Dodgers Team News

Dodgers: Predicting the Opening Day Position Player Roster

There are a lot of questions for the Dodgers to answer this spring. More than most seasons, there are starting jobs up for grabs and entire roster spots in question.

Let’s take a shot at predicting the 13 position players who will make up their half of LA’s Opening Day roster. First, let’s start with the sure things (assuming health):

Catcher: Will Smith, Austin Barnes

Infield: Freddie Freeman, Miguel Vargas, Gavin Lux, Max Muncy, Miguel Rojas

Outfield: Mookie Betts, Trayce Thompson, Chris Taylor

Designated hitter: JD Martinez

That leaves just two roster spots available, and both of them will probably be set aside for outfielders. With Taylor’s ability to play both infield and outfield, he and Rojas should be able to handle the backup infield jobs.

There are four outfielders vying for those last two spots: James Outman, Michael Busch, Jason Heyward, and Bradley Zimmer.

Busch has mostly been an infielder in the minors, but there isn’t really room for him there, so if he’s going to make the team, it will be in left field. Having Busch would also make it easier to carry five outfielders, because he would join CT3 in the “outfielders who can also play infield” category.

Outman played four games in the big leagues last year and was outstanding, and he was also great in Double-A and Triple-A in a much larger sample size. It seems likely that he can handle center field defensively, so if he can hit at all, he seems to have the best shot at that starting job.

Heyward has been a star in the past, and he’s well respected in every clubhouse he’s been in. The question is whether he can hit. If he can rediscover some of his old offensive magic, he could be a great addition as a utility outfielder. You have to think Dodgers leadership is hoping Heyward can earn his way onto the roster.

In order for Zimmer to earn a spot on the roster, he would need to become something he’s never been in the big leagues: a decent hitter. Los Angeles non-tendered Cody Bellinger because he wasn’t providing any offense, but his OPS+ last year (78) was seven points better than Zimmer’s career mark and only seven points worse than Zimmer’s career high. Miracles happen sometimes, but I sure wouldn’t put any money on Zimmer becoming one of them.

Looking at these options, Outman is as close to a sure thing as you can get with a rookie who’s played just four big-league games. He’d have to be absolutely awful this spring to not break camp with the team.

So that brings us down to Heyward, Busch, and Zimmer for one last spot. If Heyward can make any sort of splash at all, the spot will be his, especially because Busch could probably use some full-time work in left field in the minors if that’s going to be his position going forward. More likely might be the Dodgers looking to trade Busch to a team that could use a second baseman, because his bat is much more valuable at 2B than in left.

That’s it, we’re calling it. Outman and Heyward get the last two roster spots.

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Jeff Snider

Jeff was born into a Dodgers family in Southern California and is now raising a Dodgers family of his own in Utah. During his previous career as an executive at a technology company, he began writing about baseball in his spare time. After leaving corporate America in 2014, he started doing it professionally. Jeff wrote and edited for Baseball Essential for years before joining Dodgers Nation. He's also the co-host of the Locked On Dodgers podcast, a daily podcast that brings the smart fan's perspective on our Boys in Blue. Jeff has a degree in English from Brigham Young University. Favorite Player: Clayton Kershaw Favorite Moment: Kirk Gibson's homer will always have a place, but Kershaw's homer on Opening Day 2013 might be the winner.


  1. I agree on the personnel mentioned in the article 100%. However, as someone who makes a living doing long-term planning, Busch should not give up his day job as a 2B. Muncy is nearing the end of his ‘fielding’ career. Perhaps it gets extended by a couple years after Martinez’ one-year contract is up playing DH. At that point, there is no 3B in the Dodgers farm system even close to the majors let alone AAA. Vargas will need to go back to 3B within two years, possibly later this year, and Busch will need to go to 2B. Yes, they could plug in Rojas or Taylor, but those guys are being paid to be spot-starters at numerous positions. A full-time guy is needed. That would be Busch, the Dodgers best hitter in the minors, and who is regarded by league personnel as one of the best pure hitters in the minors.


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