Last year, the Dodgers’ run to the NLCS was anything but easy. They dealt with a historic number of players on the disabled list, including ace Clayton Kershaw. While the Dodgers won 91 games and ultimately lost to the eventual world champion Cubs in the NLCS, they had potential to do a lot more if healthy. The depth they had allowed them to contend despite all of these issues, but this year it stands to be even better. The Dodgers were one of the deepest teams in the league last season, but are even deeper now.
The Dodgers had one of the more talented rosters in the league last season, as they often have, but injuries to many key players caused them to use countless backups throughout the season. They also had to make numerous small trades to fill holes. Some of the players acquired for these purposes were Carlos Ruiz, Chris Taylor, Will Venable, Casey Fien and Bud Norris. While they got valuable contributions from these players, this season they may be well off with what they already have in the organization. While the Dodgers didn’t have the offseason many had hoped, they added multiple players who could provide key depth this season. On top of this many of the Dodgers top prospects are getting very close to being ready for regular big league at-bats.
One new player who you should keep an eye on is outfielder Franklin Gutierrez. Gutierrez is a former Gold Glove center fielder who has become more than capable with the bat in recent years. He also has been a lefty killer and last year the Dodgers sorely lacked consistency against left handed pitching. On top of this they also signed Cuban infielder Jose Miguel Fernandez, who was an excellent hitter in Cuba but hasn’t played meaningful games in a couple years. They reacquired Darnell Sweeney from the Phillies in a deal for Howie Kendrick. The Dodgers also added some pieces to their bullpen in setup man Sergio Romo and non-roster invitee Brandon Morrow.
The Dodgers also have prospects such as Cody Bellinger, Alex Verdugo, Willie Calhoun and Brock Stewart ready to contribute if needed this season. Last season Brock Stewart started 5 games for the Dodgers and coming in out of the pen in two others. He struggled early in a few of these games pitching to a 5.79 ERA in 28 innings but with a full big league camp this season could come out much improved. Bellinger on the other hand dominated the minor leagues last season hitting .271 with 26 home runs and 71 runs batted in across AA and AAA. Verdugo played the whole season in AA and hit .273 with 13 home runs and 63 runs batted in. Calhoun also spent the whole season in AA and hit .254 with 27 home runs and 88 runs batted in.
The Dodgers also retained Chase Utley, who will likely back up second, third and first base with newly acquired Logan Forsythe being the new starting second baseman. Forsythe also is a very dynamic player, and being able to play all over the diamond will help the Dodgers. Utley was a serviceable starter last season, so he should be very effective coming off the bench and playing for injured players. Enrique Hernandez, Charlie Culberson, and Chris Taylor will all compete for a utility role on the Dodgers bench with all three being solid players to have as depth. With players like Franklin Gutierrez, Trayce Thompson, and either Andrew Toles or Andre Ethier also being starter caliber players on the bench the outfield should be set as well.
The Dodgers look to have an abundance of pitching this season as well. The Dodgers already have more than a few pitchers competing for the last couple of rotation spots. These pitchers include Julio Urias, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Scott Kazmir, Brandon McCarthy, Ross Stripling, Brock Stewart and Alex Wood. While Urias will likely fill one of the spots, the other is up for grabs and whoever doesn’t get it will provide the Dodgers with excellent depth in their rotation which sustained a lot of injuries a year ago.
Ryu is coming off of a season where he only made one start and did not start at all the previous season so his health will likely play a big factor in him making the rotation. Ryu is currently dealing with a minor injury but is expected to play through it so it’s tough to say how it will play out for him. One of these pitchers is likely headed to the bullpen for long relief, and with pitchers like Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy more likely to be moved than sent down this depth may thin out a bit before the season starts. Still, Stewart, Stripling and Wood will all be more than serviceable fill-ins if need be.
With all of these additions, and the depth they already had, the Dodgers should be well equipped to handle any injuries that should come their way. With that being said, some players such as Kershaw, Seager, and Jansen are nearly irreplaceable but they could fill in for them short term if needed. There are few if any positions that the Dodgers couldn’t handle an injury with the depth that they have within the organization, plus a front office that is very good at finding value players to fill in if they need to go outside the organization. Andrew Friedman and Co. has done a very good job at building a team that has competent players from top to bottom and could withstand whatever the long season may throw at them. Here’s to hoping that they won’t need all this depth, but if they do need it, they certainly have it.