After breaking down and analyzing several specific areas of the Dodgers‘ roster over the past week, it’s probably as good a time as any to reveal our intermediate round of 25-man roster projections for the upcoming 2017 campaign.
Sticking with the tradition from last year, this second round of predictions should get us relatively close to the final product that we’ll see on the diamond by the time April arrives. And also like last year, we’ll put one more final version together once all the positional battles begin to unfold at the end of Cactus League play — probably a few days before the club formally presents the Dodgers’ official 25-man roster to the MLB front office.
Starting with what appears to be the most solidified area of the club, the infield promises to be one of the anchors of the squad both offensively and defensively. Incumbent superstars Adrian Gonzalez, Corey Seager and Justin Turner will again be the backbone of the crew, hoping that newly acquired second baseman Logan Forsythe needs just a limited amount of time to familiarize himself with his teammates and produce within the current chemistry of the squad. And we’ve already laid out the parameters necessary for Enrique Hernandez to be chosen over Chris Taylor and ultimately make the 25-man. If he’s producing — most specifically, regaining his offensive success against southpaw pitching — Hernandez should maintain a stronghold as the utility man for the middle-infield spots for much of the season. Barring injury, these five players could take care of most of the infield responsibilities in 2017.
Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes will begin the season as the Dodgers’ catching tandem. In regards to the depth chart in the farm system, Los Angeles signed veteran backstop Bobby Wilson to a minor league deal back in early January. There’s a very reasonable chance that he could remain with the organization if he accepts an outright assignment once the roster begins to take shape late in the spring. In addition to providing cover in case of injury, Wilson also appears likely to play the mentor role to youngsters Kyle Farmer and Jack Murphy if he indeed elects to stay in the organization.
As far as the outfield goes, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier and Andrew Toles are poised to be the primary contributors, at least until the versatile Trayce Thompson fully recovers from complications involving the ailment with his back. As well as providing cover at first base, Scott Van Slyke has a very strong chance of being employed as the chief outfield platoon player, as indicated by the detailed discussion which we outlined early last week.
Moving on to the starting rotation, one of the more interesting developments occurred when management revealed that they are toying with the idea of having Julio Urias begin the 2017 regular season in extended spring training at Glendale. The whole idea behind this theory is conceivably limiting Urias’ usage early, trying to save his more impactful innings for the end of the regular season and the playoffs.
That being said, the first three spots in the rotation are almost set in stone, barring any unforeseen injuries. Resident ace Clayton Kershaw will spearhead the Dodgers’ pitching attack, flanked by fellow southpaw Rich Hill and Japanese righty Kenta Maeda. As long as Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy appear to be fully healthy and throwing effectively, both should settle comfortably into the fourth and fifth slots, at least at the onset of regular season play. Even though Alex Wood could theoretically be among the top three in this group, there’s a reasonable chance he begins the year at Triple-A Oklahoma City only because he has options remaining on his contract.
And it’s probably safe to assume that Hyun-Jin Ryu won’t play into the rotation equation early, as the Dodgers will likely take things slow again this spring, making sure he is 100-percent or close before even being considered for the rotation. In addition to Wood, Ross Stripling and Brock Stewart will also be fringe starters who will be awaiting potential call-ups from OKC.
Kenley Jansen will lead the charge in the bullpen with a ton of daylight between him and the next-best closing option. Last week, the Dodgers elected to snag free agent righty reliever Sergio Romo to arrange a viable, eighth-inning setup option. Based on current personnel, in addition to Romo, Grant Dayton, Pedro Baez, Josh Fields and Adam Liberatore will occupy the principal roles. The final spots will be won in a battle between Chris Hatcher, Luis Avilan, Josh Ravin and Vidal Nuno. Brandon Morrow, if healthy, could certainly play big in the club’s decision to carry eight relievers instead of seven. And if there’s a need, Stripling has already proven that he has the capability to perform as a long man in relief.
In the end, like we’ve said in the past, as much as an entirely healthy 40-man roster would totally complicate the 25-man selections come April, it certainly would be a good problem to have, as the Dodgers hope that the true spirit of competition will finally dictate the everyday lineups rather than fielding a squad based on which players happen to not be injured. If this is indeed the case, player options could very well be the determining factor as to who appears in Dodger Blue on Opening Day.
Dodgers 25-Man Roster Projections: February 2017 Edition
Outfielders (4) – Andrew Toles, Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson and Andre Ethier
Infielders/Outfielders (2) – Enrique Hernandez and Scott Van Slyke
Infielders (4) – Justin Turner, Corey Seager, Logan Forsythe and Adrian Gonzalez
Catchers (2) – Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes
Starting Pitchers (5) – Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy
Bullpen (8) – Kenley Jansen, Sergio Romo, Pedro Baez, Josh Fields, Grant Dayton, Adam Liberatore, Luis Avilan and Chris Hatcher
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