Hitter Playing Time
As of Tuesday, March 12, there are 25 players on the Dodgers with double-digit Spring Training at-bats and 17 of these players have 19+ ABs.
The top-ten at-bat getters on the Dodgers as of March 12 all have between 23 and 29 at-bats to their name. Of these ten players, only two of them did not spend significant time in the major leagues last season, 28-year old outfielder Cameron Perkins and 25-year old first basemen Matt Beaty, both of whom I’ll look into more a little later. The other eight players all have established themselves as guaranteed major leaguers based on their past performance, and are likely just tuning up for the regular season.
The only real position battle brewing within the top-ten is well-known and perhaps overly-covered, and of course, it is the battle for the role of starting second basemen between Enrique Hernández and Chris Taylor. Hernandez leads the team with 29 ABs and Taylor is tied for fourth with 25 ABs.
During this small sample size, their effectiveness has varied widely, leading many people to believe that Hernandez will win the job coming out of Spring Training, and this may very well be true. Even though this is a small amount of ABs to base a decision on playing time on, the competition and the consequent pressure it creates is similar to that which a player goes through, say in the playoffs or in close games, where clutch moments may make the difference between a successful season and a mediocre one.
Thus, the point I’ve been building to is that the key takeaway from a Spring position battle is the response to pressure, especially when both players receive similar amounts of opportunity to impress.
The other intangible that can be drawn from Spring Training playing time is building team chemistry, a skill especially important at catcher and in the outfield. Using that train of thought, it makes sense that presumed starting centerfielder and new Dodger A.J. Pollock and presumed starting catcher Austin Barnes can be found within the top-10 in ABs to this point this Spring.
Now, to quickly bring things back to both Perkins and Beaty.
For Perkins, his role would be that of a pure bench bat. As an older minor leaguer at 28, his prime is quickly passing him by, and thus if the team wants to make use of his remaining skills, then he should be utilized sooner rather than later. So far this Spring, he has 7 hits with just one going for extra-bases (a double), and one walk to eight strikeouts.
Here’s what MLB.com reported about Perkins back in February, when he was a new member of the Seattle Mariners:
"Perkins is a 6-foot-5, 205-pounder who is athletic enough to play all three outfield spots and put up a .288/.374/.447 line in 76 games at Triple-A Lehigh Valley. The Indiana native made his Major League debut for the Phillies last year and while he hit just .182 with one home run and eight RBIs in 88 at-bats, the Mariners are intrigued by his skill set. “Cam Perkins is a good athlete,” general manager Jerry Dipoto said. “He’s got on-base skills. It was a depth move for us. He’s been a good Triple-A player, he’s got options remaining. He has some Major League experience. And from all we’ve been able to unearth, the makeup is great. So he’s an athlete who’s a hard worker and still a flexible roster piece for us.”"
Beaty’s situation is similar. The Dodgers already will have capable first basemen in Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy on the roster coming out of Spring, barring any injuries. At 25 years old instead of 28 like Perkins, his timeline is less clear, and he will be headed back to the minor leagues again this year to begin the season. But as a 40-man roster player, Beaty does figure into the Dodgers’ plans.
This is mostly due to his ability to hit.
Beaty is hitting .292 to this point in the Spring with a home run and a double. At Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, the left-handed hitter played in just 31 games, another reason to give him more Spring Training reps. In those 31 games, Beaty hit .277 with a homer and 10 doubles, but more interestingly he had 12 walks to 17 strikeouts, a solid ratio at any level. Like Perkins, Beaty seems to be more contact-oriented than some other hitters on the Dodgers’ MLB roster, and thus they could be valuable bench pieces at some point this season.