Happy Easter! Despite the number of injuries suffered by the Dodgers this spring training, the 25-man roster for opening day is starting to take shape.
There don’t stand to be many big surprises, as long as everyone is relatively healthy for the next couple weeks.
/knocks on wood
Let’s break this down with the locks:
- Catchers (2): A.J. Ellis, Yasmani Grandal
- Infielders (6): Adrian Gonzalez, Enrique Hernandez, Howie Kendrick, Corey Seager, Justin Turner, Chase Utley
- Outfielders (4): Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Scott Van Slyke
- Starting pitchers (4): Scott Kazmir, Clayton Kershaw, Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood
- Relief pitchers (5): Luis Avilan, Joe Blanton, Chris Hatcher, J.P. Howell, Kenley Jansen
- 15-day DL: None (for now)
- 60-day DL: Brandon McCarthy, Frankie Montas
That’s 21 players, provided Grandal’s forearms don’t disintegrate — which looks like it might happen — and Kendrick’s calf doesn’t go to the slaughter house. Mike Bolsinger was a lock for the rotation before an abdominal/oblique strain. He should go on the 15-day disabled list. Brett Anderson, Andre Ethier and Hyun-Jin Ryu (probably) will land on the 60-day DL before the season begins.
There needs to be another starting pitcher, two relievers and one bench player to fill out the roster. Here are the candidates for those spots:
- Starting pitchers: Brandon Beachy, Carlos Frias, Zach Lee, Ross Stripling
- Relief pitchers: Pedro Baez, Louis Coleman, Yimi Garcia
- Bench players: Austin Barnes, Alex Guerrero, Trayce Thompson
The race for the fifth starter is really down to two pitchers: Lee and Frias. Both pitched this weekend to decent results. Lee on Saturday threw 4 2/3 innings, allowed eight hits, two runs and didn’t issue a walk or record a strikeout. He also had a 9/3 ground out-to-fly out ratio, which jives with his approach of trying to pitch lower in the strike zone. Frias had a bit better (if not luckier) on Friday against the Giants (4 IP, 6 H, 0 R, 1 BB, 4 K, 6/0 GO/AO). It’s neck-and-neck at this point. Stripling has already been optioned to minor-league camp and will start on Tuesday. He has been mentioned by Dave Roberts and Andrew Friedman as an option, but not for the first time the Dodgers need a fifth starter (he doesn’t lineup with that timing anyway). I really want to see what Lee can do with a legitimate shot in the rotation, but Frias’ stuff and versatility (pitching out of the bullpen) might win out.
The bullpen is a numbers game. Baez and Garcia have options, while Coleman does not. Coleman has pitched well this spring and has a major-league deal, which means this is going to come down to Baez v. Garcia. If you’ve read anything from me, you know I’m not the biggest Baez fan. I’d much rather have Garcia in the bullpen to begin the season. Unfortunately, I have a feeling Baez gets the nod. It isn’t all bad, as Garcia will be the first one up in case of injury and/or ineffectiveness.
I looked at the players who stand to benefit from the Ethier injury, and Barnes was the clear winner to me.
“The fact he’s a catcher makes him important enough, but he can also play a little second base. He has played a little third base in the minors, but it isn’t realistic to expect much from him at that position. But he has a nice skill-set on offense and could provide the Dodgers with flexibility behind the plate. This isn’t even factoring in Yasmani Grandal and his sore forearms. If nothing else, he can allow the Dodgers to remove Grandal late in games without fear of being down to one catcher. But Barnes is good enough to start on a number of MLB teams. This is a luxury the Dodgers have, and they should take advantage of it.”
Still, I can see a scenario where Guerrero makes this team … because reasons. Thompson also has a solid case as a true backup center fielder (freeing up Hernandez a bit). Barnes makes the most sense, mostly because he’s the best player of the trio. Also because of what is written above. If Grandal is out, Barnes makes the squad easily. In that case, it’s a toss-up between Guerrero and Thompson for the final bench spot. Guerrero is owed $10 million over the next two seasons while Thompson will make the MLB minimum. The Dodgers aren’t afraid to eat money, as they have demonstrated in the past. If they opt for Thompson, they’ll lose Guerrero (and still have to pay his salary). It’ll be interesting to see who gets the nod.
Much like batting order, it doesn’t matter who makes the opening day roster. The 25 guys on April 4 will not be the 25 guys on Oct. 4. The Dodgers have lots of (quality) options for the roster. Things will only get better as the season progresses, probably.