As you might have heard, the Dodgers are looking at a youth movement in 2023, with Miguel Vargas slated to play pretty much every day and other young players like James Outman and Michael Busch looking at significant playing time, too. On the pitching side, Bobby Miller and Gavin Stone — L.A.’s top two pitching prospects — figure to be ready for the big leagues at some point this season.
When Los Angeles utilityman Chris Taylor sat down with Dodgers Nation’s Doug McKain on Friday, they talked about the atmosphere of the L.A. clubhouse and how welcoming it is to new, young ballplayers.
“We do a really good job of letting guys be themselves and be comfortable in our organization and I’m a believer that that is what creates the best environment for success. I know coming over to the Dodgers, for me, I felt comfortable immediately stepping into that clubhouse. Everybody is very welcoming, they want you to be true to who you are. And that helped me have success right away. And we also do a great job of player development. We surround guys with the best coaches and do a great job of preparing guys for the big league level.
“I don’t know if there’s anything I have to tell those guys. I think a lot of them have the talent, and some of them have had the success already at the big league level. We saw what Outy [Outman] did last year in his couple-week stint. I think those guys know what to do and all of them are doing the right things. I’ve seen Vargas at the field taking extra ground balls with Dino Ebel this offseason. These guys are hungry and they’re ready to go and I think they’re going to come into Spring Training and show that.”
One little hidden gem in there is the news that Vargas has been putting in extra time taking grounders. With Justin Turner gone, there’s an opening at third base, which is Vargas’s natural position. Scouts agree that defense isn’t Vargas’s strong suit — his favorite position is the batter’s box, as the old saying goes — but it sounds like he’s committed to becoming the best infielder he can be.
Taylor isn’t the first to mention L.A. accepting clubhouse vibe. Clayton Kershaw has talked about it in the past, and Mookie Betts felt comfortable jumping right into a leadership role after being traded over from Boston in 2020.
One simple way the clubhouse culture is represented is how the Dodgers have handled the traditional hazing ritual of Rookie Dress-Up Day. Several years ago, L.A. players decided that instead of singling out the rookies, they should use it as an opportunity to build camaraderie by making it a full-team activity. In addition to some classic photos over the years, it has been a remarkable demonstration of team unity.
Things will feel a little different without Turner around, but the clubhouse atmosphere that he helped create will undoubtedly last because of people like Taylor, Kershaw, Betts, Freddie Freeman, JD Martinez, and other team leaders.
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