If there’s a single area of the Dodgers as a whole that we haven’t spoken much about over the winter, it’s undeniably the crew which makes up the infield. While there are tons of good things to say regarding each player, not many negative aspects exist. At the end of the day, on paper at least, this group could very easily be considered among the best in the game on both sides of the ball.
Justin Turner is coming off a career year, where he batted .275 and posted career-highs with 79 runs, 153 hits, 48 walks, 34 doubles, three triples, 27 home runs, 90 RBI in 151 games played. The 32-year-old native of Long Beach finished ninth in the National League Most Valuable Player voting, and was a nominee for the Players Choice Marvin Miller Man of the Year Award for his community involvement, along with being a finalist for a Rawlings Gold Glove Award, ranking third among NL third basemen with seven defensive runs saved according to FanGraphs. Not too shabby a year for a former utility man who was struggling to find playing time for the Mets just four years prior.
In November, Corey Seager became the 17th player in Dodgers’ history to earn NL Rookie of the Year honors. He also won a Silver Slugger, was honored with the Players Choice Award for Outstanding NL Rookie, and was recognized by both the Sporting News and Baseball America as NL and MLB Rookie of the Year, respectively. He finished the season ranked among the NL leaders with 193 hits, 105 runs, 40 doubles, 57 multi-hit games, 71 extra-base hits, 321 total bases, a .308 batting average and a .512 slugging percentage. His 26 homers set a Dodger record for a shortstop, breaking the previous record of 22, held by Glenn Wright since 1930. According to Stats, LLC, he was just the fourth rookie in the divisional era to rank in the NL’s Top 10 in batting average and slugging percentage, joining Mike Piazza, Dusty Baker and Albert Pujols. And after spending endless hours working with infield coach Chris Woodward, the 22-year-old Charlotte native proved that he had the necessary skills to deliver at shortstop defensively.
Speaking of solid glove work, the name Adrian Gonzalez and defense are almost synonymous. The four-time Gold Glove Award winner may be losing a bit of quickness and range, but he more than makes up for it with his savvy and intellect on the diamond. Offensively, Gonzo still had a fine season, playing 156 games despite suffering a few minor setbacks with his health. After taking himself out of the lineup for two consecutive days last summer as a result of fatigue, Gonzalez hit .304/.361/.492 the rest of the way, with 20 doubles and 12 home runs in 78 games. He hit .297/.376/.469 with runners in scoring position, and ultimately ended the season tied for the team lead with 90 RBI. He also drove in 17.4% of runners on base, best among anyone on the team. At 34 years of age, Gonzo may be on a slight decline, but there’s no question he’s a valuable asset as a starter with both his glove and his bat in the middle of the Dodgers’ lineup.
The aforementioned trio amassed 37% of the Dodgers’ 680 total RBI last year while averaging 154.7 regular games played per player for the 2016 campaign. Throwing catcher Yasmani Grandal into the mix, the group was responsible for 98 of the Dodgers’ 189 long balls last season.
The newly acquired Logan Forsythe is another iron man, and should fit well into the Dodgers’ current infield chemistry. He ranks a tad above average in just about every single aspect of his game — quickness, range, hitting for average, power and speed on the basepaths. Forsythe, 30, has combined to hit 57 doubles, 37 homers and drive in 120 runs in 280 games with Tampa Bay over the past two seasons, including batting .264 with 52 RBI and setting career-best marks with 20 home runs, four triples and 76 runs scored as the Rays’ primary leadoff man in 127 games last year. Hitting in the middle of the Rays’ lineup in 2015, Forsythe led Tampa Bay qualifiers with a .281 batting average, a .359 on-base percentage and a .444 slugging percentage, but perhaps more importantly posted a .299/.373/.599 slash line against left-handed pitching. His .599 slugging percentage against southpaw pitchers ranked third in the American League in 2015, behind only Nelson Cruz and Josh Donaldson. Skipper Dave Roberts has already noted that Forsythe’s versatility on offense will allow the club to utilize him in any of the top three spots in the batting order.
In the greater scope of things, any significant injury to any one of the main crew of infielders would certainly be detrimental to the team, even though the Dodgers have several options off the bench to provide cover.
Barring injury, and besides affording the primary infield quartet the normal amount of required rest during the regular season schedule, there are a few configurations which would permit Chase Utley to see a reasonable amount of playing time at a few different spots. Utley figures to spell Forsythe at the keystone on scheduled off days, and also projects to start at second base when Forsythe slides over to the hot corner to cover for Turner. And depending on how the utility roles are defined at the beginning of the season, Utley may even slide over to first base on occasion to fill in for Gonzalez.
As far as depth at shortstop goes, we’re guessing that Enrique Hernandez makes the 25-man roster right out of spring camp after battling with teammates Chris Taylor and Charlie Culberson for the single super-utility role.
In the end, there’s no doubt that the crew outlined above has both the talent and ability to lead the Dodgers deep into the playoffs when October rolls around once again. Only one single obstacle — the ability to stay healthy as a group — stands in the way of yet another extremely productive campaign.