Better Utility Option: Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernández or Charlie Culberson?

Charlie-Culberson-Yasmani-Grandal-Kiké-Hernandez-Clayton-Kershaw
(Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement/USA TODAY Sports)

Listening to the Dodgers radio broadcast yesterday, Rick Monday said something that piqued my interest. He said that he thought Chris Taylor might have a better chance making the 25-man roster because he was there, in camp, showing his hustle. Meanwhile, Enrique Hernandez was playing with the Team Puerto Rico, and not being seen or evaluated by the front office and coaching staff.

Both of those men, along with Charlie Culberson, are vying for a place as a utility man on the 25-man roster when camp breaks. Today, we look at who has the best chance to take that spot.

In 14 games played this spring, Taylor is leading the Dodgers in most offensive categories. His slash line of .520/.647/.680/1.327 is pretty impressive. He also leads the team in stolen bases with two. While two stolen bases is not a huge number, it does indeed show the hustle that Monday was talking about. Taylor has also made some terrific defensive plays, including a diving play to start a double play against the Chicago Cubs in Thursday’s game. He’s getting plenty of playing time this spring due to the overabundance of caution the Dodgers are using with the back injury of starting shortstop Corey Seager.

Taylor admittedly did not have a great season on the big league squad last year, batting only .207 with the Dodgers after he came over from Seattle. He had one error at second base, and he also played at shortstop and saw 10 games of action at third base.

Hernandez has appeared in seven games for the Dodgers this spring before leaving for the World Baseball Classic. He has a slash line of .263/.364/.316/.679. Kiké is coming off his worst year of his three in the major leagues, batting only .190 with a .607 OPS. He had 64 strikeouts, seven home runs and eight doubles. Hernandez did battle a rib injury mid-season, which could partly be the reason for his sub-par year. He was left off of the 2016 NLDS roster, but made the NLCS roster where didn’t have a hit, struck out twice and walked three times.

In the World Baseball Classic, Kiké is doing pretty well, batting .600 with 1.00 SLG and 1.600 OPS. He has been trying to work on his swing this spring, and it is showing in the WBC.

Then there’s last year’s NL West winning hero Charlie Culberson. Charlie had a pretty good year last year, with a .299/.309/.388/.697 slash line in 34 big league games with the Dodgers. He made the NLDS roster, but failed to record a hit and was left off of the NLCS roster. So far this spring Charlie’s line is .265/.359/.382/.741, every so slightly better than Kiké. Culberson has two things going against him to make the 25-man roster ; he is not currently on the 40-man (although the current roster stands at 39), and plays mainly second base and shortstop. While he could fill in in the outfield, he is not as strong there as Hernandez or Taylor.

What it all boils down to is what the front office and coaching staff see. Will it hurt if Hernandez isn’t in camp that much? Right now, he’s the only Dodger away for the WBC, although Kenley Jansen will be joining Team Netherlands soon. Will it help Taylor to log all the playing time he is, and playing so well? I personally would like to see Culberson or Taylor over Kiké, and would choose Culberson over them all. Charlie has shown himself to be a steady replacement off the bench throughout last season. We have a feeling here though that the front office will go with Hernandez. Maybe last year was just a blip due to injury, and he will return to what he was in 2015, when he batted .307 with seven home runs and only 46 strikeouts. Thankfully for Dodger fans, should one or the other falter or get injured, the other would be able to step right up and fill the spot capably.

(FOLLOW ANDY ON TWITTER: @DODGERGIRLINPA)

 

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