Trying to predict what any team’s 25-man roster will look like in early March might be a futile endeavor. Injuries are going to occur. Trades could materialize. So much is going to happen between now and the time teams play on opening day, that it’s really not a practical exercise.
So, let’s not be practical for right now. Sure, we could wait until closer to April to try to predict this, when things are a bit clearer, but what fun is that?
The Dodgers current roster is crowded, as all club’s rosters are in spring training. There are still many position battles for various spots, which we’ll all see play out over the next month. The following breakdown shows what spots are likely up for grabs, and who could be competing for those last few vacancies.
(*denotes best guess prediction; roster spot is highly contested*)
Long Shots: Kyle Farmer
Not much debate here. Barring any injuries, Grandal will again be the primary backstop for the Dodgers, and Barnes should handle the backup duties. Kyle Farmer might get a call sometime this year if anything happens to these two, but there likely won’t be room for him on the opening day roster.
Other options: Chris Taylor, Charlie Culberson, Rob Segedin
Long Shots: Cody Bellinger, Ike Davis, O’Koyea Dickson
Five infielders appear to be locks. If the Dodgers go with a total of six, that last spot could be very competitive. Hernandez is versatile, and can play multiple positions, which is an attribute that the Dodgers really love. But he struggled mightily last year, and if those offensive woes continue this spring, it could open the door for someone like Chris Taylor or Charlie Culberson. All three can play shortstop, and the Dodgers will need someone to back up Seager, so one of those guys seem to be the best bet.
Cody Bellinger looks like the real deal, but be patient Dodgers fans. It’s unlikely that he’ll find his way onto the opening day roster this year. He’ll need regular at-bats, and he won’t get those in the big leagues right now, whether playing at first base or in the outfield. So, he’ll likely be down in Oklahoma City to start 2017. But who knows how long the Dodgers can keep him there if he continues to mash baseballs.
"Superstar power." ? pic.twitter.com/vcZTk4GVTt
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) February 26, 2017
Neither Davis nor Dickson are on the 40-man roster, and both are long shots to make the club. Weirder things have happened though, and if you’ve never seen O’Koyea Dickson before, check him out this spring. The guy can hit.
Other options: Trayce Thompson, Scott Van Slyke
Long Shots: Brett Eibner
It’s another spring training and another crowded outfield situation for the Dodgers this year. Assuming they only carry five (and with Kike, it would really be six) you’d have to figure four of them are pretty much set, with Pederson, Puig, Toles, and Ethier. That leaves many options for one spot. The recent acquisition of Gutierrez really complicated things, as the Dodgers already had right-handed hitting Trayce Thompson and Scott Van Slyke on the roster. That could be an indication that the Dodgers don’t feel like Thompson will be ready for the start of the year after coming off of back surgery, although recent reports say he’s close to 100% now. Either way, whenever he’s fully healthy, what happens then?
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 2, 2017
As far as Van Slyke goes, he could be on the outside looking in. He still provides the Dodgers with a backup option at first base, which is one reason keeping him on the roster makes sense. But then again, maybe that’s why they have Utley spending more time there this spring. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Dodgers decided to part ways with Van Slyke before the year starts, if nothing more than the fact that there really doesn’t seem to be much room for him.
Starting Pitchers (5):
*Scott Kazmir *
Other options: Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood
Long Shots: Brock Stewart, Ross Stripling
No debating the first three here, but when it comes to filling out the final two spots in the rotation, your guess is really as good as mine. There are so many options for the Dodgers right now, they could actually put together two pretty good starting rotations. Thing is, they only need one.
What to do with Julio Urias is one of the biggest questions the Dodgers face this year. The goal is to have him available for the end of the season, and hopefully, the playoffs. However, with an imposed innings limit on the horizon, they will have to get a little creative on how to handle Urias. Should the Dodgers place him in an extended spring training program, and delay calling him up unit later in the year? Or, should they allow him to start the year in the rotation, and then rest him sometime down the road, perhaps with a precautionary DL trip or two around mid-season? One thing is for certain; whether it’s right out of the gate, or later on, whenever Urias is healthy, rested, and ready to go, he’ll definitely be in the Dodgers starting rotation plans.
Depending on what they do with Urias, there could be one or two rotation spots available to start the year. Kazmir, Ryu, McCarthy, and Wood all had injuries of some degree last year that forced them to miss time. All have shown that they can be an effective starter at the major league level, but they will all have something to prove in 2017. Although Brock Stewart and Ross Stripling stepped in admirably last season, the Dodgers might choose to send both down to the minors to start the year. With so many veteran options at their disposal, they can afford to bring their young guys around more slowly.
The starting rotation battle will be one of the most intriguing of the spring. However it works out, I suspect the Dodgers will utilize many different starters throughout the course of the season, as well as keep one or two of these guys in the bullpen.
Relief Pitchers (7):
Other options: Luis Avilan, Chris Hatcher, Josh Ravin, Brandon Morrow, all starters who didn’t make the rotation
Long Shots: Jacob Rhame, Trevor Oaks
There should be plenty of competition among the Dodgers relievers this spring. After Jansen, Romo, Libertore, and Dayton, there’s really no guarantee anywhere yet. Even Pedro Baez probably isn’t set in stone with how inconsistent he can be at times. For this simulated roster, I went with Baez, Fields, and Wood to round out the bullpen. Wood gives the Dodgers another lefty option, plus someone who can fill in a long relief role as a former starter. And whether it be Wood, or someone else, don’t be surprised to see at least one of those starting pitchers who aren’t in the rotation get shifted to the bullpen. Maybe someone like Brandon McCarthy could find success in a Joe Blanton type role this year.
The Dodgers have shown patience with Chris Hatcher, but could this be the year they decide to part ways with him? Though the talent seems to be there, Hatcher has yet to master his stuff, and can’t seem to find much consistency. Many fans already view him as the next version of Brandon League or Chris Perez. If he wants a spot on this year’s roster, he’ll have to earn it this spring.
There are a couple of other interesting options like Josh Ravin and Jacob Rhame. But once the Dodgers signed Sergio Romo, it really narrowed the opportunity for those guys for now. It’s a long year though, and even if they don’t start the year with the club, chances are they’ll still get a shot somewhere down the line.
Lots of things can change over the course of the next month or so, and whenever the Dodgers decide on their final 25-man roster, some tough calls will be made. It’ll be interesting to see how it all plays out. Until then, just enjoy the competition this spring.