Chris Taylor is 1-for-35 with 18 strikeouts this year. Gavin Lux (.148/.207/.167) hasn't shown any pop in his return from an ACL injury. James Outman is trending in the right direction, but he hasn't looked like the guy who finished third in Rookie of the Year voting last year. Kiké Hernández has an OPS under .500.

Beyond that, injuries to Brusdar Graterol and Blake Treinen have left the bullpen vulnerable. Outside of Evan Phillips and Daniel Hudson, I'm not sure who the Dodgers can really trust in leverage at the moment. They'll say a lot of their arms at the back end are neutral, but their lack of reliable lefties could be a problem. In addition, while the infield defense has been more serviceable than expected, it's something to keep an eye on. The presence of Miguel Rojas does provide some coverage if that gets to be a problem.

3. The Mets have MLB's best record (10-3) since April 5. What's the biggest X-factor for them being a 2024 playoff contender?

Kavner: I mentioned the early success of the rotation, and I think that will determine the Mets' fate as well as what their plans will be at the deadline. This team has enough talent in the lineup that it should hit (better than it has so far), but I thought the Senga loss would be much more detrimental than it has been through the first few weeks.

José Buttó didn't get much attention on prospect lists over the last couple years, but he has been a revelation through two starts. It looks like this could be a bounce-back year for two-time All-Star Luis Severino, and Sean Manaea is getting more swing-and-miss and chase after two terrific starts (and one stinker in which he lost his command).

Thosar: Before the season began, I would've pinned the Mets' pitching staff as the X-factor. But, even before Kodai Senga has thrown a single pitch this season, the Mets flash the best ERA in the National League. So, there's a new X-factor. Given how this current hot stretch has been fueled in part by the bottom of the order stepping up in clutch moments, the Mets look like they can be a playoff team if their best bats play to form. Francisco Lindor is one of the worst hitters in MLB right now. The Mets offense tends to go as Starling Marte goes, and though he had a strong start, he's since dropped off. Of the Mets' core hitters, only Pete Alonso has an OPS above .734. A lot can go wrong the rest of the season that will generate a new X-factor for the club, but for now, the Mets have been winning while their best hitters are scuffling. If those hitters can get it going, all while the background cast keeps chugging along, the Mets could contend for a playoff spot.

4. Who's going to finish with the better slash line, Mookie Betts or Shohei Ohtani?

Thosar: Mookie Betts. I'm expecting the seven-time All-Star to win his second-career MVP award this season, partly because his belief that he's a better hitter when he plays the infield is seemingly coming true. Betts has played like a man on fire to start the year, and I'd be more surprised if he slows down. As for Ohtani, perhaps the ongoing rehab on his right elbow is impacting his home run stroke more than we expected. He's also still getting used to his new surroundings as a Dodger. The odds are in Betts' favor on this one.

Kavner: Betts will be the more valuable player — and, on this trajectory, might be the most valuable player in the sport — but I think Ohtani finishes with the better slash line, as he has each of the past three years.

5. Pete Alonso is a free agent at the end of this season. What's your best guess for how his situation unfolds over the next seven months?

Kavner: Tough call, but my guess right now is he remains with the Mets at the deadline and gets to free agency, as Scott Boras clients are wont to do, at which point it's anyone's guess. If the Mets are still contending at the deadline, it will be in large part to Alonso's work. Right now, he's the only qualified hitter in the lineup with an OPS over .734 ... and his is .905. He is responsible for 40% of their home runs.

Now, if they start to tank in the next couple of months and fall way behind the Braves and Phllies, all bets are off. If that happens, I can see a world where they deal him for more long-term pitching help. I just don't think that's likely to occur. Atlanta will probably still hit its way to a division title, but the Spencer Strider injury opens the door a little wider in the East, and Philadelphia's offense has not inspired much confidence to this point. I expect the Mets, who have also yet to reach their offensive potential, still to be in playoff contention when decisions need to be made.

Thosar: If the Mets keep playing like they have been after their 0-5 start, then they could be in the mix for the division crown at the end of the year. And this is no surprise, but Alonso is their best hitter so far in April. So there's no shot the Mets will trade him if the season progresses the way they want it to. I think Alonso's free agency will continue to be a topic of conversation throughout these next seven months. But his landing spot will become clearer should the Mets continue racking up wins, even more so if they make a playoff push. 

In the end, I'm expecting Alonso to bet on himself and test free agency. We know where his loyalties lie, and Steve Cohen wants the slugger to make his decision to give Alonso a long-term deal as difficult as possible. The Mets and their Polar Bear have always seemed like a match for the rest of Alonso's career. As always, his bat will do the talking. Cohen is paying close attention.

Rowan Kavner is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. He previously covered the L.A. Dodgers, LA Clippers and Dallas Cowboys. An LSU grad, Rowan was born in California, grew up in Texas, then moved back to the West Coast in 2014. Follow him on Twitter at @RowanKavner.

Deesha Thosar is an MLB writer for FOX Sports. She previously covered the Mets as a beat reporter for the New York Daily News. The daughter of Indian immigrants, Deesha grew up on Long Island and now lives in Queens. Follow her on Twitter at @DeeshaThosar.


Get more from Major League Baseball Follow your favorites to get information about games, news and more