This isn’t a joke as Opening Day on April 1 is now just one week away for the Dodgers! While there isn’t a whole lot of time left between now and then, there are still plenty of decisions that have yet to be made. One of these decisions is, who will win the last spot on the bench for LA?
A handful of players are making their case to have that honor come the start of the season, but who comes out on top?
The Dodgers have already made their second cut of players, resulting in 38 players remaining in camp. 20 of those are pitchers, which leaves 18 position players. Take away the starting 8 and that leaves only 10 others to compete for bench spots.
However, it’s almost a certainty that Austin Barnes, Chris Taylor, Zack McKinstry, and Matt Beaty are locks. There will be a 26-man roster limit this year, up from the previous 25-man roster just two years ago, so the Dodgers could theoretically carry six players on the bench. What seems more likely, however, is the team carrying 13 pitchers to begin the season as the starting pitchers continue to build up their pitch counts, especially with the possibility of 3 starting pitchers moving to the pen.
With four bench spots (Matt Beaty, Christ Taylor, Austin Barnes, and Zach McKinstry) already locked up and Sheldon Neuse recently optioned, that leaves one spot to be fought among 5 players. Realistically, only DJ Peters and Edwin Ríos have a legitimate shot at seizing the job.
Peters started off Spring on a good note at the plate, yet his performance has faltered as of late. He’s now only hitting .242 which seems like it would be a normal batting average for him. The strikeouts have also really started to pile up. On the other side of the ball, he’s shown his athleticism in the outfield with the ability to play all three spots. The 25-year old could make the big league club and be a right handed bat off the bench, essentially replacing some of the power lost with the departure of Joc Pederson.
It’s fair to wonder if the Dodgers would be willing to carry Peters despite the team having Chris Taylor and possibly Matt Beaty to use in the outfield as well.
Everyone should know Edwin Ríos by now. The Puerto Rican native provided the Dodgers with some memorable home runs last season, most notably against the Houston Astros. While he cracked the roster last year, that doesn’t guarantee he does so again to begin the season. Ríos is best suited as a first base only/DH type of guy, though he has shown he can get by at third base. He may have a leg up on Peters in that he can slide in at third base when Turner needs a rest day.
He’s had a difficult Spring training to say the least. In 22 at-bats he only has 4 hits. Yes, it’s only the preseason and hitters are still shaking off the rust, but Ríos has just not looked himself and could be sent to the alternate site come April 1.
Both players have undeniable power that could easily translate into the big leagues. While Peters does offer the Dodgers a legitimate fourth outfielder and a right handed bat off of the bench his tendency to strikeout more often than most may just send him back down, for now. Ríos already has experience at the Major League level and has been able to hold his own. Although having him and Beaty on the bench may be a little redundant, he seems like the likely choice here. Even so, this roster will constantly be shifting and should see plenty of fresh faces by season’s end.