After a long spring training, alas, we finally know. After making the final round of roster cuts, the Dodgers have settled on their opening day, 25-man roster. The question now is, did they get it right?
We’ll have to say that it’s “TBD” for the time being.
Undoubtedly, these were some tough calls. Many players made a legitimate case to make the club, but with so many options at the Dodgers disposal, there was no way everyone was getting a spot, regardless of how deserving they may be. The Dodgers have plenty of roster depth this year, and if that gives them too many options, well, that’s a good problem to have.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 3, 2017
We take a look here at only those close, highly contested roster decisions that the Dodgers were forced to make. Obviously, we won’t really know how good these decisions were until later in the year, and for now, we’ll just have to see how they play out. Let the debates begin.
Who’s in? Austin Barnes
Who’s out? Bobby Wilson
Why? The Dodgers want to know what they have with Barnes. He’s 27 now and has done all he can do in the minor leagues. Additionally, Barnes can play 2nd base and the outfield, and position versatility is an attribute the Dodgers absolutely love in a player.
Was it the right call? I believe so. He’s ready for his shot, albeit a backup role to Yasmani Grandal. Bobby Wilson had a solid spring, but Barnes has upside that Wilson doesn’t. It was Barnes’ job to lose entering spring training and he didn’t do anything to jeopardize his spot.
Who’s in? Kike Hernandez & Scott Van Slyke
Who’s out? Rob Segedin, Chris Taylor, & Charlie Culberson
Why? Again, it comes down to positional versatility. The Dodgers like to be flexible and have options that they can mix and match around the diamond. Hernandez will back up Corey Seager at SS and can also play some CF. Apparently, the Dodgers weren’t very comfortable with Taylor’s ability to play CF, which was likely the deciding factor. Same could probably be said for their comfort level with Segedin at first base. Not only can Van Slyke play LF and RF, he will also serve as Adrian Gonzalez’s primary backup at first.
The Dodgers have to be hoping for a turnaround from both Van Slyke and Hernandez, neither of whom played well last year. However, each put up nice numbers just the year before last and if they can stay healthy, that’s the versions the Dodgers are banking on this season.
Was it the right call? Personally, I’d say no. I would have went with Taylor and Segedin. Taylor had a great spring and is probably the better option offensively and at shortstop defensively. I also believe he could play adequate enough CF to back up Pederson and I’m still worried that Hernandez’s offensive decline from last season wasn’t an anomaly. I also think Segedin was a better option than Van Slyke, although, he’d be forced to backup first base duties, something he hasn’t done too much of.
All in all, I don’t think these moves should necessarily hurt the Dodgers, but I’m not convinced they were the right calls. It seems like they went with the easy choices here, being familiar with Hernandez and Van Slyke and unwilling to take the chance with the other guys.
Who’s in? Andrew Toles, Franklin Gutierrez
Who’s out? Trayce Thompson, Andre Ethier (DL)
Why? Before Ethier’s injury, it was going to be interesting to see what the Dodgers did with Toles. Now, it seems obvious that he’ll hold down the fort, at least until Andre returns. The Dodgers signed Gutierrez to see what he could do against LHP, and it was pretty clear that he’d make the club despite his early spring struggles. Thompson is coming off of an injury from last season, but he appears healthy now. The Dodgers probably prefer him to get more at-bats at OKC though and figure they have time for him to further develop.
Was it the right call? I’m a big Andrew Toles fan, so I’m glad to see him get a shot, although unfortunately, it only comes due to Ethier’s injury. I think he can provide a spark in the lineup and I hope he does enough to make it a difficult decision for the Dodgers when Andre gets healthy. I’d rather have Thompson platooning in LF, but that wasn’t going to happen once the Dodgers signed Gutierrez. In my opinion, Thompson showed enough potential last year before he got hurt to get a shot this season. However, the Dodgers must have felt otherwise. I’m sure he’ll get a shot at some point this year, but who knows when, or for how long. In the meantime, we’ll have to see how much Gutierrez excels against LHP.
Who’s in? Hyun-Jin Ryu & Brandon McCarthy
Who’s out? Julio Urias, Alex Wood, Scott Kazmir (DL), Brock Stewart (DL)
Why? Urias will definitely be a part of the Dodgers plans sometime this season, but we’ll all have to patiently wait a bit. We talked about Urias and why the Dodgers will be taking it slow with him to start the year.
With Kazmir not looking anywhere close to being ready, the rotation really came down to Ryu, McCarthy, and Wood. After fighting injuries for the last couple of years, Ryu looked good this spring and really out-pitched the competition for the 4th spot. The decision to go with McCarthy to fill out the rotation probably had to do with the Dodgers already having three lefty starters and the fact that Wood could provide them with another left-handed option out of the bullpen.
Was it the right call? I really have no complaints with how the rotation shook out. Like everyone else, I can’t wait to see Julio Urias out there every 5th day pitching for the Dodgers, but I also understand that having him available in October should be the priority. To accomplish that, there was really no way to have him start the year with the club.
If Ryu can return to his previous form before he got injured, it could be a real boost for the Dodgers. When healthy, he’s proven that he can be a very effective major league starter. And while, it may be hard to have a ton of faith in McCarthy, I’m not sure you really have to. If he happens to struggle, both Wood and Stripling are already in the bullpen, and could easily be called upon to replace him. Not to mention there are options like Trevor Oaks and Brock Stewart (when healthy) down in the minors. All in all the rotation is fairly solid, and just because the back end is constructed this way now, doesn’t mean it’s set in stone for any length of time.
Who’s in? Chris Hatcher, Luis Avilan, Alex Wood, & Ross Stripling
Who’s out? Adam Liberatore, Josh Fields, Pedro Baez (DL), Josh Ravin (DL)
Why? Minor league options. It’s really as simple as that. Both Hatcher and Avilan are out of them, meaning the Dodgers couldn’t have sent them down without running the risk of losing them to another club. They weren’t willing to take that risk. As bad as Hatcher has been, someone in the Dodgers management still sees talent there and they’re hoping he can finally put all his stuff together. One would think that he’ll be on a short leash this season, but that leash has to be near its end by now.
Wood and Stripling give the Dodgers long relief options, as both are normally starters who should be able to give the Dodgers multiple innings if needed. Whenever Baez is ready, he’ll likely displace someone, and I’d suspect it would be Stripling or perhaps Hatcher, if he’s struggling.
Was it the right call? I understand having to play the “options game” sometimes in order to keep certain players on the team. It’s just a reality of the game. However, there are times when you just have to cut ties with a player if they’re not preforming and I believe that case could probably be made for Hatcher at this point. Personally, I would have preferred Fields and Liberatore, but the fact is that neither player really did enough to make their case this spring. If they hadn’t both struggled as much as they did, perhaps they would have made the Dodgers decision to stay with Hatcher and Avilan a little harder.
At the end of the day, the opening day roster doesn’t mean much. Injuries will happen. Players will get called up and sent down. The Dodgers have constructed a roster with enough depth that they not only are prepared for this, but planning on it. Did they make the right call on every single roster decision? That’s certainly debatable depending on who you ask. One thing that can’t be argued, however, is that having so many options for your 25-man roster is a good problem to have.