Jason Heyward should force Trayce Thompson off Dodgers' Opening Day roster
It seems as if we're in the minority here, because both Juan Toribio of MLB.com and Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic have Trayce Thompson making the Los Angeles Dodgers' Opening Day roster, but how could that be the case when the team would be better off addressing the infield rather than carrying six outfielders?
Thompson has been the odd man out of that group during Spring Training, and it hasn't even been close. Mookie Betts, Chris Taylor and David Peralta were always locks to make the roster, but Jason Heyward and James Outman are lapping Thompson at the moment.
Heyward, who was signed to a minor-league contract this offseason, got his locker next to former teammate and current friend Freddie Freeman, and has then proceeded to tear the cover off the ball after an underwhelming two seasons in 2021 and 2022 with the Cubs.
As for Outman, fans are still a bit miffed that he wasn't on the Dodgers' postseason roster last year. He's been one of the team's best hitters (Heyward, too!) after the first 10 days of Spring Training games, and (as of right now) it'd be shocking if he didn't earn his shot at the onset of 2023.
With all of Outman, Heyward and Taylor providing defensive versatility and possessing the superior bats at the moment, what's the use for Thompson, especially if he can't hit left-handed pitching?
Trayce Thompson to be squeezed off Dodgers' Opening Day roster?
There's no denying what Thompson managed to produce last year. In 74 games with the Dodgers, he hit .268 with a .901 OPS, 145 OPS+, 13 home runs and 39 RBI. He didn't make a single error on the defensive side of the ball.
But that was far and away the best he's performed in his entire career. He was protected in the league's best lineup, which won't be the case in 2023 because the Dodgers lost a lot of offense. And his strikeout rate (30.6% career, 36% last year with LA) was already alarmingly high to begin with.
The elephant in the room, however, is the fact he doesn't hit left-handed pitching (.210 AVG, .711 OPS for his career) better than right-handed pitching ... and has progressively gotten worse against lefties (.174 AVG, .621 OPS last year). If he's a reverse-splits guy from the wrong side of the plate, how can the Dodgers possibly rule in favor of him over Heyward, Outman and another infield addition following the injury to Gavin Lux?
Heyward has the veteran experience (and overall better career track record) while bringing continuity to a clubhouse with Freeman (they played together for five years in Atlanta) that's lost many influential voices over the past few years. Outman is the young spark plug that's been forcing the issue since rosters expanded last year and he's yet to relent, proving that the ceiling on his potential is surely greater than Thompson's.
The Dodgers willingly watched their roster get worse from November until last week. It'd be senseless to continue that trend if Thompson continues to have a lackluster spring while Heyward (and Outman) excel.