The Dodgers have had a few years now of impact rookies. Some of the previous big names include Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Julio Urías, Kenta Maeda, Cody Bellinger and Walker Buehler. Those players were all instrumental in the Dodgers winning a lot of games and making the post-season.
In 2019 we’ve seen an influx of more rookies that have made an impact on the Dodgers. Not all of them will exceed their rookie limits in 2019 so some will qualify as a rookie in 2020. This article will take a look at key rookies that are making a significant contribution to the Dodgers.
Although he didn’t open the season in the starting lineup he took advantage of some others’ bad luck. By mid-April he was in the starting lineup for most games and eventually they stopped platooning him. He’s had two walk-offs (a sacrifice fly and a home run) and has had some eye-popping throws to get runners out. Unfortunately, his last game was August 4th before going down with an oblique injury and now a back injury putting his postseason status in jeopardy.
His numbers (possibly final) for the season ended up being .294/.342/.475 (AVG/OBP/SLG) with just 44 strikeouts in 343 at bats. He also showed some pop with 22 doubles and 12 home runs. Verdugo was a key member of the team that basically clinched the division in June. I hope a miracle occurs so he can contribute in the postseason.
Will Smith ended the 2018 season by slashing only .138/.206/.218 in AAA which seemed to indicate he wasn’t ready to be on the 2019 roster, at least to begin the season. However, he did get off to a hot start at AAA in 2019 and was finally called up in late May. His impact was immediate as he had two walk-off home runs in his brief two spurts with the team.
He was finally recalled for keeps in late July as the Dodgers got tired of waiting for the bat of Austin Barnes to wake up. Smith is now the starting catcher and will probably catch in most of the post-season. I did predict Smith would be promoted in mid-2019 but I had no idea he’d make such an impact. So far he has slashed .257/.329/.593 in 140 at bats. In those at bats he’s also hit 13 home runs and driven in 34.
Will Smith’s first Major League home run is a walk-off. Awesome. pic.twitter.com/E5KNCX9w1m
— Mike Rutherford (@CardChronicle) June 2, 2019
The most surprising contributor of all the rookies has been Matt Beaty. He’s never been a prospect that has ranked very high but is known for being a good hitter. I was surprised when he was first called up in late April and has been up and down for the first few months. Now Beaty finds himself in the starting lineup quite a bit against right handed starters.
He’s slashed .284/.333/.493 with only 27 strikeouts in 229 at bats. It looks to me like he is making a great case to be on the playoff roster and has proven that he is a Major League ballplayer.
— Sports Notes (@TheSportsNotes) June 22, 2019
When Tony Gonsolin was brought up for his Major League debut it did not go as planned. The Dodgers’ defense was terrible and he gave up four runs in four innings. He was quickly optioned back to AAA and then got hurt. He was brought up again to pitch in relief against the Rockies in Denver. This time he was excellent as he got a four inning save while giving up just one run. He was shuffled a few times between AAA and the Dodgers but all his appearances since his debut have been pretty good.
In 35 innings he’s only given up 25 hits with an ERA of 2.83. He is now a candidate for the postseason roster. My guess is it will be as a reliever (another article will make that argument) but he’s proven he could be a force.
One of the most anticipated call-ups was “Big Red”, Dustin May. His debut in early August was pretty decent, but he was probably left in too long. His next two starts were outstanding but his first bullpen appearance was a disaster. He’s now made as many starts as relief appearances. It looks like the Dodgers are seeing if he can be a reliever in the playoffs. He seems to be getting better out of the bullpen but his future is as a starter. It will be interesting to see if he makes the post-season roster.
The last of the major impact rookies and the last call up is Gavin Lux. Although he’s only appeared in 10 games as of this writing, he’s started most of the time since his call up. His defense has been good as he’s playing 2B more now than the frequency he played it in all of his Minor League career. He had some bad spells of defense in the spring and it was a worry of many. With Verdugo hurt, there is a real chance he could make the playoff roster.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) September 14, 2019
5 Rookies on the Playoff Roster?
It is quite possible that five of these rookies could be on the playoff roster. I excluded Verdugo since he’s injured, but I can see four of these guys on the roster for sure. Smith, Beaty, Lux and Gonsolin seem to be locks in my book. May does have shot but I believe they need to feel comfortable with him in relief.
There have been some other rookies like Kyle Garlick and Edwin Rios that have made some contributions also. They have also proven they belong on a Major League roster. Of the rookies mentioned above, four of them were selected in the 2016 draft. The Dodgers continue to find and develop impact players while winning at the Major League level. For the Dodgers, the window for winning is wide open and the impact rookies of 2019 will play a big part in the journey towards a World Series Championship.