The Dodgers have some decisions to make, and they are running out of time. The deadline to set 25 man rosters for the start of the season is Sunday, and opening day is on Monday. The Dodgers need to figure out what they are going to do with their extra starting pitchers, who’s going to make up the bullpen, and which player gets the last spot on the bench.
Los Angeles Dodgers manager Don Mattingly in the first inning against the Seattle Mariners at Peoria Sports Complex. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
So how will the Dodger roster shake out?
The Dodgers have too many starting pitchers. That is what we like to call a high quality problem. Everyone else has been calling it the surplus. The Dodgers have eight starters entering spring camp, and with only five spots to fill, the Dodgers have to decide which guys to put into the rotation, which starter or starters to stash in the bullpen, and which guys could be possible trade bait.
The Dodgers already have announced they have filled four of the five spots. Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Hyun-jin Ryu, and Josh Beckett will make up the first four spots. The fifth starter slot, which has generally been problematic for the Dodgers in the past, is still up in the air just five days before opening day. The Dodgers must choose between lefties Chris Capuano, Ted Lilly, and right hander Aaron Harang.
The choice may have been made easier with the fingernail injury to Chad Billingsley. Bills figures to be in the rotation once he is healthy. As of right now he is unable to throw a curveball because of the nail injury. There’s no point in sending Bills out there when he can’t throw an off-speed pitch. The Dodgers want to hold him back for a week or two so he can work on those curveballs.
Ted Lilly however has had a terrible spring. He’s only pitched 6.2 innings because of the flu and general rustyness. He’s allowed eleven runs, and 11 hits in just three games, and he has only started once. It is very unlikely he can begin the season on time, and I expect him to be placed on the disabled list once the season starts next week.
So if Lilly and Bills are on the DL, then what about Aaron Harang? The Big Show looks to be on the trading block, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Dodgers trade the big right hander in the next few days. There is no reason why other teams shouldn’t be interested in Harang. The big show is a fly ball pitcher and would do better in bigger ballparks. His walk rates get out of hand, but overall for a back of the rotation guy you could do a lot worse. He’s workhorse as well, and should give any team plenty of innings. He gave the Dodgers 180 innings last season. We also learned that Harang could have a visions problem.
At this point we are pretty sure the Dodgers are going to stash Chris Capuano in the bullpen, but they could buyout both Cappy and Harang before opening day. Both pitchers have 2 two million dollar buyout clauses in their contracts. Lilly has a no-trade clause for this season, so it’s doubtful the Dodgers would trade him.
Again my guess is, Bills and Lilly to the DL, Cappy to the bullpen, and Harang to the trade block.
The Dodgers came into spring training with four or five of the spots in the pen already spoken for. This has made it pretty darn hard for non-roster guys like Moylan and Gregg to make team. Obviously Brandon League, Kenley Jansen, and Ronald Belisario are locks. You can throw in recently signed lefty specialist J.P. Howell, and that makes four. I wish this wasn’t the case, but you can bet Matt Guerrier will make the team as well, since he is under contract. That leaves two spots left. One should go to Chris Capuano, and the last bullpen spot could go to a number of guys. Peter Moylan, Josh Wall, or even Paco Rodriguez. But my best guess is that it goes to right hander Keven Gregg. It pains me to say this but I am hearing through the grapevine that he might make the club.
It’s somewhat frightening, but maybe he’ll turn out to be another Jamey Wright and pleasantly surprise us. I’m not real enamored with Gregg. After all the Dodgers picked him up as a non-roster invite on a minor league contract. Normally relievers who don’t get offered major league contracts, don’t get offered for a reason. Gregg is on the wrong side of 30, (he’s 34) and his astronomical walk rates are terrifying. He’s had a good spring, which has impressed the Dodgers. He’s pitched nine spring innings, in nine games, and only allowed one run on three hits. You should never base your evaluation on only nine innings. Hello small sample size! You know if he just cut down on his walks he could be pretty good. He actually didn’t walk anyone this spring, so maybe there is hope for him. He puts up pretty decent strikeout numbers, and rarely allows home runs. But knowing the Dodgers love for veteran middle relievers who can’t throw strikes……yeah, he’s making the team.
Here is where the Dodgers always seem to have problems. The left side of the infield has been a huge issue, but now things are a bit messed up because of the thumb injury to Hanley Ramirez. The Dodgers had already decided that Ramirez would play shortstop, and Luis Cruz would play third base, while Dee Gordon plays in Albuquerque. But then Hanley tore his thumb during the World Baseball Classic while playing for Team Dominican. Gordon worked hard during spring and improved his plate discipline, but he still needs a lot of work on both sides of the ball. The Dodgers decided to put Gordon in Albuquerque, slide Cruz over to short, and then rotate three scrubbies at third base. If it were up to me, I would much rather have Gordon at short, and Cruz at third, and the scrubs on the bench until Hanley comes back, but it’s not my call. Juan Uribe, Nick Punto, and Jerry Hairston should all see playing time at third base. Rotating bench players for two months is not going to go well for the Dodgers. But hey, they’ll find out that nugget of knowledge soon enough.
The Miracle man A.J. Ellis will be behind the plate for his second season as the Dodger’s starting catcher. We already know how awesome A.J. is. A.J. excels on both offense and defense. His plate discipline is amazing. He gets on base at a record clip. He can hit a home run every once in a while, and he has a strong throwing arm. Don’t forget about his 34% caught stealing percentage last year. AJ is beloved by all Dodger fans. Time Federowicz also known as Fedex will provide insurance in a backup role. Fedex looks to be a solid catcher, with good hands, strong throwing arm and a decent bat. No complaints here.
This is the area that is going to be a problem. Not that the Dodger bench is horrible, it’s just that none of the players can hit. The bench is so important for a National League team. Think about it. How many times does a National League team need to go to a pinch-hitter each game? Two or three times maybe? You need guys who can come off the bench and collect hits, and or hit home runs. Pinch-hits are going to be few and far between this season.
Two spots are going to go to Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston. I like Schumaker. He’s versatile on defense, and he may be the best hitter of the bench group. Expect Schumaker t o mostly play the outfield, but he should see time at second base. Hairston will see a lot of time at third base while Hanley is out. Jhair had a terrible spring, and his shoulder injury that prevented him from throwing properly from third base last year may be bothering him again. The rest of the spots should go to Juan Uribe, Nick Punto, and Fedex is the backup catcher. Punto and Uribe will see plenty of time at third base as well. There are three other Dodgers that are fighting for one of the spots on the bench. Outfielder Alex Castellanos, who has had an impressive spring, belting four home runs, utility infielder Alfredo Amezaga who has also looked good, and all around rover Elian Herrera. I like Castellanos, and Amezaga has looked useful, but Herrera is my favorite. He can play nearly every position, except pitcher and catcher, has great plate discipline, and if given the chance could be a surprise.
Check out my predictions on how the roster shakes out below. We’ll see how close I get. Weigh in with your roster predictions in the comments. What do you think the 2013 Dodger roster will look like on Monday?
Dodger 25 man roster
Starting rotation.Clayton KershawZack GreinkeHyun-jin RyuJosh BeckettChad Billingsley-(may start season on DL)
The BullpenBrandon League-CLKenley JansenRonald BelisarioJ.P. HowellMatt GuerrierKevin GreggChris Capuano
The starting lineupCarl Crawford LFMark Ellis 2BMatt Kemp CFAdrian Gonzalez 1BAndre Ethier RFLuis Cruz SSJerry Hairston/JuanUribe/Nick Punto 3BA.J. Ellis C
The BenchTim Federowicz CNick Punto IFJuan Uribe IFSkip Schumaker OF/IFJerry Hairston IF/OF
On disabled listHanley Ramirez SSScott Elbert LHPChad Billinglsey RHPTed Lilly LHP