Dodgers Spring Training Cuts: Kiké Hernandez, Chris Heisey or Darwin Barney?

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With Opening Day just a week away, the Dodgers will have to make some tough roster decisions and cuts very soon. Most likely the hardest decisions (the bullpen and the bench) will come down to the final days of exhibition play during the Freeway Series against the Angels this upcoming weekend. The bullpen, with Kenley Jansen and Brandon League out, will be very different looking than last season with new names in the relief corps.

While I have had trouble sorting out the bullpen situation with the plethora of available arms ready for the Dodgers to choose from, I would want to see the Opening Day bullpen composed of: J.P. Howell, Paco Rodriguez, Yimi Garcia, David Huff (he’s making the team, isn’t he), Sergio Santos, Joel Peralta and Chris Hatcher to open the season while Joe Wieland slots into the rotation temporarily until Ryu is back on the mound. The Dodgers also have Dustin McGowan, Carlos Frias, Mike Adams (who shall be added to the active roster, sent to the minors or released by Tuesday), David Aardsma, Adam Liberatore and Juan Nicasio to make decisions on.

Even though I’d love to see Paco and Yimi win a spot on the Opening Day roster, it is more likely one will be sent back down using their options in order for the Dodgers to hang on to Nicasio or one of the other non-roster invitee. Rodriguez, Liberatore, Garcia and Baez all have options remaining.

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While the bullpen will eventually be sorted out, the Dodgers could also carry an extra position player  the first week of the season while Ryu is on the D.L. Right now the Dodgers bench should be: A.J. Ellis, Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke, Alex Guerrero and Justin Turner. Barring any big trade (it doesn’t look like Andre Ethier is going anywhere just yet), the Dodgers will have to decide between three valuable utility players if they choose to go with an extra position player instead of a pitcher.

Kiké Hernandez, Darwin Barney and Chris Heisey are all players with defensive value, super utility and perhaps some added offense from off the bench.

The most impressive of the three offensively has been the 23-year old super utility player Kiké Hernandez who has been scorching hot at the plate the last half of Spring Training. Even though he had a slow start, he’s really made a name for himself already with his 5 homeruns this Spring. He’s collected 13 hits, brought in 12 runs and drove in 10 while striking out 8 times and walking once. He’s only played in 42 major league games between his time with Houston and Miami in 2014, but Hernandez is definitely a great acquisition as part of the trade with Miami.

Hernandez can play all around the infield as well as the outfield, and this defensive versatility is prized by the new front office regime. Hernandez is still young, and some more refinement in the minors this season wouldn’t hurt. Even if the Dodgers don’t give Hernandez an Opening Day roster nod, I have no doubt that we will be seeing him in a Dodger uniform during the upcoming season.

Photoshop by Stacie Wheeler, Darwin Barney- Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports, Kike Hernandez-Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports, Chris Heisey- Allan Henry-USA TODAY Sports

Since Andre Ethier is still here, and Joc Pederson will be the Dodgers Opening Day center fielder (not officially, but c’mon), it looks as though Chris Heisey might begin the season in triple-A. Heisey, who was an excellent pinch-hitter off the bench for the Reds last season, has really struggled at the plate. The 30-year old outfielder is only hitting .098/.156/.195 with a homerun and 10 strikeouts in 45 plate appearances.

Even though Heisey is a solid outfielder and can play center field, I don’t see him making the team over the vibrant Hernandez or the veteran Darwin Barney.

Darwin Barney looks like the most probable choice to begin the season with the Dodgers with Ryu out. Barney, who can play shortstop well, has been hitting well this Spring. I saw Barney working in the cages a lot on my Spring Training trip, and it looks as though the hard work has paid off at the plate this Spring. The 29-year old Gold Glove award winner is hitting an even .300 this Spring with a homerun, 12 hits and just one strikeout in 45 plate appearances.

Barney could be sent down to the minors as well, but I see Don Mattingly going with Barney’s amazing defense as an added depth piece off the bench to begin the season. Both Alex Guerrero and Justin Turner aren’t exactly Gold Glovers at shortstop. Barney won his Gold Glove in 2012 mostly playing second base. but he’s solid at shortstop as well.

It’s a tough decision, but it’s a great decision to have to make as far as having multiple strong utility players in which to choose from. Of course losing Hyun-jin Ryu for any length of time is a blow to the Dodgers commencement to the season, but at least there is depth in the bullpen and in bench options for the Dodgers in order to fill holes with.

Even if Hernandez, Barney and Heisey are optioned to the minors to begin the season, they will definitely all have an impact on this 2015 team at some point. These are great players to have within the Dodgers’ system, and it should make for a strong push in the second half for Los Angeles.

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