It’s almost that time! We are a week away from Opening Day!
Although Spring Training has yet to wrap up, it appears that the Opening Day roster is taking shape.
After taking a deep look into some spring performances, injuries, and previous bodies of work, this is what it should look like come Opening Day:
Starter: Austin Barnes
After a strong ending to 2017 and a weak 2018 campaign, Barnes has looked fantastic in spring. In 31 at-bats, he has enjoyed a 1.030 OPS and has cracked 2 homers to go along with 12 RBIs. He has fully cemented himself as the Opening Day starting catcher and should he replicate 2017’s production, the loss of Yasmani Grandal stings less.
Bench: Russell Martin
The Dodgers organization has always been fond of Russell Martin and that continues as he begins his second stint with the club. He should see his fair share of at-bats, especially if Austin Barnes fails to get in a groove early. He has been somewhat underwhelming at the plate this spring, but part of that could be attributed to the fact that he has to learn the entire pitching staff’s repertoires.
First Baseman: Max Muncy
We can only hope Muncy can return to his stardom of 2018. Although he looks slightly lost at the plate so far this spring, he is still walking which is a good indicator of success this season. With Cody Bellinger most likely slated to start in the corner outfield for the Dodgers, Muncy should mix in it at first base on most days, second base here and there, and occasionally at third to spell Justin Turner. Let’s just hope Dave Roberts doesn’t decide to platoon him again.
Second Baseman: Kiké Hernandez
Boy, has Kiké earned a starting job this spring. He looks absolutely fantastic at the plate, against both lefties and righties. He has cruised to a .343/.401/.634 batting line across 41 at-bats this spring and has cemented himself above Chris Taylor in the pecking order. Many people still view him as a super-utility guy, which he is for now, but he is beginning to perform beyond that label.
Third Baseman: Justin Turner
There is not much to say about JT outside of the fact that we can hope he stays healthy. Hint: He is still really, really good.
Shortstop: Corey Seager
After a recent soundbite from Dave Roberts stated that Seager would play in the Freeway Series and on Opening Day, we could finally breathe a collective sigh of relief for his health. After Tommy John surgery and a major hip procedure, Seager appears locked and loaded. Expectations on his production should be slightly lessened as he fully recovers and re-adjusts to the grind, but we can hope we get our star shortstop back. Something to note, Seager will probably get a few off days against southpaws to begin the season.
Bench: David Freese
Re-signed this offseason for a reason, Freese could be in the lineups most days against southpaws. He is also an option at both first and third which is always nice to have on the bench.
Bench: Chris Taylor
For this article, we are going to consider Taylor as an outfielder. We know he can fill in all over the diamond and he could play as the new super-utility man for the Dodgers. He most likely will not have a full starting job to start off the year with Hernandez’s emergence and his own struggles with strikeouts last season, but if he shows what he did in 2017, the club will find a spot for him. To have a 4-win type player on your bench is absolutely fantastic.
More at Dodgers Nation
- Dodgers: Corey Seager is Back!
- Is It Time For The Dodgers To Be Concerned With Max Muncy?
- Chase Utley Takes An Unexpected Role With the Dodgers
Left Field: Joc Pederson
Joc has been raking more than Verdugo has and obviously has more major league at bats under his belt. I don’t fully expect Pederson to maintain this post for the entire season considering that if the Dodgers plan to keep Verdugo on the roster, they are not going to have him rot away on the bench. Joc has been solid this spring which certainly helps his case.
Center Field: AJ Pollock
The Dodgers’ big offseason acquisition, Pollock will most likely be in the lineup everyday hitting anywhere from leadoff down to fifth in the order (the club should not bat him leadoff). If he can stay healthy, he could perform like a star. That is an enormous if, though.
Right Field: Cody Bellinger
Belli supposedly worked on his approach against lefties in the offseason and has explicitly stated that he wants to be in the lineup every day and believes he should be. He’s right. Although he struggles against southpaws, his defense at both first and in the outfield are simply too valuable. He remains a plus defender at both spots and even if it means batting him eighth, he needs to be in the lineup. Expect performance somewhere in between his 2017 and 2018 campaigns.
Bench: Alex Verdugo
Capable of playing both left and center field and already stated to be on the Opening Day roster, Verdugo may finally receive his opportunity to prove his worth. He has nothing left to prove at AAA and could be the next Dodger regular. Only time will tell. Although Joc probably starts the year as the starter in left field, Verdugo could quickly claim the job as his own. The Dodgers will play him, but just how much remains to be seen.
I hate to say it as a huge Kershaw fan, but this is your new ace, ladies and gentlemen. The numbers prove it. The eye tests proves it. After being slow-played this spring, Ferris is now ready to go. Expect a repeat of 2018, but over the course of the full season. Deadly.
D. Mountain has looked brilliant this spring and appears to not be succumbing to age quite yet. His curve and fastball both look sharp so far. He should slot in as the number 3 starter once Kershaw is healthy and is pitching in the final year of his deal.
After a brilliant 2018, we can only hope for more of the same. Ryu was among the league leaders in DRA (2.45) and although he was hurt, he pitched well down the stretch. If the Dodgers can get over 120 innings out of him this season, that would be fantastic.
Consistently undervalued around the league, Maeda has locked down a rotation spot this spring. The injury to Kershaw helped his case even though a move to the bullpen seems inevitable with Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May knocking down the door.
An All-Star last year, Stripling could find himself between a long relief role and a spot in the rotation all season long. He will most likely be pushed out of his rotation spot when Kershaw returns to full health.
Although people claim him to be declining, the context is key. Jansen underwent a major heart procedure for something he dealt with for quite some time. I fully expect him to return to being elite even though I do not fully trust him again quite yet. He remains a top-five closer in the league and could wind up top-three this season.
Signed this offseason to build the bridge to Kenley, Kelly has looked good this spring. His pitch usage is expected to change now that the Dodgers have their hands on him and only time will tell if he is deserving of the contract he received.
Elite. That is all. If you are not a member of the Pedro Baez Fan Club, join up.
Picked up from the Reds last season via trade, Floro proved to be one of the most consistent bullpen pieces for the club. Expect more of the same.
He has always had the tools to be a shutdown reliever but has not been able to maintain health throughout his career. He looks amazing this spring with seven scoreless innings under his belt to go along with nine strikeouts. He could end up as the better suited bridge to Kenley by the end of 2019 if the health goes unquestioned.
It appears that Urias will be on the Opening Day roster in a long relief role. This keeps his innings down and will most likely allow him to go into the playoffs (hopefully) with no restrictions. He will contribute this year, innings limit or not. We all want him. We will get him. Patience.
He’s good. Dave Roberts just needs to not use him against right-handed hitters. He’s an elite groundball pitcher, among the best in the game.
The 25th Man
Depending on the direction the Dodgers want to go in for their roster, the final spot could be filled by anyone. They have so much pitching, they may opt to carry 13 pitchers and only 4 bench bats. It is feasible. Here is the direction they should go in:
He is not that far removed from being a more than passable major-league bat. He brings versatility to the table and some pop. He has enjoyed a 1.053 OPS this spring and is the pick of many to be the Chris Taylor or Max Muncy of 2019, as far as out-of-nowhere elite production goes. He genuinely looks fantastic at the plate this spring.
Kershaw will not be ready for Opening Day, snapping his streak of consecutive starts on the treasured day. Kershaw Day is not Kershaw Day anymore. When he returns, expect a reliever to be sent down to make room.
If Tony Cilantro stayed healthy, he would have won a significant role in the Dodgers’ bullpen. Instead, he will begin the season on the IL and once healthy, could bump Caleb Ferguson to AAA to work as a starter.
He should continue to be stretched out as a starter, but his performance last season could warrant meaningful bullpen innings. Remember, he is just 22 years old.
Minor League Misses
He’s going to be good, folks. His time will come very soon and personally, I do not think it is a stretch to say he has surpassed Dustin May in terms of potential.
The Dodgers’ consensus top pitching prospect has showed out this spring but is quite far behind in the pecking order. It would take a couple catastrophic injuries to get him up in the majors before the All-Star Break.
The Dodgers are solid once again. There is no question about that and just like every year, the end-of-season roster will look vastly different than the currently constructed one.