Even if the Dodgers don’t make a huge splash before next month’s non-waiver trade deadline, the club’s 40-man roster may take on a bit of a different look before the big league 25-man rosters expand in early September.
As it stands now, there are a handful of players on the 40-man that aren’t exactly considered household names. Currently, some fans wouldn’t even recognize the names of Peter O’Brien or Fabio Castillo, while others are still pondering why the coaching staff decided to use left-handed hitting utility man Mike Freeman in two clutch pinch-hitting situations since his call-up last week.
One reason for carrying players of this caliber is for the necessity of having double and triple-deep major league-ready depth protection in case of a major injury epidemic. For example, heading into spring training, the Dodgers thought they had plenty of left-handed hitting outfield options with the trio of Andrew Toles, Andre Ethier and Joc Pederson; however, due to several serious injuries, Freeman became the best available lefty hitter available on both the farm and the 40-man, and coupled with the brief hiatus of shortstop Corey Seager, became the most logical player to get the call — even with left-handed hitters Alex Verdugo and Willie Calhoun tearing the hide off the ball at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
Still, Freeman’s presence is very reminiscent of utility man Zach Walters, who was recalled by the Dodgers last July, yet designated for assignment to create roster space right at last season’s trade deadline. Players like these are necessary for that reason alone. Sure, oftentimes valued prospects are added to the 40-man to protect them from being stolen in the Rule 5 draft, but guys like Freeman, O’Brien and Castillo are needed for roster flexibility. While valued prospects like Jacob Rhame and Kyle Farmer are already sitting on the 40-man, they aren’t quite as disposable. Plus, a solid crew of veterans is paramount in the Triple-A clubhouse to set fine examples of professionalism and conduct for the young up-and-comers.
All that being said, once the rosters do expand, it’s always nice to bring a sixth starter into the mix to provide some much needed rest for the existing rotation down the stretch run of the season, and there’s nobody better suited to fill that role than righty Trevor Oaks, especially if the health of the starting five is on the downside.
The 24-year-old Oaks is a ground ball machine, and may have proved his readiness for the show in 2017 Cactus League play, when he made five appearances and throwing 11-1/3 impressive innings to the tune of a 2.38 ERA. Over his 3-1/2 year minor league career, the Riverside native has posted a 31-12 record with a 3.23 ERA, accumulating 281 strikeouts in just over 390 innings of work.
In addition, the big league bullpen always welcomes a bit of added relief that time of the year. Last season, we saw the arm of Louis Coleman almost fall off in early August, in addition to Joe Blanton running on fumes alone by the time the NLCS arrived in the middle of October. We already mentioned the electric stuff of relief prospect Joe Broussard yesterday, and coupled with Rhame, could provide a bit of rest for the relief corps as the postseason approaches.
Yet while the 40-man roster come August 1 depends on many different factors, there will almost certainly be a handful of moves either way, whether it be dealing for a proven major league star to upgrade the existing 25-man squad, or recalling a few future stars for the purpose of gaining MLB experience and providing rest to the current workhorses.
As far as the future goes, the landscape of the autumn active roster should start to become much more clear over the next several weeks.
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