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Opening Day: The Dodgers’ Roster Takes Shape

Dodgers
LOS ANGELES - MARCH 29: A general view of Dodger Stadium during the 2018 Opening Day game between the San Francisco Giants and Los Angeles Dodgers on Thursday, March 29, 2018 at Dodger Stadium in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Patrick Gee/© Los Angeles Dodgers, LLC 2018/MLB Photos via Getty Images)

It’s almost that time! We are a week away from Opening Day! 

Although Spring Training has yet to wrap up, it appears that the Opening Day roster is taking shape.  

After taking a deep look into some spring performances, injuries, and previous bodies of work, this is what it should look like come Opening Day: 

Catchers 

Starter: Austin Barnes 

After a strong ending to 2017 and a weak 2018 campaign, Barnes has looked fantastic in spring. In 31 at-bats, he has enjoyed a 1.030 OPS and has cracked 2 homers to go along with 12 RBIs. He has fully cemented himself as the Opening Day starting catcher and should he replicate 2017’s production, the loss of Yasmani Grandal stings less. 

Bench: Russell Martin 

The Dodgers organization has always been fond of Russell Martin and that continues as he begins his second stint with the club. He should see his fair share of at-bats, especially if Austin Barnes fails to get in a groove early. He has been somewhat underwhelming at the plate this spring, but part of that could be attributed to the fact that he has to learn the entire pitching staff’s repertoires.  

Infielders 

First Baseman: Max Muncy 

We can only hope Muncy can return to his stardom of 2018. Although he looks slightly lost at the plate so far this spring, he is still walking which is a good indicator of success this season. With Cody Bellinger most likely slated to start in the corner outfield for the Dodgers, Muncy should mix in it at first base on most days, second base here and there, and occasionally at third to spell Justin Turner. Let’s just hope Dave Roberts doesn’t decide to platoon him again. 

Second Baseman: Kiké Hernandez 

Boy, has Kiké earned a starting job this spring. He looks absolutely fantastic at the plate, against both lefties and righties. He has cruised to a .343/.401/.634 batting line across 41 at-bats this spring and has cemented himself above Chris Taylor in the pecking order. Many people still view him as a super-utility guy, which he is for now, but he is beginning to perform beyond that label.  

Third Baseman: Justin Turner 

There is not much to say about JT outside of the fact that we can hope he stays healthy. Hint: He is still really, really good. 

Shortstop: Corey Seager 

After a recent soundbite from Dave Roberts stated that Seager would play in the Freeway Series and on Opening Day, we could finally breathe a collective sigh of relief for his health. After Tommy John surgery and a major hip procedure, Seager appears locked and loaded. Expectations on his production should be slightly lessened as he fully recovers and re-adjusts to the grind, but we can hope we get our star shortstop back. Something to note, Seager will probably get a few off days against southpaws to begin the season.

Bench: David Freese 

Re-signed this offseason for a reason, Freese could be in the lineups most days against southpaws. He is also an option at both first and third which is always nice to have on the bench. 

Bench: Chris Taylor 

For this article, we are going to consider Taylor as an outfielder. We know he can fill in all over the diamond and he could play as the new super-utility man for the Dodgers. He most likely will not have a full starting job to start off the year with Hernandez’s emergence and his own struggles with strikeouts last season, but if he shows what he did in 2017, the club will find a spot for him. To have a 4-win type player on your bench is absolutely fantastic. 


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Outfielders 

Left Field: Joc Pederson 

Joc has been raking more than Verdugo has and obviously has more major league at bats under his belt. I don’t fully expect Pederson to maintain this post for the entire season considering that if the Dodgers plan to keep Verdugo on the roster, they are not going to have him rot away on the bench. Joc has been solid this spring which certainly helps his case. 

Center Field: AJ Pollock 

The Dodgers’ big offseason acquisition, Pollock will most likely be in the lineup everyday hitting anywhere from leadoff down to fifth in the order (the club should not bat him leadoff). If he can stay healthy, he could perform like a star. That is an enormous if, though.

Right Field: Cody Bellinger 

Belli supposedly worked on his approach against lefties in the offseason and has explicitly stated that he wants to be in the lineup every day and believes he should be. He’s right. Although he struggles against southpaws, his defense at both first and in the outfield are simply too valuable. He remains a plus defender at both spots and even if it means batting him eighth, he needs to be in the lineup. Expect performance somewhere in between his 2017 and 2018 campaigns. 

Bench: Alex Verdugo 

Capable of playing both left and center field and already stated to be on the Opening Day roster, Verdugo may finally receive his opportunity to prove his worth. He has nothing left to prove at AAA and could be the next Dodger regular. Only time will tell. Although Joc probably starts the year as the starter in left field, Verdugo could quickly claim the job as his own. The Dodgers will play him, but just how much remains to be seen. 

Starting Pitchers 

Walker Buehler 

I hate to say it as a huge Kershaw fan, but this is your new ace, ladies and gentlemen. The numbers prove it. The eye tests proves it. After being slow-played this spring, Ferris is now ready to go. Expect a repeat of 2018, but over the course of the full season. Deadly. 

Dodgers

Rich Hill 

D. Mountain has looked brilliant this spring and appears to not be succumbing to age quite yet. His curve and fastball both look sharp so far. He should slot in as the number 3 starter once Kershaw is healthy and is pitching in the final year of his deal.

Dodgers

Hyun-Jin Ryu 

After a brilliant 2018, we can only hope for more of the same. Ryu was among the league leaders in DRA (2.45) and although he was hurt, he pitched well down the stretch. If the Dodgers can get over 120 innings out of him this season, that would be fantastic. 

Kenta Maeda 

Consistently undervalued around the league, Maeda has locked down a rotation spot this spring. The injury to Kershaw helped his case even though a move to the bullpen seems inevitable with Julio Urias, Tony Gonsolin, and Dustin May knocking down the door.

Ross Stripling 

An All-Star last year, Stripling could find himself between a long relief role and a spot in the rotation all season long. He will most likely be pushed out of his rotation spot when Kershaw returns to full health. 

Bullpen 

Kenley Jansen 

Although people claim him to be declining, the context is key. Jansen underwent a major heart procedure for something he dealt with for quite some time. I fully expect him to return to being elite even though I do not fully trust him again quite yet. He remains a top-five closer in the league and could wind up top-three this season. 

Dodgers

Joe Kelly

Signed this offseason to build the bridge to Kenley, Kelly has looked good this spring. His pitch usage is expected to change now that the Dodgers have their hands on him and only time will tell if he is deserving of the contract he received.  

Dodgers

Pedro Baez 

Elite. That is all. If you are not a member of the Pedro Baez Fan Club, join up. 

Dodgers

Dylan Floro 

Picked up from the Reds last season via trade, Floro proved to be one of the most consistent bullpen pieces for the club. Expect more of the same. 

Yimi Garcia 

He has always had the tools to be a shutdown reliever but has not been able to maintain health throughout his career. He looks amazing this spring with seven scoreless innings under his belt to go along with nine strikeouts. He could end up as the better suited bridge to Kenley by the end of 2019 if the health goes unquestioned. 

Julio Urias

It appears that Urias will be on the Opening Day roster in a long relief role. This keeps his innings down and will most likely allow him to go into the playoffs (hopefully) with no restrictions. He will contribute this year, innings limit or not. We all want him. We will get him. Patience.

Scott Alexander 

He’s good. Dave Roberts just needs to not use him against right-handed hitters. He’s an elite groundball pitcher, among the best in the game.  

Dodgers

The 25th Man 

Depending on the direction the Dodgers want to go in for their roster, the final spot could be filled by anyone. They have so much pitching, they may opt to carry 13 pitchers and only 4 bench bats. It is feasible. Here is the direction they should go in:

Brad Miller 

He is not that far removed from being a more than passable major-league bat. He brings versatility to the table and some pop. He has enjoyed a 1.053 OPS this spring and is the pick of many to be the Chris Taylor or Max Muncy of 2019, as far as out-of-nowhere elite production goes. He genuinely looks fantastic at the plate this spring.  

Not Listed  

Clayton Kershaw 

Kershaw will not be ready for Opening Day, snapping his streak of consecutive starts on the treasured day. Kershaw Day is not Kershaw Day anymore. When he returns, expect a reliever to be sent down to make room.

Tony Cingrani 

If Tony Cilantro stayed healthy, he would have won a significant role in the Dodgers bullpen. Instead, he will begin the season on the IL and once healthy, could bump Caleb Ferguson to AAA to work as a starter. 

Dodgers

Caleb Ferguson 

He should continue to be stretched out as a starter, but his performance last season could warrant meaningful bullpen innings. Remember, he is just 22 years old. 

Minor League Misses 

Tony Gonsolin 

He’s going to be good, folks. His time will come very soon and personally, I do not think it is a stretch to say he has surpassed Dustin May in terms of potential.  

Dustin May 

The Dodgers’ consensus top pitching prospect has showed out this spring but is quite far behind in the pecking order. It would take a couple catastrophic injuries to get him up in the majors before the All-Star Break. 

The Dodgers are solid once again. There is no question about that and just like every year, the end-of-season roster will look vastly different than the currently constructed one. 

What do you think?

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Written by Daniel Preciado

My name is Daniel Preciado and I am 18 years old. I am a sophomore Sport Analytics and Broadcast Journalism dual major at Syracuse University. When I am not in New York, I live in Whittier, California --- not too far from Chavez Ravine. I am pretty old-school for being an analytics guy and I will always embrace debate. Also, Chase Utley did absolutely nothing wrong.

16 Comments

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  1. Not sure which games you are watching as Pederson has had a terrible spring and Verdugo should start. In fact if Roberts was not a Pederson fan he would be traded.
    Pederson does not have professional at bats with RISP. A solo home run once in awhile is not a good spring. Plus he is regressing as a defensive player.

    Verdugo from his last two years in the Minors has earned a shot at starting. Verdugo has very good splits in the minors and Pederson can’t hit left handed hitting.

    • Tmaxter, I know you are high on Verdugo, but somewhere here or on another blog it was said that his ST han’t been alreat. Correct about Joc not hitting LHP and we know he will be platooned. But hitting in the minors, both against LHP and RHP is not anywhere near to be equal to those pitchers from either side in MLB.. But as this article suggests, he will be on OD roster.

      • Paul you and I get to disagree…How do you bring up Farm Guys if you cannot use their Minor League stats? Your comment to me makes no sense. How do they know if they are a prospect if the Team does not use their eye test, input from coaches and stats? Verdugo according to most scouts is the real deal.

        Get use to it! This team is going to use guys up from the minors…Seager, Bellinger, Barnes all from the minors. Pederson too although he has regressed… That is Kasten’s and Friedman’s business plan . Kasten has stated it time and again.

        If a guy has reasonable splits his entire life, granted the Majors are more difficult, but if his splits are decent their is no reason to doubt he will have reasonable splits in the Majors.

        Puig was a right hander that had trouble with left handed pitching made no sense.

        I believe too much is made of right and left handed batting when more emphasis should be on their actual performance against…Seager is a perfect example. He is a lefty that hits Left handed pitching well.

      • I know it’s only ST but Joc is hitting .167 and Verdugo .256 as of today though Joc has more HRs and RBI and a higher Slugg % and OPS. I’d still like to see Verdugo start because I believe he can’t put the ball in play more than Joc and I’m a Joc fan.

      • Joc pederson is the veteran now he deserves the 1st opportunity of the season the 1st opportunity to display his tremendous home run power…I know he can hit 50 home runs if he gets popping out the gates…verdugo will be better for it

  2. Big questions to be answered. Can kershaw even throw 90 anymore? Is Kenley Back, not so sure he got rocked deep/hit hard for outs by a couple of minor leaguers? Same ol same ol with Yimi and Baez, fairly weak. Depending on Kiki, Pederson, Taylor again? Maybe Pollock and Seager can pick up the slack, we will see.

  3. Sooooooo tired of the writers fawning over so-so players. Muncy,Pederson,Bellinger all had good 1st months of rookie season then trailed off to be below avg players. Taylor had a good couple of months then also trailed off in 1st season w/Dodgers then the last year was well below avg. Don’t care how many HRs he hit doesn’t make up for the fact that he led the majors in SOs. Tired of him swinging for the fences with a runner on 3rd and less than 2 outs and striking out. Out of these 4 players think Belli is the only one worth a shot for everyday playing time and if he can’t hit lefties(hate to say it) platoon him no matter how great he thinks he is. The others have had a poor showing this spring with Taylor again looking like a lock to have the most SOs if he has enough ABs. NO Way Pederson should be in starting lineup over Verdugo. Just hope the new batting instructor teaches all of them the basics instead of the elevated swing.

    • Agree with commenter ED. No way this is a championship roster except for the pitching which is first class. Pederson is a joke, Taylor and Muncy seem to have completely lost it. Good luck Dodgers, you will need plenty of it.

      • I am not sold on Muncy. He tailed off significantly towards the end of last year and this spring he has been downright poor. I hope he can turn it around. Presently I do not have confidence in him

        • First thing here is, that FO and Roberts WILL once again do a full on platooning with this current roster, as too many players here still struggle against LHP. One reason why Boston was far superior to Dodgers in this past WS was they didn’t field a lineup full of platooning guys. and I will say this again…it’s a shame that Bellinger is in RF to accommodate Muncy, who I agrre with you that I am not not sold on him at all. In fact I wish either he or Verdugo could be moved for another RHB instead. One reason why I am also not sold on Verdugo either.

      • I concur, ED and have felt that way since ST began this year. This lineup is not balanced enough for my liking and because these are marginal players there will be platooning at many positions whether we like it or not. WSS

    • I agree ed. When you have a roster full of below average or marginal players you platoon. You dont platoon good players! We platoon more than one half our team so there is a serious problem that they can’t keep covering up. The writer has stars in his eyes.

  4. Two AB for Taylor and two Ks today…I have seen enough of him to last an entire season. I prefer Verdugo over Joc and would replace Taylor with Miller.

  5. If Taylor would make professional baseball moves with runners on base..move the runner over by making some type of contact I could forgive him some strikeouts but last year and this spring he has consistently struck out with runners on and cost the Team runs. To me as an old baseball fan that is inexcusable. Every player from little league up is taught to move the runner instead some of these guys are so fixated on their own numbers and launch angles they will not give themselves up to help the Team.

    When you are in the Playoffs and WS against elite teams and pitching every run counts. The Dodgers have lived by the HR and Died by it in the WS as they have refused to move the runner, make contact, make the correct baseball move. If you do not practice it throughout the year you can’t do it in a game. They must consistently make contact and have professional at bats.

    Personally if Taylor does not improve I would trade him for whatever they can get. Joc is another guy he either walks, homers or strikes out.

  6. first i would use a 5 player bench–but miller is now gone–our pitching is fine actually great-Kike should be the regular 2B–Verdugo should start over Joc everyday if possible–Joc & Taylor should be used sparingly–Seager & Turner may only play 140 games–Taylor used there–Joc as a back up to Belli & Pollock–Freese with Muncy at 1B–Keep Martin fresh–there is talk that Barnes will play 3 of 5 games–that will be good–If they can hit 250 together combined I would be happy–both are good defenders—-ROBERTS has to do a better job–Im not sure he can–But I believe we have a 75% chance of going to the World Sieries again
    25% chance of winning it

  7. After my Spring Training vacation trip, I do not have the confidence in this FO’s picks at all. I left Phoenix with a sense that we won’t even be a Wild Card team.

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