It’s hard to project anything in baseball, especially something like a 2017 lineup. But that’s what I’m going to do here.
I usually attach this at the end of my prospect write-ups, but I wanted to go a little more in depth here. It takes into account who is currently in the farm system and who is on the big league roster. It doesn’t project trades or free agent signings.
Baseball America does this exercise yearly.
Seeing as the Dodgers don’t have a ton of catching depth, and A.J. Ellis would be entering his age-36 season, and there’s no guarantee his body is going to hold up, the Dodgers’ 2017 catcher might have to come from within the system. It’s either that or the 2017 catcher isn’t yet with the organization.
A.J. Ellis: Will be 36 and would be an unrestricted free agent; might be backup-quality by then.
Kyle Farmer: Conversion prospect, will be 26 and there’s no telling if he’ll still be a viable option.
Tim Federowicz: Will be 29 and has always profiled as a backup.
Pratt Maynard: Second-most promising prospect, will be 27 and has athleticism; needs to hit.
Spencer Navin: The best defender of this group, will be 24, needs to prove he can hit.
2017 catcher: Navin
Navin’s defensive ability alone gives him the advantage. While he’s logged all of 25 professional late appearances, the Dodgers drafted him in the 11th round and gave him $200,000 more than the slot recommended bonus. They obviously see something in him and, at worst, he should be a standout defender they could bat in the No. 8 spot (if there’s no DH in the National League by then; sad).
Adrian Gonzalez can’t do it forever, but if the Dodgers are looking for a replacement to come from within the farm system, they’re probably out of luck. Gonzalez will be 35 by the time 2017 rolls around, and will have two years remaining on his contract (worth $43 million — $21.5 million per season).
Cody Bellinger: Most potential of anyone on this list, will be only 21 years old and could be heir apparent to Gonzalez.
Justin Chigbogu: Most power potential of any 1B in the system, will be only 22, but most likely trade bait.
O’Koyea Dickson: Would have to do something amazing in the next few years to even be considered, will be 27.
Adrian Gonzalez: Unless the Dodgers want to trade him, he isn’t going anywhere, even if he will be 35.
2017 first baseman: Gonzalez
Ned Colletti perused Gonzalez for years before finally getting him in 2012. There’s no real reason for the Dodgers to think about moving, especially since they don’t know what they have in Bellinger and/or Chigbogu. It’s a safe bet that one of them will replace Gonzalez come 2019. Then again, that could just be my optimism regarding the prospects.
The Dodgers signed Alex Guerrero for one reason: to be their second baseman of the future. After a slow start in winter ball following his October signing, Guerrero might be back on track. He’s drawn positive reviews in spring training thus far and is the odds-on favorite to open the season at second.
Erisbel Arruebarruena: Recent import (unofficially) would be an elite defender at second, will be 27.
Alex Guerrero: Will be 30 and entering the last year of his 4-year, $28 million deal.
Darnell Sweeney: Converted shortstop has decent power/speed combo, will be 26, likely a backup.
Jesmuel Valentin: Slick fielder who can walk has a decent chance, will be just 23.
2017 second baseman: Guerrero
It isn’t likely any of the others listed above would be able to out-hit Guerrero, while Arruebarruena and Valentin could certainly out-field him. But, the Dodgers can live with maybe average defense in return for the above-average offense.
This might be the most interesting position. While Juan Uribe will either be a former Dodger or merely a bench player in 2017, third base could end up being a position of strength after being a weakness for nearly a decade.
Hanley Ramirez: Could move to third in future, unsigned beyond 2014, will be entering age-33 season.
Alex Santana: Former second-rounder could make some noise, but could also be destined for the outfield; will be just 23.
Corey Seager: If they keep Ramirez and move him, Seager could be the shortstop; will be 23.
2017 third baseman: Ramirez
This was tough, but I think Ramirez might fit better at third base in his age-33 season. While he obviously feels more comfortable at shortstop, his frame might not allow him to stay there into his mid-30s. This also assumes a lengthy, lucrative contract extension is reached sooner rather than later.
Ramirez is firmly entrenched as the team’s shortstop, and the signing of Arruebarruena does nothing to change that for 2014 (or 2015). But the Dodgers have a lot more depth up the middle than they did two years ago.
Erisbel Arruebarruena: Easily the best glove, must prove he can hit, will be 27.
Cristian Gomez: Only 42 pro games, could move to second base, will be just 21 and in the minors.
Hanley Ramirez: Already chosen as the 2017 third baseman, could play short in a pinch.
Corey Seager: Would be biggest regular SS in MLB history, plus bat, will be 23.
Lucas Tirado: Will be just 20 and probably still working his way up the minor-league ladder.
2017 shortstop: Seager
The Dodgers could conceivable flip-flop Ramirez and Seager, but I’m thinking a 23-year-old Seager might fare better at shortstop than a 33-year-old Ramirez. Both should be well above-average hitters at either position.
The Dodgers have all of the outfielders, and they might have all of the outfielders in 2017. All of the big four are signed through at least that season, but only one can be the left fielder. Crawford and Ethier are slated to share left field duties in 2014.
Carl Crawford: Limited to left, will be 35 and entering the last year of his contract (worth $21 million).
Andre Ethier: Can play all three spots, but profiles best in left, will be 35 with at least $20 million left on his deal.
Matt Kemp: Not much of a center fielder, and won’t be in three years, will be 32 and owed $64.5 million on his deal.
2017 left fielder: Kemp
Kemp has the largest deal and the most talent. A move to left field should benefit him, provided he stays healthy. Come 2017, one of Ethier or Crawford will have already been traded (long ago), while the other will likely be on his way out (probably before 2017).
Kemp is the best option for the 2014 Dodgers, if he can run. Ethier filled in admirably last season, but he isn’t a realistic option come 2017.
Matt Kemp: Will presumably lose some range and profile better in a corner.
Joc Pederson: This is the Dodgers’ CF of the future, will be 25 and just about to enter his prime.
2017 center fielder: Pederson
This was the easiest choice. While Pederson might not be the best center fielder to ever put on a uniform, he’s plenty capable of handling the position adequately and should provide at least average offensive output. In 2017, Pederson will, in theory, be entering his first year of arbitration.
The Dodgers have some interesting prospects for the corner outfield spots (Joey Curletta, Jacob Scavuzzo, Scott Schebler), but none of them have the talent Yasiel Puig does. He is the Dodgers’ right fielder and should be for many years to come.
Joey Curletta: Big power and arm, will be 23 and challenging for MLB playing time.
Yasiel Puig: Will be in the sixth year of his 7-year deal, provided he doesn’t opt for arbitration after the 2015 season (he probably will).
Jacob Scavuzzo: Will be 23, loud tools, might end up in left.
Scott Schebler: Same age as Puig, but not the same talent level, likely trade bait.
2017 right fielder: Puig
This is a no-brainer. Puig will be just 26 and entering his prime. If his 2013 season is any indication, the Dodgers and their fans should be in for a treat in 2017 (and likely sooner).
Next up: Projected 2017 pitching staff