Dodgers: Predicting who Makes the Opening Day Bench
It has been a very competitive spring training so far for the Dodgers as players are competing for an opening day roster spot. Filling out the bench for the team is going to be a tough decision for Dave Roberts and the front office to make.
There are multiple position players that bring different things to the table that the Dodgers could choose from. There are players who can provide power at the plate, players who are better defensively, and players who can provide a good quality at-bat late in a game.
Let’s begin with the outfield when it comes to rounding out the bench. The Dodgers have two outfield spots that are solidified. After his breakout season last year Chris Taylor is most likely to begin the season as an everyday starting outfield. Yasiel Puig pretty much has the right field position locked up due to his incredible defense and improvement at the plate last year. You might see Puig in a platoon role at times this year especially if he struggles with the bat, but his arm and defense is too valuable to be a bench player.
That leaves the Dodgers with one more outfield spot that they will probably platoon between multiple players. The players that will be competing for that starting left field spot will be Matt Kemp, Andrew Toles, Joc Pederson, Trayce Thompson, and Alex Verdugo. The Dodgers will most likely go with two possibly three of these players for the opening day roster.
The two players that I would go with out of this bunch is Matt Kemp and Andrew Toles. The reason I think Kemp and Toles are the players they should pick is because they both provide a different set of skills the Dodgers need. Toles is a lefty who has good speed and can swing the bat. Chris Taylor and Yasiel Puig are the only Dodgers that have great speed and even though Puig can run he’s still not a great baserunner who steals bases at a high percentage.
Toles can pinch run late in games and has the ability to come off the bench and steal a base. I know the value of the stolen base has declined over the years but it’s still a great threat to have. He’s also a pretty good hitter who can hit for a good average and provide some pop. Defensively because of his speed he could cover a lot of ground. An outfield of Toles, Taylor, and Puig would be one of the fastest in the majors. It would be hard to find a gap amongst that trio.
Kemp is almost the complete opposite of Toles. He’s a big righty with power who can no longer run or play defense. However, Matt Kemp can still hit a baseball pretty far and that is always a good thing to have. Ever since Kemp left I have always felt like the Dodgers were missing another right-handed power bat. The lineup has been very left-handed dominant over the last couple of years and they now have a proven power bat that can hit a home run at any given moment.
Kemp can provide some much-needed pop in the middle of the lineup or come off the bench late in the game as a home run threat. The Dodgers could platoon Toles and Kemp starting Toles against righties and Kemp against lefties. The rest of the bench should be filled out with super utility man Kike Hernandez who can basically play every position except catcher.
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Kike provides so much value because you can play him where ever you want. Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal will split catching duties, but in order to give Barnes more at-bats, I see the Dodgers playing him a lot at second base as well when they sit down Forsythe.
Grandal could also get some starts at first base when Bellinger needs a break. Assuming the Dodgers go with 12 pitchers this will lead two more spots for bench players. The players in the running for the final two spots will be Pederson, Jake Peters, Trayce Thompson, Chase Utley, Alex Verdugo and Kyle Farmer. The two players I would choose to start the season with is Farmer and Pederson.
I know Jake Peters has been on a tear this spring but the sample size isn’t quite big enough yet to earn a roster spot. Thompson is a solid player but there are simply too many players better than him in the outfield to make the team. Verdugo who is the Dodgers second-best prospect behind Walker Buehler should start in AAA to get everyday playing time. I know the Dodgers love Utley’s veteran leadership but he just no longer provides enough production to warrant a spot.
Farmer is a guy that has shown he can hit at the major league level. He has put in a ton of work and provides really professional at bats. The Dodgers trusted Farmer’s ability enough to use him in the postseason at times last year despite not having much big league experience. He could play 3B as well as catcher and provides a solid at-bat off the bench.
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Pederson is a player that has a great glove and power from the left side of the plate. This group of bench players gives the Dodgers a little bit of everything. If they need a guy that can hit a HR they could pick their poison with Kemp or Pederson. If they need more of a contact hitter they got Toles and Farmer. Not to mention Kike and Barnes who will be getting a lot of starts but will also have coming off the bench at times as well. It is going to be a tough the decision to make but it is a good problem to have when there are so many options.