It will be a decade-long playoff participant against a team in a half-decade postseason drought Thursday when the Los Angeles Dodgers play host to the Arizona Diamondbacks on Opening Day
Despite vast differences in the standings in recent seasons, both squads share certain similarities.
High-upside youngsters will take the field for both teams, while the closer spot appears to be a work in progress for each. They are each likely to have strong outfield defenses.
While the Diamondbacks hope to continue the upward trajectory that started last season, the Dodgers are out to prove they still are one of baseball's top teams after a franchise-record 111 regular-season victories in 2022
But with staff ace Walker Buehler expected to miss most of the season after Tommy John surgery, shortstop Trea Turner departing for a free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Phillies and his replacement, Gavin Lux, out for the season with a knee injury, Los Angeles' intimidating exterior appears to have some weak spots.
The Dodgers will see what they can get from Trayce Thompson and 25-year-old rookie James Outman in center field, while rookie Miguel Vargas, 23, takes over at second base after never playing there as a minor leaguer and veteran Miguel Rojas starts at short
The Dodgers will need plenty from veteran All-Stars like Mookie Betts and Freddie Freeman at the top of the order, and Max Muncy in the cleanup spot after showing this spring that he is ready to rebound from a season that fell below expectations
"Even though Mookie and Freddie are all-world baseball players, they don't think they just have to show up and play," Dodgers veteran left-hander Clayton Kershaw said, per the Orange County Register. "There's that element with everybody. You don't know if this is going to be somebody's best year, you don't know if it's going to be somebody's worst year
"I think with that, it creates some optimism, some excitement that we have some unknowns with the team. Which I think might be good."
Kershaw won't be the Dodgers' Opening Day starter this season, with that honor going to left-hander Julio Urias for the first time. Urias was the National League ERA champion last season with a 2.16 mark, and he was baseball's only 20-game winner in 2021
The Diamondbacks will send right-hander Zac Gallen to the mound on Thursday for his first career Opening Day start after left-hander Madison Bumgarner held the honor the past three seasons
Gallen (12-4, 2.54 ERA in 2022) led the National League with a 0.913 WHIP and finished fifth in NL Cy Young Award voting. Gallen won't have Carson Kelly behind the plate with the catcher out with a fractured forearm.
Gallen is 1-2 in nine career starts against the Dodgers with a 2.30 ERA, including a 0.64 ERA in 14 innings against them last season. Urias has dominated the Diamondbacks in his career, going 7-1 with a 1.38 ERA in 11 appearances (eight starts)
Arizona's outfield defense will have plenty of range with Alek Thomas and top prospect Corbin Carroll, who has just 17 games of big-league experience, but whose ability earned him an eight-year, $111 million extension. Jake McCarthy, 25, will man the other outfield spot, with Kyle Lewis also an option.
"(Talent) has been percolating for a while and several of the young players are going to help lead the way with it for us this year at the big-league level and there's more coming and we know it," D-backs manager Torey Lovullo said. "The future looks really bright. It makes me smile."
--Field Level Media