Now that the Dodgers have claimed their fifth straight division title, all focus will turn to the playoffs. They have just over a week to figure everything out regarding roster spots, playing time, platoons, and whether or not they’ll keep the Jobu voodoo doll around.
The follow roster is who I think will make it, not necessarily who I want. There’s still some competitions to be had, but as of right now, this is who I believe the Dodgers will go into battle with come October.
Catchers: Yasmani Grandal, Austin Barnes
First Base: Cody Bellinger, Adrian Gonzalez
Second Base: Logan Forsythe, Chase Utley
Third Base: Justin Turner
Shortstop: Corey Seager
Outfield: Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig, Curtis Granderson, Andre Ethier
Utility: Kike Hernandez
The Dodgers could go with 14 position players and add someone like Joc Pederson to the roster, however, I think they’ll prefer to have an extra arm in the bullpen. Pederson misses the cut here, as he’s really not shown any offensive improvement since coming back up from AAA.
Some might disagree with the Gonzalez addition, and they’d have a valid concern. This year, A-Gon hasn’t been the same player we’ve all known for so long. Whether it’s due to his ailing back or just a gradual decline in his performance, he hasn’t been an offensive force at all. Still, he brings a veteran presence to the club, and has played in big games before. His role would strictly be a pinch-hitter off the bench, and he could still be valuable in that capacity.
There’s really not much of an argument for anyone else, so if the Dodgers went with the above players, I’d be inclined to agree with them. Personally, I would have liked to see Alex Verdugo get more playing time in September to find out a little more about what he can do, but that ship has probably sailed now.
Starting Pitchers: Clayton Kershaw, Yu Darvish, Rich Hill, Alex Wood
Barring injury, I don’t see anything changing here. The only real debate will probably be who starts Game 3 between Wood and Hill. Either way, I can’t imagine the Dodgers going with Kershaw on short rest again for Game 4, although nothing is out of the question when it comes to Clayton.
Bullpen: Kenley Jansen, Brandon Morrow, Tony Cingrani, Josh Fields, Tony Watson, Luis Avilan, Kenta Maeda, Walker Buehler
Okay, this is where it gets interesting. The bullpen decisions will definitely be some of the more intriguing ones to watch for. Guys missing the cut here include Pedro Baez, Ross Stripling, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, and Brock Stewart.
Outside of Jansen, is there really another relief pitcher that’s a lock to make the Dodgers’ roster? Perhaps Brandon Morrow. After that though, I’m not sure there is.
I’m going with all three lefties to get added, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see one get left off. Cingrani seems to be the sure bet, as he’s been the best LH option since coming over to the team at the trading deadline. Watson and Avilan are a toss-up, but I might side with Watson if I had to choose.
Remember, this is what I think will happen, not what I want. If I were making this relief core, I’d actually switch Avilan with Ryu. This would still give the Dodgers three LH relief options, but it would also allow them to have another long-relief guy. Although a starter for most of the year, Ryu has pitched out of the bullpen previously, and I trust him more than Avilan, whether it’s for an inning or two, or just a batter.
I believe Fields gets a spot even though he’s been very hit or miss this season. When he’s on, he can be lights out. When he’s off, he can get lit up like a Christmas tree. Still, he’s a better option than Baez right now. And yes, I know that’s not saying much.
Dave Roberts has already said he’s moving Kenta Maeda to the bullpen for the reminder of the season in order to get him used to it. I think that indicates the Dodgers would like to see him fill that role in the post season. He gets a spot over Stripling here, who has not been good at all recently.
I say the final spot goes to Walker Buehler, and yeah, maybe that’s more wishful thinking than anything else. But if you consider everything, it does make some sense. I got a glimpse of Buehler in person this past weekend against the Nationals, and I can tell you, his stuff is legit. Admittedly, relying on a rookie pitcher in the post season is usually not an ideal situation, however, if you look at the other options available for the Dodgers, I honestly don’t see a better one.
Stripling might be the logical choice over Buehler for some, but again, his struggles can’t be ignored. I’d actually prefer Brock Stewart over Stripling at this point, but I can’t picture him making the cut either. Brandon McCarthy will be coming back from a lengthy injury absence, but I don’t see him being able to showcase enough over the rest of the season to convince the Dodgers that he belongs on the roster.
Then there’s Pedro Baez…. and actually, let’s just move on.
Another week’s worth of games could certainly play a factor into these roster decisions. The Dodgers still have to secure home field advantage throughout the playoffs, so Roberts will have to balance playing to win while still allowing ample rest for his players. We’ll see how it all shapes up.
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