One of the most intriguing storylines of 2023 is going to be just how committed the Dodgers are to the idea of a “youth movement.” It’s basically a sure thing that Miguel Vargas is going to get a ton of playing time, but beyond that, there are questions, especially in center field and at second base.
James Outman is the young option in center, but there have been rumors all offseason about LA pursuing a trade for a center-fielder. They also signed Jason Heyward, Steven Duggar, and Bradley Zimmer to minor-league deals, all of whom have played center field at time in their careers.
Second base is even murkier. Their top 2B prospect is Michael Busch, but they seem hesitant to commit to him. Over at The Athletic, Fabian Ardaya did a mailbag column and was asked about Busch.
Andrew Friedman and Dave Roberts have mentioned making a runway for Miguel Vargas. What about Michael Busch? He is already 25 and seems he needs his shot at regular playing time. — Mike W.
The problem is, unlike Vargas, the Dodgers don’t really have a place to play Busch. Vargas is passable at third base and will grow into left field, and the evaluations at second base seem promising enough. Busch will need to make strides to handle second base defensively. And while Busch has hit well at Triple A (an .823 OPS, or 102 wRC+), the Dodgers appear much higher on Vargas’ bat.
Busch can definitely play his way into a role, but he might be the position player with the toughest path to playing time behind Vargas and Outman.
The banning of the shift is a big factor here. Busch was a first baseman in college before the Dodgers quickly converted him to second base, but that was back when second base was a position where you could hide a defensively challenged player. Even with the shift, Busch has always been a “he’ll hit well enough to mask his defensive issues” kind of guy, but without the shift, the bat might not be enough of a mask.
Busch, like Vargas, has played some left field in the minors, but it’s unclear whether that’s a real option for him. Baseball Prospectus said last month his path to the majors might be in a utility role, but second base and left field — remember, the Dodgers don’t really need a backup first baseman — might not be enough defensive flexibility to earn a spot.
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