Here’s one of the more interesting exercises of the Top 100 prospects series. I try to project/predict the 2022 lineup. Seems pretty impossible, but I’m hoping it sparks some healthy conversation.
Here are the previous attempts at this exercise (year written in parenthesis):
Here was my prediction for the 2019 lineup:
- Catcher: Austin Barnes
- First base: Cody Bellinger
- Second base: Enrique Hernandez
- Third base: Justin Turner
- Shortstop: Corey Seager
- Left field: Yusniel Diaz
- Center field: Joc Pederson
- Right field: Alex Verdugo
This might be the best prediction/projection to date. Six of eight, with only one player still not in the organization. Huzzah!
Player’s season-age will be in parenthesis. This exercise also does not take into account potential trades or free agent signings (not like the Dodgers make any big ones anyway). I know it isn’t terribly realistic to think the Dodgers won’t venture outside the organization for talent, but this is not that kind of post.
Austin Barnes (32): Final year of salary arbitration.
Diego Cartaya (20): Too early, but he might be the best of the lot.
Keibert Ruiz (23): Might be in his second full season and even better than he is now.
Will Smith (27): Same as Ruiz in terms of service time.
Connor Wong (26): Seems more like trade bait than anything, but is also versatile defensively.
2022 Catcher: Ruiz/Smith
No organization has more depth behind the plate and more overall impact potential. This could be a situation in which the Dodgers carry three catchers on their active roster, but only because two of them can play other positions. Barnes is the best framer, Ruiz has the highest offensive ceiling and Smith might be the best overall catching prospect. I’m going with Ruiz here as the primary guy, with Smith and Barnes backing him up (and playing in the infield on occasion since we know the Dodgers love their players to have defensive versatility).
Cody Bellinger (26): Second year of arbitration.
Max Muncy (31): Also second year of arbitration.
Edwin Rios (27): Probably with another org by this time.
2022 First baseman: Muncy
This would be a little clearer if it were a year from know because we’d know if Muncy’s 2018 was legit or a fluke. He’s off to a solid start in ’19, so I’m going to buy in. He’ll be the primary first baseman, with Bellinger manning another position.
Austin Barnes (32): Might get more time on the infield than behind the plate.
Jeter Downs (23): Might be a year away from being ready for full-time MLB work.
Omar Estevez (24): Proving his bat might be legit for either middle infield spot.
Enrique Hernandez (30): Free agent after 2020, but is a fan favorite and hard to see him playing elsewhere.
Gavin Lux (24): Might be needed more at another position.
2022 Second baseman: Estevez
Estevez turned it on late last season and is off to a blazing start this season. If his bat has taken a leap forward and it translates to the majors, he might be the best overall option here. Lux might ultimately end up here, but maybe not yet. Hernandez should still be around in a super utility role, but there’s a non-zero chance by this time next year, he’s the primary second baseman.
Matt Beaty (29): Probably playing elsewhere by this time, but has an interesting bat.
Cristian Santana (25): Lots of power and plus-defense makes him a legit option, even with his free-swinging ways.
Corey Seager (28): The franchise player changing positions a year after free agency? Seems unlikely, but I’m going with it.
Miguel Vargas (22): Super sleeper for this role. Bat will have to develop, as will his defense.
2022 Third baseman: Seager
Who knows? With Seager a free agent after 2021, he’ll have either signed a hefty contract extension or re-signed with LA. It’s hard to imagine the Dodgers letting him get away. The defensive switch will depend on his defense at the time and the other middle infield options coming up behind him, but I could see it. If not, Santana is the best defender of the lot.
Jacob Amaya (23): Premium defender, but the bat is untested.
Jeter Downs (23): Might be trade bait if he continues to develop (but not enough to overtake other prospects).
Omar Estevez (24): Could be an option if second base doesn’t work out.
Gavin Lux (24): Has enough range for short, but footwork/throwing needs work.
Corey Seager (28): Moves to third base after signing huge extension/free agent deal.
2022 Shortstop: Lux
This is more out of convenience. Lux and Estevez aren’t third basemen, and only one of them can play second base. The easiest solution to get their bats in the 2022 lineup (which sounds weird in 2019, I know) is to slide Seager over to third base to continue his Cal Ripken, Jr.-like career path and let Lux play shortstop for a few years until a guy like Joel Ibarra is ready.
Joc Pederson (30): Free agent after 2020; probably playing elsewhere.
DJ Peters (25): High ceiling, but also high bust potential.
Cody Thomas (26): Super raw, athletic, power potential.
Alex Verdugo (26): Should be a lineup fixture by this point.
2022 Left fielder: Verdugo
Verdugo will be arbitration-eligible for the first time and could be the team’s leadoff man because he’s one of the best hitters in the org. If the Dodgers keep Pederson, that could complicate things, but I don’t see that happening. Peters might be a fourth outfielder-type by now and Thomas may never fully realize his potential.
Cody Bellinger (26): Might be the best option, but he’ll be playing another position.
Jeren Kendall (26): Can definitely handle the position defensively, but the bat is still a mess right now. How’s that gonna look in 2022?
A.J. Pollock (34): Will be in the final year of a 4-year guarantee at $10 million (with a player option for 2023).
Alex Verdugo (26): Don’t think he’ll be playing much center field at this point.
2022 Center fielder: Pollock
The early returns on Pollock have been less than encouraging. To hope he’s still playing at a high level in 2022 (at age 34) seems awfully optimistic, but that’s what we have to work with here. If Pollock is hurt or misses significant time, Bellinger could slide over from right field, or the Dodgers could try to fill it internally with someone like Kendall (provided he’s carrying at least a 40-grade bat).
Cody Bellinger (26): Should be the anchor of the Dodger lineup.
DJ Peters (25): Might be traded by this time or playing with another org. Cody Thomas (26): Could be a nice bench piece if he develops.
Alex Verdugo (26): On most other teams, he’d be the right fielder.
2022 Right fielder: Bellinger
Bellinger is off to a torrid start this season and might be one of the game’s best players by 2022 (if he keeps it up). At the ripe old age of 25, he should be contending for MVP awards and ready to ink a huge long-term deal. He’ll be in his second year of arbitration and the Dodgers would be smart to try to lock him up for the long haul (at a fair rate).
There’s so much depth in this organization that it’s hard to include everyone. There are some I didn’t include who could be starters or bench players in LA by ’22, but they could also be playing elsewhere. We’ll see how it shakes out, but this lineup looks pretty good, provided a couple of the prospects continue to develop.
|Keibert Ruiz/Will Smith||C|
Next Up: 2022 Projected Pitching Staff