Before the Dodgers get games going again, hopefully by July, there are still a few things that need to be figured out with the roster. Before the second version of Spring Training gets going, we break down the five biggest position and roster battles that Los Angeles will have to figure out.
The Bullpen Battle
If the Dodgers’ starting rotation is as in place as it was when Dave Roberts names his five during Spring Training, then there are a number of names that will need to be considered for the bullpen. Ross Stripling, Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, Pedro Baez, and Blake Treinen all seem like locks to start the season in the pen. You might put guys like Brusdar Graterol and Jimmy Nelson on the fringe of being locks for the bullpen.
If you consider all of those guys, that already puts seven guys in relief roles with likely one more spot to fill. That means that Dustin May, Tony Gonsolin, Scott Alexander, Caleb Ferguson, Dylan Floro, Adam Kolarek, Dennis Santana, and Josh Sborz are all competing for that last spot. With GOnsolin and May likely designed for starting rotation at Triple-A, that cuts it down a little bit, but not by very much.
The Dodgers’ Starting Rotation
If the season had started on time, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin likely would have been sent to Triple-A to be in the starting rotation. But how much does this delay help their cause to make the big league squad? May was behind everyone else with a lower-body injury, but that’s no longer the case. Suddenly, it doesn’t quite seem like a lock that Alex Wood gets handed that last spot in the rotation.
Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, and Julio Urias all locked down their starting jobs already and I don’t see that changing without games played. But that last spot should absolutely be up for competition. My prediction: Tony Gonsolin swoops in and seals his spot in the rotation.
Austin Barnes or Will Smith?
If this question was asked just a few weeks before the 2019 season ended, Dodgers fans and coaches would have easily gone with Will Smith. But Smith has been stuck in one heck of a slump. which extended into Spring Training. To add to that, Austin Barnes came out swinging in Spring Training. He was hitting .320 in nine games played with three extra-base hits before the league shut down.
Smith, on the other hand, was 3-for-21 when Spring Training was cut off, adding to his miserable last month of the season numbers. Smith will likely start the season at catcher, but don’t think for one second that his job is safe.
Edwin Rios vs. Matt Beaty vs. Zach McKinstry
This might be one of the most interesting battles of the new Spring Training, considering this will likely be the final bench spot. Beaty seems to be the leading candidate for that spot, given his experience and success hitting with runners in scoring position. McKinstry likely loses this battle since he has an extra option year over Beaty and Rios, but his spring performance alone should put him in consideration. He had 11 hits in 27 at-bats, including 5 extra-base hits.
Beaty should get the edge over Rios in this scenario, given his experience and ability to play multiple positions. But still, having Rios’ power off of the bench would certainly be a luxury. Rios hit 31 homeruns for Oklahoma City last year, and four with the big league club in a limited capacity.
Dodgers’ Left Field Platoon
Joc Pederson, AJ Pollock, Chris Taylor, and Kiké Hernandez will all likely see their fair share of games played in left field this year. Taylor and Kiké can slot in anywhere, so they will likely spend their time in 2020 giving started days off. But Pollock and Pederson are set to change roles based on the pitching matchup unless Pollock starts to mash right-handed pitching. Pollock’s batting average dropped off almost 100 points against righties in 2019.
If that happens, the Dodgers could truly look into trading away Joc, as they tried to before Spring Training this year. Pederson is set to hit free agency after the 2020 season, and Los Angeles will likely not try to retain him anyways.