Consider these #facts about the 2018 Dodgers

  • They lost franchise shortstop Corey Seager to Tommy John surgery after he played just 26 games. 
  • Injuries have limited Clayton Kershaw to just nine starts thus far. 
  • Speaking of rotation injuries, the Dodgers have already used 11 different starting pitchers this season. 
  • Dodger second basemen have combined to "hit .204/.298/.294. 
  • As recently as May 16, Dave Roberts' club was 10 games under .500. 

Given all of that, you might find this surprising: 

  • The Dodgers, thanks in large measure to a 17-6 mark in June, are presently on pace for 88 wins. 
  • The SportsLine Projection Model tabs the Dodgers for 94 wins and gives them an impressive 72.8 percent chance of winning the NL West for a sixth straight season. 

Yes, the Dodgers won 104 games a season ago and pushed the Astros to seven games in the World Series, but the wheels appeared to be coming off through the first six weeks or so of the 2018 season. They've rebounded in a huge way, though, and that's in part because of some unlikely core contributors. 

Specifically, Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Max Muncy, and Ross Stripling have all been season-savers for L.A. in 2018. Kemp had a solid year overall last season for Atlanta, but given that he struggled down the stretch in 2017 and was heading into his age-33 campaign, expectations were lowered for his return to the Dodgers. In fact, they were lowered to the extent that some thought the Dodgers would cut bait on him. Well, halfway through 2018 Kemp is batting .311/.351/.539 with 13 homers and 16 doubles in 79 games. 

Pederson's struggles making contact reduced him to part-time status last season, but this year he's bounced back with a 143 OPS+ and 28 extra-base hits in 73 games. The 28-year-old Stripling had been a useful piece over the last two seasons, but in 2018 he's been a staff savior. After 11 starts and as many relief appearances this season, Stripling's pitched to a 1.98 ERA with only one unearned run allowed and a remarkable K/BB ratio of 7.42. Framed another way, he's racked up 2.7 WAR in just 77 1/3 innings. 

And then there's Muncy. While seeing time at four different positions, Muncy has absolutely raked in his age-27 campaign: .259/.401/.596 (!) with 16 home runs in 166 at-bats. Chances are, you'd never heard of Muncy prior to this season. Over on CBS Sports HQ, MLB analyst Jim Bowden sums up this Dodger discovery rather nicely (video above): 

"Max Muncy is a guy the Dodgers didn't even bring up as a September call-up last year. He didn't even make the team out of spring training, he wasn't on their 40-man roster, and he'd been released previously by the Oakland Athletics -- Farhan Zaidi the GM, great job of picking him up."

That's the kind of thing you can turn up if you look under the right rocks. Maybe Muncy doesn't keep abusing the ball to this extent, but he boasts a rebuilt swing and approach, and his numbers at Triple-A Oklahoma City this season and last testify to his current abilities. In other words, maybe he'll regress, but it probably won't be as much as you'd think. The guy can hit. 

If the Dodgers wind up overcoming all the injuries and strife to reach the postseason yet again, then the surprising high-value names above should take a collective bow. Without them, the Dodgers would be waist-deep in a lost season.