(Photo Credit: Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports)
Staying on pace with the tradition we began last winter, we thought that it’s about the proper time to jot down our initial 25-man roster projections for 2017, although there’s probably a very good chance the front office crew of the Dodgers orchestrates at least a handful of significant transactions between now and spring training.
Last year, we ended up publishing two different versions of our projections. The first edition hit on Christmas Eve in 2015, about a week shy of the signings of free agent pitchers Kenta Maeda and Scott Kazmir. The second edition, which was a bit more accurate, was posted right around the beginning of spring camp, approximately six weeks before the Dodgers’ official Opening Day version.
Putting this first model down on paper was indeed a bit eye opening. Obviously, there seems to be quite the surplus of starting pitchers and outfielders on the club’s current 40-man roster, and while it’s true that a team theoretically can’t have too much depth — see the 2016 disabled list count — one can only guess that a trade or two could be on the horizon to even things out and address at least a few glaring needs, most specifically the hole at second base.
As far as the starting rotation goes, the first four spots are almost set in stone, barring any unforeseen injuries. Resident ace Clayton Kershaw will spearhead the Dodgers’ pitching attack, flanked by fellow southpaws Rich Hill and Julio Urias. Maeda will fit somewhere in the middle, once again breaking up the possibility of an all-lefty arsenal. The battle for the fifth spot will be even more monumental than last season, as Kazmir, Ross Stripling, a healthy Hyun-Jin Ryu, Brandon McCarthy, Alex Wood, Jose De Leon and Brock Stewart all presumably compete for one starting slot. Our hypothetical guess for the No. 5 starter was almost random in nature, ultimately choosing the lefty Wood. At this point, we’re guessing that De León and Stewart begin the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City to establish momentum, while Stripling settles in as the long man on the big league roster. Ryu will once again be eased into a functional throwing regimen lasting perhaps into extended spring training, while both Kazmir and McCarthy, if not traded before the beginning of the season, could also begin the year in a rehab-type of scenario, just to prove the required durability. In the end, the overcrowded presence of arms shouldn’t be a problem since Andrew Friedman and his henchmen have already proven to be master manipulators of the disabled list and 25-man roster.
Based on the way things line up presently, the primary trio of Andrew Toles, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig headline the outfield corps, while Trayce Thompson and Andre Ethier will provide cover off the bench, along with offering alternative options in special platoon roles. Super-utility man Enrique Hernandez also makes our list and could provide additional cover, although we’re guessing that he’ll be chiefly be used for infield depth. Another random guess is that Rob Segedin gets the nod over Scott Van Slyke for extra outfield depth, leaving SVS floating around in speculative trade scenarios. Although Van Slyke did indeed battle lower-back issues during the second half of 2016, 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 also provides solid infield cover at both corner spots.
Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes will begin the season as the Dodgers’ catchers, with Kyle Farmer and Jack Murphy next in line on the depth chart at OKC, making many pundits wonder if some type of move could be made to create more depth behind the dish. Youngster Will Smith will surely climb the organizational ladder in rapid fashion, though, quite conceivably ending the year on a high note in Double-A Tulsa.
Most of the trade rumors so far this winter have undoubtedly been revolving around Minnesota second baseman Brian Dozier, and despite a prospective trade making very good sense for both clubs, discussions between the Dodgers and Twins may have come to an impasse. If only for the sake of his tremendous leadership skills and fine examples of work ethic, we believe the Dodgers eventually ink Chase Utley to a one-year deal, setting up the 38-year old to take the lion’s share of reps at the keystone, with Hernandez furnishing a potential platoon option against southpaw pitching. After Utley hit first in a whopping 114 games in his age-37 season, Toles is probably the best early choice to hit leadoff in 2017, with Thompson being another option against left-handed pitching. Incumbent superstars Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Adrian Gonzalez make up the remainder of the infielding crew.
Kenley Jansen will lead the charge in the bullpen with a ton of daylight between him and the next-best closing option. The Dodgers may elect to snag a free agent reliever to arrange a viable setup option, yet based on current personnel, Grant Dayton, Pedro Baez, Josh Fields and Adam Liberatore will occupy the principal roles, with Stripling doubling as both a swing man and an emergency spot-starter. The final spot will be won in a battle between Chris Hatcher, Luis Avilan and Vidal Nuno.
Now that we’ve revealed our best initial guess in our first edition, the front office crew of the Dodgers will almost certainly conduct a flurry of transactions, creating a huge list of edits when our second edition is released at the beginning of spring training. Stay tuned.
Dodgers 25-Man Roster Projections: 2017 First Edition
Outfielders (5) – Andrew Toles, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Andre Ethier and Trayce Thompson
Infielders/Outfielders (2) – Rob Segedin and Enrique Hernandez
Infielders (4) – Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Chase Utley and Adrian Gonzalez
Catchers (2) – Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes
Starting Pitchers (5) – Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood and Julio Urias
Bullpen (7) – Kenley Jansen, Ross Stripling, Pedro Baez, Josh Fields, Grant Dayton, Adam Liberatore and Chris Hatcher