The Los Angeles Dodgers have set their 25-man roster for Opening Day after a spring in which over 60 players were invited to camp.
Because Hyun-Jin Ryu will begin the season on the disabled list, the Dodgers will start the season with 14 position players and 11 pitchers. In 2014, the team’s bench was the key to their second consecutive NL West title. Led by Justin Turner and his career year, the bench allowed Don Mattingly to be comfortable giving his starters rest throughout the season.
Today, we take a look at the bench for the 2015 season:
Justin Turner, IF
The 30-year-old can play any spot in the infield, and is coming off a season in which he hit .340 with 43 RBI in under 300 at-bats. Turner will once again be the main guy off the bench, filling in wherever he’s needed. He will get the bulk of his playing time at third base, as Juan Uribe will be getting extra rest this year.
While it is unrealistic to expect Turner to repeat his numbers, he did hit .477 this spring in 18 games. The Cal State Fullerton alum made it a point to get stronger this offseason in anticipation of more playing time. He also contributed in a different way this offseason, taking center field prospect Joc Pederson under his wing.
Expect Turner to play at least 80 games this season and continue to be the perfect role player. If Uribe struggles or slows down, Mattingly will not hesitate to use Turner two to three times a week.
Darwin Barney, 2B/3B/SS
Barney was acquired from the Chicago Cubs last season and become a go-to defensive replacement late in games once the roster expanded in September. What came as a surprise in his 22-game stint was that he hit .303 with a .467 OBP. He signed a one-year deal in the winter, and his value is increased by having a minor-league option available.
The Dodgers won’t carry 14 players for long and it would appear Barney will be the first one sent down when the team needs a fifth starter. However, Barney will find himself in the big leagues any time he’s needed and he provides a solid defensive solution at three infield spots. The former Gold Glove winner continued to his solid hitting from last year this spring, finishing with a .356 batting average in 25 games.
Barney’s value comes from his defense and option, and anything more than that is a plus. He will be counted on in case of injury and could find himself moving from Oklahoma City (Triple-A affiliate) to Los Angeles a few times.
Alex Guerrero, 2B/SS/3B/LF
One of the biggest mysteries of the spring, Guerrero began camp saying he would refuse a move to the minors per his contract. The 28-year-old then went and did exactly what he had to do this spring to force the Dodgers to keep him. He improved on defense, looking comfortable at third base and in left field. Guerrero did what he was expected to do at the plate, hitting .319 with three home runs.
Guerrero will compete with Turner for time at third base when Uribe needs a day off, but it’s likely that Guerrero will be counted on to pinch-hit late in games. While his defense was not an issue this spring at multiple positions, Turner is a slight upgrade with the glove. The fact that he can also play the outfield now is an added bonus.
Assuming his bat does what it’s been doing in the spring, Guerrero will get some work at third base and in left field, as well as coming up to pinch-hit late in games. It’s possible that the Dodgers could look to trade him if his value continues to rise.
Andre Ethier, OF
Ethier started the year saying that he wanted to be an everyday player, whether that be in Los Angeles or elsewhere. Well, it appears that Ethier will not be starting for the Dodgers, although he did have a solid spring. He hit .327 with 11 RBI in 21 games, but Joc Pederson appears to be the center fielder and Carl Crawford in left.
The Dodgers are reportedly willing to eat half of Ethier’s salary in a potential deal, but have not found any suitors yet. For now, the former Gold Glove outfielder will be coming off the bench and pinch-hitting. If Ethier can live with that role, he gives the Dodgers one of the better fourth outfielders in baseball. If not, the Dodgers will have issues in the clubhouse.
It will be an interesting storyline with Ethier and the outfield situation, but if he is dealt, the Dodgers have Chris Heisey waiting in Triple-A.
Scott Van Slyke, OF/1B
The slugging outfielder and first baseman has carved himself a nice role with the Dodgers. He is expected to platoon in left field with Crawford, starting mostly against left-handed starting pitchers. He provides power off the bench and can play any of the three outfield positions. Van Slyke should continue to improve, giving the Dodgers a top-notch outfield.
In 212 at-bats in 2014, the 28-year-old hit 11 home runs and 13 doubles. He continued his strong hitting this spring with six extra-base hits in 48 at-bats. On defense, Van Slyke is serviceable in center and better in the corners, while being a solid backup at first base.
Van Slyke will be an important part of the Dodgers season, and should see a lot more playing time in 2015.
A.J. Ellis, C
After being the everyday starter at catcher the past three seasons, Ellis comes into 2015 as the “backup” to Yasmani Grandal. Ellis will still get a few starts behind the plate, but it’s expected that Grandal will take a bulk of the playing time. As a backup, Ellis gives the Dodgers a veteran leader in the clubhouse and with the pitching staff. His bat should improve this season now that he’s healthy.
Ellis could find himself starting once or twice a week, or possibly against left-handed starting pitchers. One thing that won’t change is his ability to get on base, proved by his team-leading eight walks this spring. Ellis has focused on his pitch-framing this spring, which was an area that he has struggled with.
The 33-year-old should give the team a solid second catcher and will be an asset to Grandal as well, teaching him about the pitching staff and daily grind behind the plate.
Dodgers 2015 Spring Training – Justin Turner