With so many guys contributing and helping the Dodgers win, big decisions could be looming for the 25-man playoff roster.
In a season marred by injury, the Dodgers may finally be faced with a “good” roster problem. My Dodgers Way colleague, Daniel Beattie, already broke down the playoff roster pitching rotation dilemma, which you can read here. Now let’s now take a look at the rest of the guys, and who just might be on the bubble.
The break down of the 25-man roster, generally-speaking, could go down something like this: Four starting pitchers (only four should be needed in the playoffs), eight relievers (the team has gone with eight much of the season), five outfielders, six infielders, and two catchers. The catchers are a no-brainer with Yasmani Grandal and playoff vet and newcomer, Carlos Ruiz, holding down the fort behind the plate.
In the outfield, Howie Kendrick (for his outstanding consistency) and Joc Pederson (for his defense and power) are locks, and then things get interesting. Andre Ethier would absolutely have to tear the cover off the ball for the next few weeks to steal the honor from the hot-hitting, fleet-footed Andrew Toles, the revived Yasiel Puig, or Josh Reddick, who is finally starting to wake up and join the hit parade. I love Ethier and what he brings to the team. It totally sucks that a freak injury effectively took away maybe one of his last seasons, but he probably needs to be a cheerleader during the playoffs.
Those five outfielders would give the Dodgers good balance–three batters that hit from the left side and two from the right, if they feel the need to trot out that weird right-handed hitting lineup when they face a tough lefty. In the first round, against their most likely opponent, the Nationals, lefty Gio Gonzalez‘s splits (lefty/righty batting average is .215/.265, home runs 1/17) would most likely require that annoying righty lineup; you know, the one that often puts Utley, Pederson, Reddick, and now Toles, on the bench. Puig and Kendrick slide in nicely from the right side, so everything is fine in this situation, but the problem is Enrique Hernandez and his .196 batting average. Due to his fielding versatility–all outfield positions plus every infield position except for first base and catcher–Hernandez could instead actually take an infield spot on the roster. This is where things start to get really interesting, or gut-wrenching, for the guys that are riding the line between possible playoff glory and spectatorship.
No surprise that roster spots will go to infielders Adrian Gonzalez, Chase Utley, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner. That leaves two slots and three guys to ponder. Hernandez brings the aforementioned versatility in the field, but his terribly weak bat this season is a big problem. So it sounds like a no-brainer to keep slick-fielding, solid-hitting Charlie Culberson and the feel-good story of the second-half, Rob Segedin, who has shown some good pop in his bat, over the struggling Hernandez. However, Hernandez could come out of his slump and provide the nice spark he did last season. It seems like the nerds upstairs will go with the stats, and that could mean Kiké stays home. Injuries to either Culberson or Segedin could give Kiké an opening by default unless he suddenly turns things around and gets hot. Same thing with Ethier, he could go all Reggie Jackson on us and then maybe Toles or Reddick loses his spot. You never know, it could happen….it’s baseball, and baseball is a weird game.
Whatever happens, it’s going to be fun seeing how the playoff roster rounds out as the season winds down. It might not even really matter, as things are starting to look a lot like 1988. Yeah, I’m talking about destiny. I know it’s still early, but this squad is finding all kinds of ways to win, just like the last Dodger team that brought home the championship. Dodger baseball, good times again….who knew?