Sorting Out the Dodgers Bench


Yesterday we took a look at the Dodgers bullpen and the many combinations and options that Farhan Zaidi and Andrew Friedman have to sort out in making their decisions for the Opening Day roster. The bullpen is most definitely the biggest gray area of the roster and where decisions will be the toughest. We will continue to update the relief situation as cuts come during these final weeks of Spring Training. A lot of the decisions will depend on the health of Brandon League, Joel Peralta and J.P. Howell, but the collection of relief pitchers allows for flexibility and fluidity not only when the season opens on April 6th but also throughout the season and into the postseason should the Dodgers go that far.

The Dodgers bench will be very important this season. There are still some question marks surrounding the 25th man on the Opening Day roster who will be a part of the bench. I’m assuming that Andre Ethier will still be here, and barring a sudden trade before the season, Ethier will have to accept a bench role since Joc Pederson is certainly making the team as the starting center fielder. We’ve written a lot about Andre Ethier here at LL over the offseason, but the reality is that the Dodgers have yet to find a trade partner to take on his contract even though they were reportedly willing to eat a big chunk of his pay.

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Having Ethier on the bench is a good thing. Arguments that suggest Chris Heisey is a better option off the bench may have some merit because of his defense, but he has honestly not impressed me so much this Spring. Heisey is hitting .091/.192/.227 this Spring over 13 games. Even though Ethier is not having a Joctacular Spring, he’s faring a bit better at the plate than that (.250 with 2 doubles) and has been an important part of this team going on a decade. Even though Heisey may somehow make the team as the fifth outfielder, it is more likely that he would accept a minor league assignment and provide depth in triple-A. I just can’t fathom the front office eating $53.5 million by cutting Ethier to go with Heisey.

A.J. Ellis will be the backup catcher. I love A.J., don’t get me wrong, but at this point Yasmani Grandal is the Dodgers frontline catcher. Bitterness from the Matt Kemp trade is of course understandable, but I suggested to give Yasmani Grandal a chance earlier this offseason. I think Yasmani will catch a majority of the games this season for the Dodgers allowing A.J. Ellis to remain fresh through the long season and into October. Grandal has shown glimpses of power from both sides of the plate this Spring, and the Dodgers are desperately in the need of production from their catchers after the abysmal year A.J. Ellis and Drew Butera had offensively last season.

Scott Val Slyke at bat during Spring Training at Camelback Ranch. Photo: Stacie Wheeler

My opinion has wavered a bit since I suggested that the Dodgers may opt to go with Chris Heisey instead of Scott Van Slyke earlier this Spring. After watching Scott Van Slyke take batting practice and hit a monster homerun during my Spring Training trip, I feel as though Van Slyke has become an important part of the Dodgers bench (and so does Adrian). Van Slyke is also important for the Dodgers as a back up to Adrian Gonzalez at first base. Not that Spring numbers matter that much, but SVS is hitting .318 this Spring while Gonzo is batting .179. Gonzalez should be just fine, but I wouldn’t mind seeing Van Slyke give Gonzo some much deserved rest sprinkled throughout the season.

The Dodgers are so lucky to have picked up Justin Turner last Spring, and the red-headed former NRI was the Dodgers biggest helper off the bench last season. His defense isn’t spectacular (he really shouldn’t play shortstop), but his .423/.444/.577 showing this Spring over 10 games is hopefully a preview of what is to come in his second season with the Dodgers. He’s adequate enough around the infield, and he was better than most of the bench players around the league.

The final slot is the one that is the most up in the air, but I think you know by now that I feel Alex Guerrero will be claiming the last bench spot. Not only do the Dodgers have to find a place for him due to his contract and his unwillingness to play in the minors again, but the Dodgers have to find a place for his bat as well. Guerrero is absolutely smoking hot this Spring hitting .400/.423/.640 with 2 homeruns and 6 RBI. There’s no doubt he can hit, and he is at least capable at shortstop and third base.

We have to remember that Juan Uribe is about to turn 36-years old, and he was pretty awful in 2011-2012. He’s in his last year of his contract, and the Dodgers don’t have a third baseman to take over for Uribe as of right now. Jimmy Rollins is also 36, and he’s not exactly an ideal leadoff hitter. I’d be shocked if Guerrero didn’t make the Opening Day roster not just because the Dodgers have to find a place for him, but also because they may need him to play third base or shortstop sooner rather than later. Guerrero could even play some left field should Carl Crawford become disabled at some point (almost inevitable).

Unfortunately Darwin Barney may be the odd man out should Guerrero break with the team after Spring Training. I like Barney, and I really am amazed at his defense, but then again Barney cannot hit like Guerrero. Barney, like Heisey, could be chosen by the front office because of their defense, but I see them starting the season off in Oklahoma City. That doesn’t mean we won’t see either player at some point in the season.

My Dodger bench predictions: A.J. Ellis, Justin Turner, Scott Van Slyke, Alex Guerrero, Andre Ethier

Who do you think will round out the Dodgers bench? Let  me know in the comment section.