2016 Dodgers prospects: Projected 2019 Lineup

The penultimate entry in the 2016 prospect series, I attempt to project the Dodgers’ 2019 lineup. There are obviously a lot that can happen in three years, and this is no exception with the Dodgers’ incredibly deep farm system.

This doesn’t factor in future free agent signings from other teams or the international market, but I do factor in the Dodgers’ chances of re-signing their own players.

Previous entries in the series (year written in parenthesis):

For fun, here is the lineup I projected for 2016 … back in 2013.

Not all bad, with the biggest “oops” being Valentin at second base. Yasiel Puig had been signed a year before and was clearly going to be in the 2016 lineup, but I also expected Crawford and Ethier to be productive. Ellis is still on the team, while Gonzalez is the starting first baseman. Seager is starting, but at shortstop, not third base. And Ethier will be in left field. So, not a horrible score, but also not great. It’s substantially better than the 2012 version of this.

Player Position
Joc Pederson CF
Austin Barnes C
Corey Seager SS
Justin Turner 3B
Cody Bellinger 1B
Enrique Hernandez 2B
Alex Verdugo RF
Yusniel Diaz LF

Catcher

Stacie touched on the Dodgers’ catching depth recently, and the Dodgers actually do have some of it. Ellis will, likely, be retired from playing. He could also, likely, be on Dave Roberts‘ coaching staff (gunning for his job).

Options
Austin Barnes: Depending on playing time, he might be arbitration eligible for a second time (and 29 years old).
Yasmani Grandal: Will be a free agent and heading into his age-30 season.
Kyle Farmer: Will only be a year younger than Barnes, and there are questions about the bat.
Julian Leon: Might be in the high minors at age-22, if he doesn’t flame out.

2019 Catcher: Barnes

Unless Grandal is extended between now and the end of his team control, the club could realistically opt for Barnes, who projects to be a solid offensive and strong defensive catcher. An acquisition from outside the organization is also possible. Farmer and Leon are basically organizational depth.

First base

A veteran will probably be on his way out by this time, with a youngster looking to take over.

Options
Cody Bellinger: He might be pushing the envelope before this and will be just 23 in 2019.
Adrian Gonzalez: He’ll be a free agent at age 37. Unlikely he returns to LA, especially as a starter.
Edwin Rios: Extreme outside shot, 2015 6th-rounder will have to develop a lot in three years to take this spot.
Scott Van Slyke: He’ll be 31 years old and in the last year of his contract. Could be a platoon option.

2019 First baseman: Bellinger

This one is pretty easy. The front office probably won’t look to extend Gonzalez, especially since his production will (likely) decline. Bellinger will be ready to take the reigns, especially if his 2016 spring training is any indication. He has legitimate 20-plus home run power, strong plate discipline and an elite glove at first base. Van Slyke could platoon with Bellinger if he struggles against lefties, initially.

Second base

This is easily the deepest infield position, and there are some intriguing options.

Options
Austin Barnes: If the Dodgers bring Grandal back, someone emerges or is acquired, then he might get a look at second base.
Willie Calhoun: Might have the bat for the position, but the 24-year-old needs to improve defensively.
Omar Estevez: Should be on the cusp of the majors and might get there on the strength of his bat.
Enrique Hernandez: He might be more valuable as a utility player and might not hit enough against RHP to be a starter; will be two years from free agency.
Micah Johnson: Just a touch better than Calhoun on defense, but the 28-year-old has a solid offensive profile for the position.

2019 Second baseman
: Hernandez

I’m betting on Hernandez becoming at least playable against righties. He’s the best defender of the lot and the best overall player. Calhoun or Estevez could get first crack at the position if Hernandez doesn’t figure out righties. In the longer-term, I’d expect Estevez to be the second baseman, if he’s as good as his $6 million bonus says he’s supposed to be.

Third base

The front office doesn’t like to sign guys into their mid-30s, but they might have to with a certain Ginger deity.

Options
Oneal Cruz: Cuban signee, probably won’t be as far along as Davis at roughly the same age.
Brendon Davis: Won’t be ready at age-21 and might not have to be.
Corey Seager: The best option, but also might be the starting shortstop.
Justin Turner: Will be the elder statesman at 34, but has proven he can hit since becoming a Dodger.
Jared Walker: Won’t have enough seasoning and might have to move off third base anyway.

2019 Third baseman: Turner

Obviously, Seager is the guy if the Dodgers acquire a shortstop or he absolutely cannot handle the position. Turner, provided his knee holds up, could be the Veteran Presents in the lineup at this point. Odds are Davis is the best bet to be the long-term third baseman, with Cruz being next. Walker might not hit enough to crack the majors. There is also the potential for third base to be manned by Yulieski Gourriel, but I cannot project that.

Shortstop

As of now, this isn’t really up for debate.

Options
Ronny Brito: Might supplant Seager at some point because of a strong glove and nice offensive upside. Will only be 21 at this point.
Brendon Davis: Would be amazing if he could stick at shortstop, but is likely a third baseman.
Erick Mejia: Nice depth in the high minors, if he isn’t with another team.
Corey Seager: Should be firmly entrenched as one of the NL’s best players and the shortstop on a World Series contending team.

2019 Shortstop: Seager

Unless the Dodgers pick up a shortstop who is capable offensively and plus-with the glove, this will be Seager’s position for at least another year or two. If he can prove to even have a 45-grade glove, the Dodgers might keep him at shortstop even longer because he should be one of the best all-around offensive players in baseball at the ripe old age of 25. Davis is an intriguing prospect, but fits better at third base. Brito is really interesting, but he’ll likely need more seasoning. Seager is the easy choice here.

Left field

There are a ton of options here, but one guy stands out more than the others.

Options
Willie Calhoun: If he has to move off second base, the bat should play in left field.
Yusniel Diaz: Big-time international signing ($15.5 million) will be 22 and might already be the Dodger left fielder.
Mitchell Hansen: Sweet-swinging lefty will be 22 years old and knocking on the door of the majors.
Michael Medina: Will only be 22 and hasn’t shown he can make enough contact as of yet.
Jordan Paroubeck: Sleeper here, as he’ll be 24 years old and has a ton of talent.
Jacob Scavuzzo: There’s potential in the will-be 25-year-old, but he could also be trade bait if he produces.
Trayce Thompson: Would be an elite left fielder and in the first year of arbitration at age 29.
Scott Van Slyke: Entirely possible he is traded before the 2019 season, but could be part of a left field platoon.

2019 Left fielder
: Diaz

Diaz has the most talent of the players listed above. Hansen and Paroubeck are also serious contenders for the spot, but they need to show more in the coming years. Thompson might still be a Dodger at this point, but I’m not sure he’s ever going to hit enough to be a full-time starter. Calhoun (glove), Medina (contact) and Scavuzzo (glove) have question marks, while Van Slyke will be a grizzled vet by 2019.

Center field

Barring anything unforeseen, this one is pretty easy to figure out.

Devan Ahart: Needs to stay healthy, but the 26-year-old has some talent. It’s likely org-depth, though.
Yusniel Diaz: Would be great if he could handle center field, but he might not be good enough to supplant the current starter.
Joc Pederson
: He’ll be in his second year of arbitration at age 27 and (hopefully) established as an above-average hitter.
Ariel Sandoval: He’ll be 23 and has a Franklin Gutierrez profile. If he can be half that good, he has a shot.
Trayce Thompson: Near-elite defender would need to hit enough to overtake Pederson.
Alex Verdugo: Has some of the best bat-to-ball ability of anyone in the system and should be in the majors at age 23.

2019 Center fielder: Pederson

Pederson will be right in the middle of his prime, hopefully having finally settled on a batting stance by this time. His power is unmatched in the outfield, but he’ll need to make at least a little more contact going forward to be a full-time starter. Thompson might be second in line based on defense, with Verdugo third. Diaz likely ends up in a corner, while Sandoval might end up being the best defender. Ahart is a deep sleeper (like comatose deep).

Right field

This isn’t a lock for a particular player for more than one reason.

Options
Mitchell Hansen: Will have to leapfrog some players ahead of him on the right field depth chart.
Michael Medina: Big-time power, but might not be MLB-ready yet.
Johan Mieses: Sleeper in the system. Definitely has MLB tools and could play his way into the discussion as a 24-year-old.
Yasiel Puig: Unless he’s extended, he’ll be a free agent at age 29. There’s a chance he isn’t back, but if he’s playing up to his capabilities, the Dodgers will probably find a way to keep him.
Alex Verdugo: If Puig leaves via free agency (or sooner via trade), he should get first crack at right field.

2019 Right fielder: Verdugo

It really isn’t crazy to envision a scenario where Puig is not a Dodger anymore. Hell, it could happen before he’s a free agent. But he’s far from a sure thing at this point and Verdugo is next in the pecking order. Of course, the Dodgers could just sign Bryce Harper, but I cannot project that. Mieses has a good chance to open eyes and possibly lay claim to the job by this time. Hansen and Medina are high-upside guys who might not ever reach the majors.

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The oldest player in this projected lineup is Turner at 34. Barnes is next at 29. Other than those two, there isn’t a player older than 27 years old in that projected lineup. This is exactly what the Dodger front office is hoping for by building the farm system. There’s almost no chance this is the actual 2019 lineup, but if it were, I could see it being quite productive and competitive.

Next up: 2019 Projected Pitching Staff

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin’ Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a 1-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, Calif., and has yet to be shot.