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While it’s entirely too early in the offseason to consider potential batting orders and lineups, it’s definitely not out of line to think about prospective ingredients for the 25-man roster, as the first few moves of the winter promise to dictate which direction the Dodgers will be heading as far as assembling player personnel.
Utility man Rob Segedin proved to Dodgers’ management last year that he has the necessary skills to compete at the big league level, but if the full compliment of available outfielders is healthy and productive through spring training, it remains to be seen if Segedin will secure a spot on the 25-man roster in the early portion of the 2017 campaign.
Considering the club’s overwhelming offensive weakness against left-handed pitching, most fans would agree that Segedin should fit on the roster somewhere, at the very least being a solid bat off the bench or getting the occasional nod in the field against an opposing southpaw pitcher. However, with the outfield at full strength, a right-handed hitting trio of Yasiel Puig, Trayce Thompson and Scott Van Slyke could certainly handle the duties, and that’s not even mentioning super-utility righty Enrique Hernandez. What’s more, when contemplating the left-handed hitting outfield crew — Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson and Andrew Toles — many fans wonder how many outfielders the Dodgers would carry on the 25-man roster. Seemingly, five would be about right, six would be a stretch, while seven would be highly improbable.
As we saw last year, though, problems of this nature often have ways of working themselves out. It’s tough to speculate exactly how the roster will shape up when the dust settles on the free agent and trade markets, in addition to which players may be suffering some type of injury early in the spring.
In a small sample size last season, Segedin hit .233/.301/.370 with two home runs, a couple of doubles, a triple and 12 RBI over 83 plate appearances in 40 games. When looking at his splits, he showed reverse tendencies, having hit .265/.325/.382 in 40 chances against righties, while slashing .205/.279/.359 in 43 plate appearances against left-handed pitching. At the Triple-A level last season, however, Segedin hit .302/.372/.565 with 18 long balls in 349 PAs against right-handed throwers, while logging a .312/.386/.551 line with five home runs over 158 plate appearances against southpaws. Both lines incredibly calculate to a .937 OPS, suggesting he may be equally effective from both sides of the dish.
As far as roster preferences go, the general feel amongst the Dodgers’ fan base is that Segedin probably gets the nod over both Van Slyke and Hernandez. Granted, Van Slyke did indeed battle lower-back issues during the second half of last season, yet he’s been on a steady decline since a productive 2014, when he hit .297/.386/.524 with 11 home runs in 246 plate appearances. Segedin’s numbers supersede Henandez’s .190/.283/.324 slash line, and make many followers of the Dodgers wonder if Enrique’s super-productive 2015 campaign against lefty pitching was somewhat of a fluke.
It’s hard to imagine some of these players not being included in a potential trade this winter, but in the same breath, executives around the league are well aware of both the Dodgers’ needs and their minor league riches, often demanding much, much more in return than what they’re willing to send to Los Angeles.
In the end, if there’s no movement in trades, and if the entire crew is healthy, it’s safe to visualize an outfielding corps consisting of Toles, Pederson, Ethier, Thompson and Puig, guessing that management will choose to carry five. If a sixth is added to the mix, Segedin or Van Slyke would likely be considered, as Hernandez would be a long shot unless he does something almost miraculous at spring camp. Hernandez may have a chance of surviving the roster cuts if the Dodgers decide to stay thin in the infield and need extra cover at shortstop, second or third base.
With a new collective bargaining agreement expected to be reached by December 1 and the Winter Meetings promising to heat up shortly thereafter, the Dodgers should start to show some signs of life soon, eventually beginning to indicate the general direction of a forthcoming roster.