In the last article, we discussed the Dodgers Pitching Woes. Now, we tackle the Dodgers Positional Woes. Meaning, what do the Dodgers need to do or not do with regard to the rash of injuries plaguing the team during Spring Training? The simple answer is nothing.
Remember, the Dodgers are built on depth. The Dodgers have the Major League roster talent and minor league depth to nearly fulfill every position when the injury bug hits.
Case-in-point: outfielder Andre Ethier.
Andre Ethier, who started the offseason as trade bait all of sudden became the Dodgers starting left fielder and possible leadoff hitter when Manager Dodgers Dave Roberts named him as such. However, a foul tip and shin injury later, he is now rehabbing. Who is going to step up?
Carl Crawford has developed into a very important player who can contribute when healthy, but injuries prevent his consistency. Scott Van Slyke hits lefty tremendously, righties, not so much. At least on this Dodgers team roster, however, Van Slyke is a great player coming off the bench while providing a spot start on occasion. Anywhere else, Van Slyke might be a starter.
Enter Trayce Thompson. The 6’3”, 225 lb., twenty-five year old outfielder was acquired in the three-team trade with the Cincinnati Reds and Chicago White Sox during the 2015 offseason. He played in 44 games for the White Sox in 2015 and posted an impressive slash line of five homeruns, sixteen runs batted in, a .295 batting average, with a .896 on base plus slugging percentage. He can play all three outfield positions and averaged 20 homeruns and 80-90 runs batted in while playing in the minor leagues.
In some sense, Thompson matches at least offensively to outfielder Scott Schebler, whom the Dodgers traded to the Reds in the same Thompson trade. However, Thompson has much more projectability because of his bigger size, speed, and family tree (brothers and basketball players Klay Thompson, Mychal Thompson, and father Mychal Thompson, and mother Julie Thompson who played volleyball in college). This awesome swing demonstrates what is he capable of doing in the batters’ box. If it was not clear before, we are very excited about what Thompson can do.
Having three athletic, young, defensively, and offensively strong outfielders with a lot of upside is what many teams dream of having. The Dodgers have it in Trayce Thompson, Joc Pederson, and Yasiel Puig. We at DodgersNation.com are excited about the prospect of these three getting some significant time together. All three can play all three outfield positions, which highlights their defensive prowess.
In looking at other injuries that have plagued the Dodgers in Spring Training, let us look at the replacements for the injured Howie Kendrick, and Yasmani Grandal.
In general, Charlie Culberson (a 2007 first round pick of the San Francisco Giants who was likely passed up because of the success of current Giants short stop Brandon Crawford) and, more notably Kiké Hernandez have picked up the slack. Hernandez would be the foreseeable replacement for anyone not healthy (outside of catchers or first-basemen) come Opening Day. Hernandez is consistent, fast, and a great clubhouse personality.
Second baseman Howie Kendrick has been working through a strained calf muscle. He has at least three back-ups in Chase Utley, Kike Hernandez, and Micah Johnson, who was sent to minor league camp. Kendrick, again, would be a loss, but there are options. He is believed to be out a very short period. We are not too worried about Kendrick based on his consistency. He has played in 105-158 games per season for the past seven seasons.
Lastly, we come to catcher Yasmani Grandal, who was the centerpiece coming to the Dodgers in the Matt Kemp deal with the San Diego Padres during 2014 offseason. He is also slated to start more games behind the dish than catcher A.J. Ellis. Only now, the team is uncertain about Grandal’s return from a sore forearm (likely stemming from his offseason shoulder surgery and overcompensation). Ellis has been getting the majority of the starts behind the plate.
Enter Austin Barnes. We wrote previously that Barnes is a stud when writing about the Dodgers depth. Here is an excerpt from that article, which highlights the point about depth and how awesome Barnes is as a player:
“Austin Barnes is a wonderful ballplayer who can catch and play second base. However, he is too talented to be a utility player. He holds a .300 career minor league batting average with a .390 on base percentage (OBP), consistently pushing a .400+ OBP. No surprise there as he has walked more than he has struck out during his minor league career. He is Yasmani Grandal’s age at 26 years-old. Manager Dave Roberts wants to find him more at bats. Look for Austin Barnes to make an impact after being included in the 2015 Dee Gordon offseason trade. He should get those at bats if A.J. Ellis struggles and as Dave Roberts moves away from personal catchers.”
It is only Spring Training, but Barnes leads the team or is in the top three among his Dodgers teammates in five major categories: batting average, runs scored, homeruns, runs batted in, and stolen bases. Did we mention Barnes also plays second base!
The takeaway points here are as follows: that the Dodgers have depth, it is early, and let us be patient to see how it plays out during the season. Injuries are usually just depressing, but in the Dodgers case an injury to one star or up and coming rookie, unfortunate as they are, generally means an opportunity for another budding star or savvy veteran to step up to the plate, pun intended.