Dodgers 25-Man Roster: Putting Together a Functioning Outfield

The 2018 Cactus League schedule hasn’t even started yet and already I’ve changed my mind at least twice about which players will make up the Dodgers‘ 2018 Opening Day roster.

Admittedly, when the big trade with the Braves went down not long before Christmas, I was thinking to myself that there was no way Matt Kemp would make the Los Angeles 25-man roster. As a matter of fact, just a few days after the deal, I wrote a story about how Rob Segedin would make a better choice than Kemp. At the time, the general consensus was that Kemp would be immediately flipped to another club, even if the return was minimal for the Dodgers.

Yet, as the winter progressed, Kemp seemed to be settling in. Several of his teammates, most specifically Kenley Jansen and Justin Turner, were campaigning in some shape or form for him to stay. Kemp was working hard, as made evident by his weight loss and physical condition. For all intents and purposes, he was busting his tail to earn a spot on the team.

Defense aside, the guy can still hit. He tallied 19 long balls last year, despite an injury riddled campaign. And if we drift back to the 2016 season when he was healthy, the Oklahoma native blasted 39 doubles, 35 homers and 108 RBI. On top of that, he’s been notoriously successful against southpaw pitching throughout his career, having logged a lifetime .319/.380/.542 slash line. And, he still has somewhat of a decent arm, although it’s a far cry from the throwing ability he had several years back when he was right up there with some of the best guns in the game.

So if the Dodgers were going to pay him more than $20 million anyway, why not give him a chance? Besides, if he were able to produce, there are several other players in the picture who have options to create some space. In my mind, it made sense from a couple different perspectives.

Not long after players reported to Camelback for spring camp, my dangerous mind got to thinking again. I’m now thinking a Kemp inclusion would clearly disrupt the foundation of the squad which journeyed to Game 7 of the 2017 World Series. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always been a huge Kemp fan, and I also believe that team chemistry is one of those things which is built over the full course of a season. But the more I put together prospective lineups for the upcoming year, the more I’m convinced Kemp’s presence would throw the club’s functionality out of whack—and that’s not even taking into consideration is supposed attitude adjustment.

The biggest reason for this is the prospective lineups against left-handed pitching. The important thing to remember is that the Dodgers will be facing a southpaw starter about 33% of the time, as righty starters in the MLB roughly outnumber lefties at a two to one ratio. So with an opposing lefty on the bump, we presumably have Chris Taylor in center field—because Logan Forsythe is absolutely going to be in the lineup, being the southpaw killer he is. And despite his reverse-split tendencies last season, Yasiel Puig will start most of the time in right. This scenario still allows room for Kemp in left field, however, we need to make room for Enrique Hernandez.

According to some, Kemp is still a better offensive option than Hernandez, but if Kiké is going to be on the roster—and he will—he’s going to be in the lineup against a lefty starter. Sure, he could conceivably spell Corey Seager at short, but the times that Seager warrants a rest will be few and far between. The same can be said with Turner at third base, despite his own apparent reverse splits. Therefore, the most logical starting spot for Hernadez is left field. And there’s no way a roster spot battle comes down to Hernandez vs. Kemp—Hernandez is just too versatile in terms of positioning, plus he has a much better glove.

Furthermore, it would be almost impossible to carry both players, especially when considering Chase Utley‘s apparent limitations. Couple that with the probability that the club goes with an eight-man bullpen to begin the year, and the logical reasoning for keeping Kemp just isn’t there. And to have him solely as a right-handed bat of the bench doesn’t make sense at all.

Moreover, against righty pitching, there still isn’t much space for Kemp, mainly because one of Joc Pederson or Andrew Toles will be seeing the lion’s share of time in left field, so long as they are healthy and producing. And with Utley being around to spell Forsythe at second, Taylor stays put in center while Puig stays in right, as both have the ability to impressively handle right-handed pitching.

All that said, I’m going to set my preferred outfield with Puig, Taylor and Pederson as the primary contributors, in addition to having Hernandez in there as the specialist against lefty pitching and Tolesy filling the secondary role of providing cover in all three spots. If Toles is indeed ready to go, by no means does it make sense to carry Kemp over him, even if Toles has options on his contract. Toles can cover all three spots, he has a better arm, he’s quicker, has superior range, and may not be far behind Kemp’s ability to produce at the dish.

For what it’s worth, that’s the way I see it—at least until I change my mind again next week.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

Dodgers 2018 Roster: Where Exactly Does Wilmer Font Fit In?

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(Mandatory Credit: Cody Roper/OKC Dodgers)

With most of the core players returning from last season, there isn’t an overwhelming amount of speculation surroundinging the Dodgers‘ 25-man roster heading into Opening Day. However, there are several spots—most specifically, one outfield spot and a few utility spots on the pitching staff and the bench—which could conceivably be won or lost over the course of the 2018 Cactus League schedule.

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Breaking Down Two Recent Free-Agent Deals and How They Affect the Dodgers

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(Mandatory Credit: John Minchillo/Associated Press)

The Dodgers have been quiet. Not too quiet, just quiet. They haven’t signed a big name free agent. They haven’t traded for the face of a franchise. They haven’t done much, but did they really need to?

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Dodgers Should Pursue Chris Archer and Kevin Kiermaier

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(Photo Credit: The Tampa Bay Times)

The front office has made it abundantly clear this off-season that they’re not going to make any big splashy moves, or add any money to their payroll. They like the team where it is, and they’re setting it up nicely for the future. But, the Tampa Bay Rays seem to be having a fire sale, and why wouldn’t the Dodgers at least want to check in on how they could acquire Chris Archer and Kevin Kiermaier.

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Matt Kemp and Justin Upton: Paths Cross, Diverge Again

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(Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

Nine years ago, the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Arizona Diamondbacks each had a dynamic young outfielder you could build a team around. They were cornerstone players with a heady mix of speed and power, poised to lead their teams in a battle for National League West supremacy for years to come.

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Dodgers Finally Make Chase Utley Deal Official

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(Mandatory Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)

Although it took several days to finalize the entire deal, the Dodgers officially announced the signing of veteran Chase Utley on Saturday morning.

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More Dodgers Spring Training Updates

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Monday, we talked about five things to look for as the Dodgers headed into spring training. Three days in, we already have some answers or insight into some of those questions.

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Making Sense of the Tim Lincecum Rumors

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(Mandatory Credit: Matt York/AP)

In case you haven’t heard the most recent rumblings, the Dodgers had representatives in Seattle today to view a showcase of righty pitcher Tim Lincecum, who sat out all of the 2017 season after his attempted comeback in 2016 essentially failed.

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How the Cubs Signing Yu Darvish Affects the Dodgers

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All offseason, we have heard rumors upon rumors about the top two free agent starters; Yu Darvish and Jake Arrieta.  One of those starters, Arrieta, is still unsigned with spring training now officially underway. The other, Darvish, is headed to Arrieta’s former team, the Chicago Cubs.

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More Thoughts on Dodgers’ Prospective Opening Day Roster

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(Mandatory Credit: Matt Marton/USA TODAY Sports)

The moment that fans of the Dodgers have been waiting for all winter has finally arrived. Even though there normally isn’t much news surrounding the first reporting day, pitchers and catchers are indeed in the house.

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