Dodgers: The Versatile but Ineffective Bench
Coming into 2017 the Dodgers had to sort through their wealth of bench players. While the bench is only five men deep, there are several players at Triple-A Oklahoma City that could’ve easily made the bench. The Dodgers bench features players who are very versatile but have been ineffective offensively so far this season.
The Dodgers current bench offers a very versatile group of players who can play all over the field. In fact, every single member of the Dodgers bench is capable of playing at least three different positions on the field. Each of these players has appeared at a minimum of three different positions in a regular season game for the Dodgers.
Scott Van Slyke – While Scott Van Slyke appears to be some bearded monster, his bat hasn’t been anything to be afraid of. He is only hitting .154 in thirteen at bats and has an on-base percentage under 300. Van Slyke is coming off wrist and back injuries and has been ineffective since 2014 when he smashed eleven homers in only 212 at bats. The Dodgers will likely have a long leash with him since he is a right-handed bat who could play first base for Adrian Gonzalez against tough left-handed pitchers. Should Van Slyke continue to struggle, the Dodgers could demote him since he has options left and Rob Segedin can play first base and outfield. To keep his spot, Van Slyke needs to start doing damage against left-handed pitching since that is the sole reason he is on the big league roster.
Austin Barnes – 2017 figures to be Austin Barnes’s first full year on the Dodgers roster. Barnes primary role is to backup Yasmani Grandal when he needs a breather, but he can also play second base and third base. Armed with unique versatility, Barnes is also capable of stealing bases and is known to be a smart hitter who makes regular contact. However, he has struck out four times in only ten at-bats, so he will need to learn to adjust to not playing every day since he was a starter in the minor leagues. Given he can play multiple positions and play catcher very well defensively, there is no reason that Barnes can’t last on the big league roster all season.
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Chase Utley – The silver fox Chase Utley brings a ton of veteran presence and experience to the Dodger locker room and bench. He also gives 110% every play which was demonstrated on Wednesday when scored all the way from first base on a drop third strikeout. Utley will play second base when Forsythe plays third base or needs a day off, but he can also play first and third base if needed. He also will get the bulk of pinch hit at-bats/ against right-handed pitchers since he is the only left-handed hitter on the bench when Toles starts. Utley is currently struggling like the rest of the Dodger bench with a batting average under 100, but that figures to turn around as the season progresses. Utley should be on the Dodgers bench all season even if he struggles given all the intangibles he brings and the fact that he hit fourteen home runs last season.
Enrique Hernandez – Otherwise known as Kike, he brings the most versatility as any Dodger, bench player. Kike can play second base, third base, shortstop, and all three outfield positions. The main reasons Kike is on the team is because he can backup shortstop and also play center field when Joc sits against left-handed starters. Despite being so versatile, Kike’s bat has left a lot to be desired hitting under .200 last season, and he is currently batting 222. The one good thing going for him is that his on-base percentage is over .350. Kike’s roster spot could be in jeopardy if he continues to struggle offensively as Chris Taylor has been playing center field at Triple-A Oklahoma City and he is a better defensive shortstop than Kike. The hope is that Kike rights the ship and reverts to his 2015 form when he hit over 300 while playing all over the diamond.
Trayce Thompson – Originally starting the season with Triple-A Oklahoma City, Trayce is on the Dodgers roster since Franklin Gutierrez hurt his hamstring the other day. Early reports are that Gutierrez could miss a few weeks, so this is Trayce’s chance to shine. While Trayce hasn’t gotten a hit so far in only three at-bats, the Dodgers hope he can replicate last seasons success when he hit thirteen home runs in only eighty games. Should Trayce mash left-handed pitching, he has a shot to take Kike’s role of playing center field when Joc sits out. He will need a strong showing to keep his roster spot when Gutierrez can return since he is one of the few bench players with options left.
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Like the rest of the Dodger’s offense, the bench has not provided any relief filling in for the starters. The bench will get plenty of at-bats since Dave Roberts is playing matchups so far against left-handed starting pitchers. A big part of the Dodgers inability to hit left-handed pitching could be solved if the bench comes to life offensively.