Major League Baseball
Dodgers-Yankees preview: Top player? Best offense, pitching? Trade deadline needs?
Major League Baseball

Dodgers-Yankees preview: Top player? Best offense, pitching? Trade deadline needs?

Updated Jun. 13, 2024 4:52 p.m. ET

Perhaps the four best players in baseball will square off this weekend at Yankee Stadium. Dodgers-Yankees might also be a World Series preview.

Both pitching staffs and offenses rank in the top five, while each member of the respective superstar duos is making a serious run at MVPand history.

All of it will be on display over a three-game set in the Bronx (Saturday's game will air on FOX and the FOX Sports app at 7:35 p.m. ET).

Accordingly, FOX Sports MLB experts Deesha Thosar and Rowan Kavner tackle these topics and more in this week's roundtable. (Editor's note: These responses were submitted before Juan Soto exited Thursday's game with a forearm injury.)


1. If you were drafting between Mookie Betts, Aaron Judge, Shohei Ohtani and Juan Soto for the rest of this season, what order would you select them in?

Kavner: Woooo, buddy. That's tough. You're talking about arguably the top two MVP contenders in both leagues, so the difference is minute, but if I had to pick I guess I'd go Judge-Betts-Soto-Ohtani. As his track record has demonstrated, Judge is the best hitter in baseball. It's amazing how quickly we went from, "uh oh, what's wrong with him?" to "will anyone ever get him out again?" Betts and Soto would basically be a coin flip. The former provides more value with his defensive versatility, the latter more consistent offense. 

Regardless of my team's construction in this hypothetical scenario, Betts could fit, so I'll give him the slight edge. Ohtani gets dinged here since he's only hitting this year, and Soto and Judge have been better offensively lately, but put them in any order and it's totally rational.

Thosar: Ohtani, Judge, Betts, Soto. Let's be real, Ohtani and Judge are 1A and 1B, respectively, because it's too close to really give either one of them the edge. When both are on, they're the best hitters in the world. Having said that, Ohtani's ability to deflate the opposing pitcher's best asset (like he did this week against Pittsburgh's Paul Skenes) and make in-game adjustments at the plate gives him the slight advantage as a No. 1 overall pick. With Judge's whiff rate in the 13th percentile, and his xWOBA and walk rate both in the 100th percentile, he's essentially certified to get on base one way or another. 

It's another tough ranking between Betts and Soto, but the former gets the advantage for me because of his superior speed/athleticism and his ability to be defensively versatile on the field. While Betts likely would garner more MVP votes if he played center field, his switch to shortstop has so far gone even better than we expected on a team with such high expectations there's little room for error. Soto, a champion in his own right, has more power than Betts, no doubt, and he's not far behind the Dodgers' seven-time All-Star.

2. Which team's collection of starting pitchers would you choose?

Thosar: I'll go with Yankees, but only under the assumption that Gerrit Cole will stay in the rotation for the rest of the year once he returns from an elbow injury that has sidelined him since March. And that's a big assumption, because it's hard to predict how Cole will bounce back once he starts putting more mileage on his pitching elbow. But, with Cole back in the mix soon (he started his rehab assignment this week), that will make for one strikeout-heavy Yankees rotation thanks to a big surprise. 

Luis Gil, set to take the hill against the Dodgers in Sunday's series finale, has flourished in his first real opportunity to be a full-time starter. Gil's 85 strikeouts lead the club, and his 1.83 ERA is the lowest among the starting five by almost a full run, and though it's fair to question how durable he'll be accumulating all these innings this season, he has likely pitched himself into the rotation even after Cole is back. Carlos Rodón is enjoying a solid comeback year, Marcus Stroman has been a consistent and quality addition, and Nestor Cortes has been a workhorse. Again, my pick is riding on the Yankees' reigning Cy Young winner remaining healthy and effective, but the club has afforded some luxury in letting him work back up as slowly as he needs thanks to their MLB-best record.

Dodgers set to take on Yankees in a classic weekend series

Kavner: It's completely fair to choose the Yankees here considering they've unquestionably been the better group thus far. Luis Gil is doing his best Gerrit Cole impression, looking like both a Rookie of the Year and Cy Young contender, and the actual Cole appears close to a return. But if we're taking the entire collection of starters for the rest of the year, I'll give the Dodgers the nod, considering the current configuration looks a lot different now than it should by year's end. 

Tyler Glasnow could contend for a Cy Young this year. Yoshinobu Yamamoto and Gavin Stone look like two of the best rookie pitchers in the game. That trio has kept the Dodgers rotation humming despite a litany of absences. Walker Buehler is still working his way back into form after missing nearly two years, Bobby Miller is on the comeback trail, and Clayton Kershaw and Dustin May should both return later this year. That's a lot of options, in addition to James Paxton. Could the Yankees' group still maintain the upper hand through season's end? Absolutely, but Carlos Rodón, Marcus Stroman and Gil, who've all been excellent this year, all have a much higher FIP and expected ERA than their actual totals this year and could be due for some regression.

3. Who has the better lineup?

Kavner: I'd take the Dodgers' top five … but since there are four more spots in the lineup, I'm going Yankees here. The bottom of the Dodgers lineup has been a problem all year, and Max Muncy's oblique injury exacerbated the lack of length in the lineup. Rookie Andy Pages has helped pick the group up at times, but there's no simple in-house solution for those issues right now. Just as concerning is the Dodgers' struggles this year with runners in scoring position. 

The Yankees, meanwhile, have excelled in those situations and currently boast the top offense in the sport. The additions of Soto and Alex Verdugo and the offensive gains from Anthony Volpe have been huge in easing the burden on Judge. There are reasons to believe it could get even better, too, once Gleyber Torres and Anthony Rizzo get going and whenever Jasson Domínguez returns to MLB action.

Thosar: The Yankees. The Judge-Soto duo is playing out like we all expected when the Yankees traded for the Dominican slugger back in December. The pair lead the major leagues in fWAR, wRC+, slugging, OPS, average exit velocity, and many more advanced hitting metrics one-third of the way into the season. And while so much attention has rightly been on Judge and Soto, it's the rest of the Yankees bats that have earned them the better lineup. 

Anthony Volpe, with the spotlight and pressures of his rookie season behind him, has the eighth-best fWAR in MLB. Giancarlo Stanton trimmed his weight and remembered he's a slugger, continuing to flash the fastest bat speed in the league. Alex Verdugo is batting cleanup these days, performing his best at the plate in late and close and high-leverage situations. Though the overall production from these clubs isn't that disparate, the Yankees lineup is crushing more home runs and has been deeper and more consistent across the board than the Dodgers' starting nine.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts on what makes Shohei Ohtani so special

4. What is one notable transaction you think the Dodgers and Yankees need to make between now and the deadline?

Thosar: This is a bold prediction, but the right side of the Yankees' infield could be at risk ahead of the July 30 trade deadline if they don't step up offensively. Anthony Rizzo, in particular, has disappointed with a career-low OPS in the final year of his Yankees contract. The veteran is a key member of the clubhouse, though, so I can see a world where he remains on the team for reasons other than his batting line. Gleyber Torres had a better May than he did April, and he's been serviceable since coming out of that early-season slump, but he still sports an 81 OPS+ and has been embroiled in trade rumors throughout his Yankees tenure. 

There is an argument to be made that the Yankees lineup, one of the best units in the majors, doesn't need retooling in case it messes up their good flow. Rizzo and Torres, also in his contract year, have been able to hide behind the behemoth that is Judge/Soto/Stanton, but if there's a deal that makes sense to upgrade the right side of the infield, the Yankees should take it.

Kavner: I'd be surprised if there aren't at least two for the Dodgers: one for a reliever, another for a bat to lengthen the lineup, whether that's an outfield depth piece or a splashier middle infield signing. The next two months are going to be a vital time for L.A. to assess the bottom of its lineup, but this team needs an offensive boost. With Brusdar Graterol, Ryan Brasier, Joe Kelly all working their way back from injury, more bullpen arms should become available to the Dodgers as the season progresses, but they generally find a way to bolster that group for the stretch run.

5. What player or facet of the team is the biggest X-factor for the Dodgers and Yankees to finish with the top seed in their respective leagues?

Kavner: I know I've mentioned it in nearly every part of this exercise regarding the Dodgers, but it's the bottom of their lineup. The rotation and bullpen should both improve as more pieces return, but this Dodgers offense was supposed to be a juggernaut, and it's been more good than extraordinary. When your seven, eight and nine spots in the order rank 26th, 25th and 17th in OPS, respectively, it's hard to maintain the type of consistent offense required to be the top team in the league.

Thosar: For the Yankees, it's Anthony Volpe. They look plenty dominant with Soto batting second, but they look irrepressible with Volpe owning his role at leadoff as well as he has. The shortstop has the second-best batting average (.274) in the AL among leadoff hitters with a minimum of 200 plate appearances this season, and the third-best wRC+ (119). He's right up there in terms of leadoff production with Gunnar Henderson and José Altuve

Volpe's sophomore surge stands out especially among some of his peers who haven't produced in their second season, like Corbin Carroll (64 wRC+) and Kodai Senga (injured), who would have otherwise represented their team's X-factors. Volpe's no-frills mindset has allowed him to remain consistent this season with an effective flat-bat approach as he continues to show improved plate discipline. If Volpe can keep getting on base consistently, an area the Yankees have struggled to achieve in recent years, he's undoubtedly one of the keys to their success.

Bonus: What is the best perk of working at Dodger Stadium (Kavner)/Yankee Stadium (Thosar)?

Thosar: The media dining room desserts. While the Phillies take the lead for best media food options, the assortment of cupcakes, ice cream and cakes at Yankee Stadium is unmatched in the major leagues. This year on Opening Day, they even outdid themselves by presenting an enormous, football-sized cannoli that was actually filled with dozens of mini cannolis. During fast-paced or difficult work days, those desserts are game changers and instant mood lifters. (Shoutout to sugar.)

Kavner: Years ago, I might have said the free Dodger dogs available in the press box after the sixth inning, but I'm trying (and often failing) to pass them up in an effort to ease the burden on my belt and maybe tack on a few more years to my life. Really, it's got to be the weather and the view, which allows for the press box windows to be open on a nightly basis. I have to remind myself sometimes how lucky I am to take in a game with the temperature in the 70s and the picturesque San Gabriel Mountains hovering in the backdrop.

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.

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.

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