Dodgers: Super-Utility versatility remains club strength

Los Angeles Dodgers Kike Hernandez - Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports
Los Angeles Dodgers Kike Hernandez - Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports /

The Los Angeles Dodgers feature many stars in the everyday lineup, but it may be the players that can handle multiple roles that are the unsung heroes of the team.

When you win seven-straight division titles and reach the World Series twice in that stretch, a lot of credit is given to the superstars on the team. For the Los Angeles Dodgers, a lot of that praise gets heaped onto the likes of Clayton Kershaw, Cody Bellinger, Kenley Jansen, Justin Turner, and even new heroes like Max Muncy, Corey Seager, and Joc Pederson.

But what if the hidden heroes aren’t necessarily those that are featured on the cover of the team program?

A lot goes into winning a division title. Over the course of a 162-game season, champions are built on the depth that they bring to the field on a nightly basis. While some teams can pride themselves on rolling out a super-utility player that fills in where needed, the Los Angeles Dodgers have made a practice of getting contributions from a pair of swiss-army players that have been able to fill holes and pick up starts when injuries have dictated the need.

Enrique Hernandez has appeared in 100 or more games in each of the last four seasons with the Dodgers. He’s been utilized in seven different spots in the field, with the only glove missing from his bag being the catcher’s mitt. He’s even seen one appearance on the mound, where he infamously gave up a walk-off home run in the bottom of the 16th on July 24th against the Phillies.

While he hasn’t been worth much on the mound, Hernandez has nonetheless found a home being a nomad around the diamond. Ultimately he’s done his best work on the outfield grass, where over 1959.2 innings of work he owns 20 defensive runs saved and a lifetime UZR/150 of 12.0, he’s also acquitted himself well at shortstop with 3 DRS and a UZR/150 of 10.4 over 521.1 innings.

With the bat, he’s shown why he’s best utilized as a replacement player. While he sports decent power, including a career-high 21 home runs in 2018, advanced metrics haven’t been fond of his hitting skills, with both wRC+ grading him at exactly replacement level of 100 over the course of his career. He makes that up with his versatility in the field and his plus baserunning (8.7 BsR).

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Similarly, the Dodgers also have Chris Taylor in the fold. Like Hernandez, Taylor can play anywhere in the outfield grass and most infield positions (minus catcher or first base). Also like Hernandez, Taylor sees his most value in the outfield, where he’s been worth 13 defensive runs saved and has a lifetime UZR/150 of 3.3. While he gives the Dodgers some flexibility in the infield, he’s best used in small doses, carrying a -9 DRS combined at 2nd, 3rd, and short, and only rates positively at second according to UZR/150 (8.1).

The Dodgers managed quite the steal when they acquired Taylor from the Mariners in mid-2016. Since donning the Dodger Blue, Taylor has been a solid 9.6 fWAR. A lot of that value comes from his bat, where he’s been a lifetime .266/.337/.463 hitter and averaged nearly 17 home runs and 74 runs per season. He’s also played above league average at the plate during his tenure, floating wRC+ marks of 126, 113, and 107 respectively, with his value being at its best with the more at-bats he receives.

While the 2020 season will be a little less of a grind, with a yet-to-be-determined amount of games to be played in what will undoubtedly be a shortened season, the Dodgers will once again feature a roster built on versatility. In fact, the team will add a third option to their growing toolbelt once the season gets underway.

Matt Beaty made his MLB debut in 2019 and represented a true-feel good story for the Dodgers, rising up from a 27th round pick (372nd overall) to make an impact at the game’s highest level. The results at the plate were encouraging, as Beaty compiled a slash of .265/.317/.458 and added nine home runs and 46 RBI over 268 plate appearances during his first cup of coffee with the big club.

Likewise, he also gave the Dodgers some depth help last season, appearing at 1st, 3rd, and outfield corners. While he split most of his innings at first base last season, he came up through the system as a primary outfield and will likely see more time spent in the grass in 2020. That may make him an option candidate if Joc Pederson and A.J. Pollock prove healthy whenever the season starts. However, with the latter’s questionable health history, Beaty could see himself called upon throughout the year as need dictates.

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Needless to say, the Los Angeles Dodgers will have plenty of available depth if and when the season gets underway. Should the league opt cram as much baseball into a short window, that depth will prove invaluable in the efforts to keep everyone healthy and push for another division title, another World Series, and hopefully a parade in November.