Two primary battles are still ongoing in Spring Training, with one heating up and one going ice cold. There are a few other strugglers as well, but at least the main guys are avoiding injury or bouncing back from injury well.
Also, World Baseball Classic!
Following Dave Roberts‘ announcement that Tony Gonsolin would be opening the year on the IL, the competition for the coveted sixth starter spot is now a competition to start the year in the rotation.
Fortunately, all the competitors are generally doing their jobs. Michael Grove recently turned in another solid outing, which about describes what you’d expect out of him.
So far? 12.1 IP, 12 H, 1 BB, 14 K, 4.38 ERA.
Meanwhile, Ryan Pepiot continues to take steps toward starter relevancy via his control improving by leaps and bounds this Spring.
One dark horse candidate that his forced his way into the conversation? Gavin Stone, who in 6.2 innings has not given up a run and has struck out 14 to just a couple of walks.
Considering he’s a top prospect, there’s really no reason he shouldn’t get legitimate run the rest of the way to find out more about him at the very least. He’s striking out over half the batters he’s faced, that’s like peak Kenley Jansen shit.
In other camp battles, things are generally cooling off in the outfield, where James Outman is now 0 for his last 11 with six strikeouts, and Jason Heyward — despite two hits yesterday — is 2 for his last 12 and 3 for his last 25.
Of course, Outman was always going to cool off a bit and show swing and miss, but in a battle for a roster spot it’s best not to give them any excuse. Meanwhile, Heyward has basically been guaranteed a spot already anyway.
“I think it’s a safe bet,” Roberts said of Heyward’s chances of making the major league team. “He’s come to spring training with this new revamped swing that, it looks like he’s done it for a long time.”
Outman is basically competing against Yonny Hernandez for the last roster spot. The utilityman has a .250/.364/.393/.757 slash this Spring, but has struggled of late as well, going 1 for his last 14. There’s a chance none of Yonny’s performance matters as much as his positional versatility, however. Though I’d argue more than ever the Dodgers will need outfield flexibility as well due to platoons and uncertainty of production.
Beyond camp battles, there are players whose struggles are worth monitoring. Normally it isn’t that meaningful, but considering their 2022 seasons, it could be relevant.
Chris Taylor has put up a .135/.256/.216/.472 line this Spring coming off his worst year since his revival, but he has at least got some hits lately. The Dodgers need him to find it cause not only could he see extensive playing time anyway, but is also the backup plan at multiple positions.
Go ahead, Chris! pic.twitter.com/rlFIBKP8PM— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 18, 2023
Shelby Miller has also not looked great so far, but his 12.27 ERA is a bit misleading as he’s yet to walk anybody and his six strikeouts, pitching relatively effectively after he’s started mixing up his pitches more.
One guy who is playing himself onto the IL is Jimmy Nelson, who has not just been bad but worryingly so. While a slow return was expected, he is arguably getting worse with time, as he walked three, hit a batter, and uncorked a wild pitch today in just 14 pitches. For the Spring he has walked 11 in 21 batters faced.
As far as injuries go, the big scare was Freddie Freeman, but thankfully it did actually appear to be a minor hamstring tweak.
Welcome back, @FreddieFreeman5. 👋 pic.twitter.com/OD9TxQg64O— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) March 18, 2023
Meanwhile, it doesn’t seem like Miguel Vargas‘ pinky fracture is going to be an issue.
He has a .280/.471/.520/.991 line this Spring despite not being able to swing half the time. Since being allowed to swing, he’s 7-for-17 with three doubles, a homer, four walks, and just four strikeouts.
My body is ready.
In case you thought I wasn’t going to plug the WBC, well you were wrong.
For the Dodgers now it’s mainly Mookie Betts, Will Smith, and Austin Barnes.
Moooookie! 🇺🇸 pic.twitter.com/Zyb7roUKPX— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 14, 2023
Love to see even the USA team getting way into this shit.
TREA TURNER GRAND SLAM!!!— FOX Sports: MLB (@MLBONFOX) March 19, 2023
ARE YOU KIDDING ME?!?!
📺: WBC on FOX pic.twitter.com/G4l6nwsH9Y
WBC final on March 21, a Tuesday at 1 PM HT/4 PM PT/7 PM ET.