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Dodgers Building A Versatile Defensive Team After Rough 2021

The 2021 depth was not what it needed to be



Even since Andrew Friedman took control of the player personnel for the Dodgers in 2014, they have valued players that can play multiple positions. It all started when they acquired Kiké Hernandez and Austin Barnes from the Marlins. They even had Corey Seager play a little third base when he was brought up in September 2015, but that was just a short phase.

The next big player with versatility as a calling card was Chris Taylor who they acquired in 2016. He played some shortstop and second base but in 2017 he learned how to play the outfield, and he played it well. Between Kiké and CT3, the Dodgers had every position covered except pitcher and catcher.

In many cases, they would be as good or better, defensively, than the players they replaced. The Dodgers lost Kiké to free agency after 2021 and no other player replaced his defense at multiple positions. The bench, especially defensively, was much weaker in 2021. Now, it looks like with the addition of Hanser Alberto, the Dodgers have regained their bench defense advantage.

This article will talk about the overall versatility of the positions each player on the roster can play, with some comments about how well they play each position. We will ignore the catchers, Will Smith and Austin Barnes as they are now just catchers, except for emergencies.

First Base Options

  • Freddie Freeman – an excellent first baseman who makes the defense even better at this spot.
  • Max Muncy – he turned into a very good first baseman and we don’t lose a lot when he is over there.
  • Edwin Rios – he’s played it quite a bit and has enough experience to handle the position.
  • Cody Bellinger – the best defensive first baseman in baseball but his glove is needed elsewhere.

Second Base Options

  • Gavin Lux – in 2021 Lux had four Defensive Runs Saved (DRS) and looks pretty comfortable at the position. He is an excellent athlete who should keep improving.
  • Max Muncy – a couple of years ago he was not a very good second baseman. Now, he is at least average at the position.
  • Chris Taylor – this is probably his best position if he plays there regularly. However, FanGraphs had him pretty low in their defensive ratings.
  • Hanser Alberto – he can play it just fine but FanGraphs did not like him that much in 2021. He only played 134 innings there so it is a smaller sample size.

Shortstop Options

  • Trea Turner – he is a very good shortstop and should be a huge upgrade at the position in 2022.
  • Gavin Lux – he actually played almost 500 innings at shortstop and FanGraphs did not like him at all.
  • Chris Taylor – he plays an average to above-average shortstop.
  • Hanser Alberto – this is his best position and he plays it well.

Third Base Options

  • Justin Turner – he still has good reactions but the range is slipping away. Resting him at DH will help to preserve him and should keep both is bat and glove refreshed.
  • Max Muncy – this is not a position he likes much and it is his worst position.
  • Edwin Rios – when he was drafted he was rated as a pretty bad third baseman. He has worked his way into being adequate.
  • Chris Taylor – not a position he plays much but his athleticism helps.
  • Hanser Alberto – he seems good enough – see below.

 

Left Field Options

  • Chris Taylor – he is pretty good out there and an upgrade over the recently traded AJ Pollock.
  • Gavin Lux – he is still learning but his athletic ability should help.

Center Field Options

  • Cody Bellinger – the best defensive centerfielder in baseball
  • Mookie Betts – he plays center field very well.
  • Chris Taylor – might be his worst position

Right Field Options

  • Mookie Betts – he is still one of the best right fielders in the game but his injuries impacted his defense in 2021
  • Cody Bellinger – he is excellent in right also
  • Chris Taylor – in a small sample size he was very good as a right fielder.

Final Thoughts

Overall, the Dodgers had a real problem on the bench in 2021. Many times they went through pinch hitters and the defense at the end of the game was poor. That problem seems to have been fixed. There is enough versatility with Chris Taylor and Hanser Alberto to have a big improvement when they are in at the end of the game. Players like Max Muncy and Gavin Lux will start at multiple positions throughout the season (and probably in one week) as the Dodgers are able to also rotate players at DH. A key is to get Justin Turner some rest at DH while still keeping his bat in the lineup.

Defense is an underrated aspect to some of us, but games can be won or lost on defense. Does anyone remember when a catcher played first base in extra innings and could not find the proper footing to receive a throw? Do you remember when a bench second baseman did not stretch for a force-out? Those types of issues contributed to not winning the National League West for the 9th consecutive year.

I think the defense, with the versatility available, will not be near the problem it was in 2021. For 2022, the Dodgers have all the positions well covered.

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