Who Will Take the Dodgers Final Bench Spot on the Opening Day Roster?
We’re in the home stretch of spring training for the Dodgers. Opening day is 10 days away and there are still a few roster questions left for Dave Roberts and the front office to answer. Doc shed a little light on things on the bullpen side of things earlier this week, so check out more on that here. But we’re here to talk about the position player side of things. More specifically, the bench.
We discussed this on a recent edition of DodgersNation.com’s Blue Heaven Podcast. On the bench, it looks like one spot is left unaccounted for. Or, said another way, there’s one more competition in camp.
Let’s take a look at the roster locks first.
- Will Smith
- Austin Barnes
- Freddie Freeman
- Miguel Vargas
- Max Muncy
- Miguel Rojas
- Chris Taylor
- David Peralta
- Trayce Thompson
- Mookie Betts
- J.D. Martinez
That makes 11 locks. Additionally, it sounds like spring training invitee Jason Heyward is virtually a lock to be on the opening day roster, bringing the count up to 12 and leaving one spot left to claim.
- James Outman
- Yonny Hernandez
- Jorbit Vivas
- Luke Williams (NRI)
- Bradley Zimmer (NRI)
- Steven Duggar (NRI)
The front runners (in theory) on this list are Outman and Hernandez. The dark horse is Luke Williams. The veteran savvy move is Zimmer or Duggar. Vivas has already been optioned to minor league camp this spring and doesn’t appear to be very high on LA’s depth chart.
Outman is the fan favorite candidate to make the roster. But with Peralta, Thompson, and Betts in the outfield and Chris Taylor likely seeing more than half of his time out there, the rookie Outman might not see enough playing time to justify him getting the call.
Hernandez offers much needed defensive versatility around the infield but he’s also struggled mightily at the big league level in small sample sizes (.198 average, .528 OPS in 55 career games). He’s had a decent spring at the plate (.250, .756 in 16 games) but maybe not decent enough to get that final spot.
Williams is an intriguing option. Of the three we’ve now talked about, he has the most big league experience with 137 games under his belt. He’s played a decent amount of third base and shortstop and has mixed in time at second and in the outfield, but his bat is questionable. He owns a .240 career average with a .615 OPS with the Phillies, Giants, and Marlins and has hit just .179 in 15 games this spring.
Why Not James Outman Then?
Outman is the superior of these three but the fact that he has minor league options and would have fairly limited playing time is something the team will have to consider.
One of Steven Duggar or Bradley Zimmer could also sneak their way onto the roster and let Taylor focus on the infield, eliminating the need for someone like Yonny Hernandez. The team could also still explore a trade for someone like Isiah Kiner-Falefa, who has been linked to LA but seems unlikely to be moved by the Yankees before opening day.
The plan will start coming more together as players currently participating in the World Baseball Classic return to camp later this week. At the moment, it’s hard to know exactly which route the Dodgers will go. If I were a gambling man, I wouldn’t be surprised to see one of Duggar or Zimmer sneak their way on for a week or two.
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I’d like to see Outman get the keys to centerfield for the Dodgers. If this were the Cardinals or the Astros, they would give the young player a chance, either to succeed or fail. He would be replacing Bellinger, so the level he would have to achieve is certainly attainable.
Sending him down sends the wrong message to him, and other younger players. If there is a concern about his playing time, make him the starter. Let the older, less dynamic players platoon.