Instead of putting together our normal weekend injury report, we thought perhaps a more interesting approach would be looking at a few of the positives that have resulted for the Dodgers from several of the unfortunate injuries that have occurred during the first six weeks of the season.
No fan wants to see a player get hurt, especially in the case of the Dodgers. Last year, trouble started early for Los Angeles when the club began the regular season campaign with a whopping with 10 players on the disabled list. The team would eventually proceed to break a major league record by placing 28 players on the DL over the course of 2016, a mark that was previously held by the Red Sox in 2012. So far in 2017, the body count on the DL has hovered around the double-digit mark since the beginning of April. While the Dodgers are certainly among the deepest clubs in baseball, their surplus of MLB-ready talent can only be spread so far.
With all the health-related setbacks so far this season, though, several players have emerged from the crevices of Triple-A Oklahoma City to contribute mightily to the big league squad. Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger have become common names in the Dodgers’ daily lineups, and have made cases for long-term inclusion on the team’s 25-man roster. After beginning the year in the bullpen, southpaw Alex Wood has outperformed every other starting pitcher in the rotation. Even outfielder Brett Eibner, who has more frequent flyer miles between Oklahoma City and Los Angeles than any other player on the 40-man roster, is making the most of his latest opportunities.
Wood continues to dominate any opposing lineup that stands in his way. He lowered his ERA to a phenomenal 1.88 after Friday’s start against Miami, extending his scoreless inning streak to 20-1/3 frames in the process. The stretch spans the lefty’s last three starts, as well as the final two frames of a five-inning outing against the Giants on May 2. Wood was especially effective keeping the ball down Friday, inducing 19 total grounders. And to think that Wood could conceivably still be throwing in the bullpen if it wasn’t for a recurring blister on the left hand of veteran Rich Hill.
Taylor was initially recalled to the bigs when infielder Logan Forsythe was put on the shelf with a broken toe on April 19. In Friday’s victory, the 26-year-old Virginia Beach native went 3-for-4, only missing a triple to complete the cycle. He’s also settling nicely into the leadoff spot, having now collected his third multi-hit outing over his last four starts. Taylor has cranked his offensive production up yet another notch in the month of May, slashing .373/.500/.608 over 64 plate appearances with three homers and 11 RBI.
Over the course of 2017 Cactus League play, Taylor found himself in heavy competition with utility man Enrique Hernandez for the final spot on the big league 25-man roster, yet came up just short, theoretically because of his inability to effectively man center field. Moving forward, if he produces anywhere near his performance level during the past month, Taylor will undoubtedly maintain his roster spot long into the future.
Bellinger’s contract was originally selected by the Dodgers one day after Joc Pederson was sent to the disabled list on April 24 with a strained groin. Some pundits believed that the rookie would eventually be optioned back to OKC, however, the 21-year-old native of Scottsdale seemingly secured a long-term roster spot with the unfortunate leg injury to outfielder Andrew Toles, and may be on the fast track to being a finalist for NL Rookie of the Year honors considering his current rate of production.
According to an unbiased view from Anthony Rescan of Beyond the Box Score, Bellinger’s triple slash line of .293/.370/.634 has been nothing short of spectacular. His 162 wRC+ and .416 wOBA would rank fifteenth and thirteenth among qualified batters. Despite the lingering strikeout issues, they haven’t gotten worse as he’s progressed up in competition. The same can be said for his walk rate, which still sits north of ten percent. Though his .340 BABIP hints at a bit of incoming regression, it’s hard not to be entirely impressed by his success.
Eibner went 1-for-3 with a huge two-run home run in Friday’s victory. Recalled once again from Triple-A OKC, this time in the wake of Justin Turner‘s hamstring injury, Eibner paid immediate dividends, taking Justin Nicolino deep with a 403-foot shot to center in the fourth frame which also scored Yasiel Puig. The 28-year-old has slashed .308/.400/.769 in 13 games with the big-league club overall this season, and should see solid playing time during his current stint, especially against left-handed pitching.
In the end, while the overwhelming number of Dodgers’ injuries this season appeared to be detrimental in fashion early on, several of the replacement players who have been called upon have been nothing short of stellar. And while everybody and their brother have been talking about the massive amount of organizational player depth for the past few years, for many fans, it’s finally become a beautiful thing to see it paying dividends in real time.
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