The Los Angeles Dodgers are headed to Wrigley Field after an improbable Game 5 victory over the Washington Nationals in the National League Division Series.
It was a complete team effort to say the very least, as Dodgers manager Dave Roberts deployed 19 of the 25 active players during the contest. That was fitting given the organization relied on depth all season long when injuries hampered the club.
What made this series clincher so satisfying is that the Dodgers once again overcame adversity to reach their goal.
They avoided elimination by winning consecutive games, used relievers (and starters) in different roles to help the team win at all costs, and defeated one of the game’s best pitchers in Max Scherzer, not once but twice — each time away from Dodger Stadium.
Let’s look at how the NLDS roster was constructed over the years as the Dodgers prepares to take on the Chicago Cubs in the NL Championship Series.
Clayton Kershaw: A first-round pick in 2007 (No. 7 overall), it didn’t take Kershaw long to widely be considered the best pitcher in Major League Baseball.
He won the first of three Cy Young Awards in 2011, with additional honors in 2013 and 2014, including the NL MVP during the last of the three years.
Since debuting in 2008, Kershaw has tossed a no-hitter and broken countless amounts of Dodgers records and Major League records. He further added to his legacy Thursday night by accomplishing a new feat for the first time in his career.
Kershaw recorded his first Major League save in Game 5 of the NLDS after throwing 110 pitches just two days prior, and reversed the unfair narrative that he doesn’t perform well in the postseason.
Joc Pederson: The center fielder was selected in the 11th round of the 2010 amateur draft and was among the club’s top prospects before debuting in 2014.
Since then, Pederson has become one of the best two-way outfielders in the league behind his Gold-Glove caliber defense, plate discipline and power.
On Thursday, he put the Dodgers on the board with a game-tying solo shot to begin the seventh inning. It was a momentum-swinger, as the club never looked back from there.
Corey Seager: The soon-to-be unanimous NL Rookie of the Year was drafted with the 18th overall pick in 2012, and has instantly become one of the best players in the league.
Seager led the Dodgers in Wins Above Replacement (6.1) at the age of 22 and will certainly earn some MVP votes at the conclusion of the season. He homered twice during the NLDS and looks to continue that trend going forward.
Ross Stripling: Taken in the fifth round of the 2012 amateur draft, Stripling had a memorable debut earlier this season.
He no-hit the San Francisco Giants for 7.1 innings at AT&T Park before being removed from the game after reaching a pitch count (he underwent Tommy John surgery just two years ago).
Stripling became a mainstay on the roster with the abundance of injuries, pitching well as a swingman and eventually earned a spot on the NLDS roster for his ability to pitch at any course of the game.
Pedro Baez: The one-time third baseman has developed into a solid set-up reliever for the Dodgers since signing with them as an amateur free agent in 2007.
Joe Blanton: After underperforming as a starting pitcher for the Dodgers in 2012 and nearly retiring from baseball two years ago, Blanton has emerged as one of the best relievers in the Majors since transitioning to the role in 2015.
Charlie Culberson: The utility player spent a good chunk of the season with Triple-A Oklahoma City, but he perhaps had the biggest hit of the regular season.
During Vin Scully’s final home game, Culberson hit a walk-off home run to help the Dodgers clinch the NL West for the fourth consecutive season. His overall strong month of September helped land him a spot on the NLDS roster.
Kenley Jansen: The all-time Dodgers saves leader was signed as an amateur free agent in 2004 and has since developed into one of the best relievers in baseball.
Despite being underrated for most of his tenure, Jansen had his defining moment in Game 5 of the NLDS in front of a national audience — posting career-highs in innings and pitches thrown.
He shut down the Nationals lineup and helped set up a save for Kershaw to send the Dodgers to the NLCS.
Kenta Maeda: After a very successful career in Japan, Maeda took his talents to the U.S. and was a pleasant surprise for the Dodgers during his rookie season.
He led the team in wins and innings pitched and is slated to start against the Cubs at Wrigley Field in Game 1 of the NLCS.
Yasiel Puig: Signing with the Dodgers in 2012 out of Cuba, Puig was highly-touted as a potential five-tool player.
He took the league by storm in 2013 and 2014, but things went awry from there. He was eventually demoted to Oklahoma City for the first time in his career after the non-waiver deadline this season, but got his career back on track and earned a promotion in September.
Since then, Puig looks like a completely different player and he showed improved plate patience by drawing four walks during the NLDS.
Andrew Toles: A former top prospect in the Tampa Bay Rays’ farm system who was out of the league a year ago, Toles signed a Minor League contract with the Dodgers at the end of the 2015 season and has re-established himself as a legitimate Major League talent
With his elite speed, above-average defense and sneaky power, it’s no surprise to see the 24-year old outfielder enjoying so much success early on in his career. He earned a spot on the NLDS roster after an impressive second half of the regular season.
Justin Turner: Joining the Dodgers prior to the 2014 season as a non-roster invitee, Turner has evolved into one of the best third baseman in all of baseball.
He posted career-highs in home runs and RBIs during the regular season and has continued his postseason tear for the second year in a row.
Julio Urias: The Dodgers signed Urias as an amateur free agent in 2012 out of Mexico, and it’s safe to say that’s going to be a wise investment.
The rookie entered 2016 as baseball’s best prospect and he flashed his potential at various times throughout the season.
Not only that, but he became the youngest pitcher in MLB history to win a postseason game when he tossed two scoreless innings out of the bullpen in Game 5 of the NLDS.
Luis Avilan: Acquired from the Atlanta Braves along with fellow left-hander Alex Wood as part of the monstrous 13-player, three-team trade in July 2015, Avilan has proven to be a solid left-handed specialist and enjoyed a nice showing in September that helped his cause for making the NLDS roster.
Austin Barnes: The versatile catcher acquired from the Miami Marlins in late 2014 as part of the blockbuster trade that sent All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon to South Beach, hasn’t had much of a Major League impact to date, but Barnes’ future remains bright.
Barnes was included on the NLDS roster for his positional flexibility and ability to pinch-run late in games.
Grant Dayton: Like Barnes, Dayton was shipped over from the Marlins, albeit in a separate deal in 2015. This particular trade went under the radar, as it consisted of career-long Minor Leaguers, but the lefty has emerged as a solid late-inning relief option since debuting for the club this past July.
Andre Ethier: The longest-tenured player for the Dodgers was acquired in a trade with the Oakland Athletics for headliner Milton Bradley at the end of 2005.
In roughly a decade with the team, Ethier has cemented himself as one of the best outfielders in Dodgers history. His experience and ability to come through in the clutch justified giving him a spot on the NLDS roster despite missing nearly the entire regular season with an injury.
Though he isn’t the player he once was during his prime, Ethier contributed with a key pinch-hit single during Game 4 that helped spark a comeback victory.
Josh Fields: The right-hander was shipped to Los Angeles during the closing minutes of the non-waiver deadline in August from the Houston Astros.
Fields yielded just one earned run in September and ultimately pitched his way onto the NLDS roster over other veteran arms that were in contention for a spot.
Adrian Gonzalez: Back at the waiver deadline in 2012, Gonzalez was acquired as part of a nine-player deal with the Boston Red Sox, signifying a new era in Los Angeles.
Gonzalez has become a consistent force in the middle of the Dodgers lineup since joining the team — recording at least 90 RBIs in his first four full seasons with the club and additionally providing solid glove work at first base.
Yasmani Grandal: During the 2014 Winter Meetings, Grandal was sent to Los Angeles as part of a five-player blockbuster with the San Diego Padres that involved Matt Kemp.
Less than two years later, Kemp has already moved on from the Padres and Grandal has developed into one of the best power-hitting catchers while possessing elite pitch-framing skills.
Rich Hill and Josh Reddick: The Dodgers swung a deal with the Athletics for the duo right before the non-waiver deadline in August.
This trade fulfilled two needs on the roster: Hill was the second front-line starting pitcher needed to pair with Kershaw in the postseason and Reddick essentially became a platoon partner with Puig against right-handed pitching, though that wasn’t part of the original plan.
Howie Kendrick: In what turned out to be another blockbuster transaction at the 2014 Winter Meetings, the Dodgers filled their vacancy at second base with Kendrick in exchange for pitching prospect Andrew Heaney, who was sent to the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
Kendrick spent his first season with the Dodgers as their primary second baseman and posted solid numbers. However, in 2016, he played left field and displayed his versatility.
Carlos Ruiz: The longtime Philadelphia Phillies catcher was acquired this past August for his ability to hit left-handed pitching, but it didn’t come without controversy.
Los Angeles traded beloved catcher and clubhouse figure A.J. Ellis in the process, which led many to speculate that some players would be upset with the move.
Not only did that prove to be irrelevant, but Ruiz has come up huge in the postseason with two key hits — including a go-ahead RBI-single in Game 5 of the NLDS.
Chase Utley: Originally drafted by the Dodgers in 1997 (though he didn’t sign), Utley was brought home in a trade with the Phillies prior to the waiver deadline in 2015.
He struggled in his first few months with the club but was lauded for his leadership and mentorship inside the clubhouse. The front office took a chance by re-signing and it has certainly paid off.
Like his former Phillies teammate Ruiz, Utley has chipped in with some postseason heroics as well, as evidenced by his go-ahead single in Game 4 of the NLDS.
From the players listed above, a staggering 14 were acquired since Andrew Friedman took over as president of baseball operations in 2014.
To really put that into perspective, over half the roster has been with the organization for two seasons or less, but one could make the case that this is the deepest Dodgers team assembled in recent memory.
It’s been a fun and rewarding journey for the Dodgers in 2016, and they will look to continue their push for a World Series championship on Saturday when the NLCS begins.