(Photo Credit: Joe Camporeale/USA TODAY Sports)
While many fans of the Dodgers may think it’s entirely too early to think about secondary infield depth, it very well could be a significant issue for the management crew heading into spring training, as pitchers and catchers are officially scheduled to report in exactly eight weeks. Just imagine if the team had not yet reached an agreement with Justin Turner already—the void at the hot corner heading into 2017 would have been a jumble of mass chaos, especially considering the question marks at second base.
Although it’s tough to guess exactly how the Dodgers will pare down the 25-man roster at the end of Cactus League play, it’s probably safe to assume that Enrique Hernandez, Rob Segedin and Chris Taylor will be given ample opportunities to earn spots on the big league roster as utility players, barring any major catastrophes. And all three could play a role in the contest of which player ultimately gets the most looks at the hot corner behind Turner.
It’s not really a big deal that all three utility guys are right-handed hitters, because Turner actually profiles better offensively against right-handed pitching, while the Dodgers’ struggles against southpaw pitching are clearly evident. Plus, considering that Turner’s appearances per season are still increasing yearly, the question still lingers as to how much playing time will be available at third base without injuries coming into play. Turner appeared in 109 games in 2014, and increased that number to 129 in 2015. Last year at 31 years of age, he played in a whopping 151 regular season games.
Just how well Hernandez, Segedin or Taylor can handle duties at third base certainly won’t be the only factor that management considers when handing out roster spots, as additional cover will be required at shortstop and second base. As infielder Charlie Culberson won’t be an early option after having been outrighted, Hernandez and Taylor have the abilities to also sufficiently fill in at shortstop and second base if needed, giving both an apparent edge. Segedin can handle first base, though, in addition to both corner outfield spots, putting him in a conceivable head-to-head battle with Scott Van Slyke for a roster spot.
Hernandez will have a ton to prove after having a very rough 2016 season, slashing .190/.283/.324 over 109 games and 244 plate appearances, and having been left off the Dodgers’ NLDS roster against the Nationals. He hit .189/.308/.361 against left-handed pitchers in 2016, after batting a .270/.362/.478 against southpaw pitchers over his career. As Hernandez will probably be given a very fair shot to make the Opening Day roster, one might imagine that his leash may be rather short, based on offense alone.
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 like Turner, 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.
Taylor stuck around for 34 big league games last season, slashing .207/.258/.362 over 62 plate appearances. His best game came in July, when he was only a single shy of hitting for the cycle. Taylor smacked six RBI and scored three runs against Diamondbacks’ pitching, including a two-run triple early in the game and a monstrous grand slam in the sixth frame.
While there’s still time for the front office crew to make player personnel changes via trade or free agency, Hernandez, Segedin and Taylor promise to get the majority of looks when in comes to determining the squad’s chief utility player.
Dodgers pitchers and catchers will report to camp on February 15, while position players need to check-in by February 20. Cactus League play begins against the White Sox on February 25.