Even though we’re still outside the 30-day window for players reporting to spring camp, we still can’t help speculating what the regular season roster may look like for the Dodgers, especially when we try to layout any type of prospective lineup on paper.
As it stands right now, our 25-man roster projections have a whopping eight players who can handle outfield duties in some capacity, with three of those players being regulated to only the outfield, and five having the ability to field spots both in the infield and the outfield.
With all the available defensive options that the Dodgers have, it’s tough to say at this precise moment how the landscape of the daily outfield will shape up. For all we know, the position battles could conceivably last deep into Cactus League play, or the management crew of the club could surprise everybody by orchestrating another deal which would change the entire complexion of the roster (insert more Yasiel Puig rumors here).
And despite all the versatility the team has at its disposal, most of the daily duties could hinge on how the club views second baseman Logan Forsythe. For the entirety of the 2017 regular season, Forsythe hit just .190/.315/.262 in 286 plate appearances against right-handed pitching—a scary thought when considering that roughly two-thirds of the starting pitchers in the majors throw from the right side. Career-wise, his numbers are a little better, but not stellar by any means, as he has a .236/.317/.344 lifetime mark against right-handers. In the greater scope of things, a .344 career slugging percentage for a player hitting in the middle of a lineup is not appealing in the least. Yet because the club picked up Forsythe’s 2018 team option for $9 million, it certainly seems like the team has solid plans for the Memphis native moving forward.
When considering potential platoon partners for Forsythe, the acquisition of young utility man Jake Peter may indeed pay dividends early, however, one idea we have been discussing frequently—the concept of floating Chris Taylor between the keystone and the outfield—continues to become more logical by the day. Taylor’s career splits are nearly equal, as his hitting percentages against right-handers are just a few mere ticks lower than that of southpaws. It makes a lot of sense, but what is even more intriguing is turning Forsythe into a super-utility type of player, giving his right-handed bat a part-time spot in the outfield, third base or even first base—something similar to what we saw from Howie Kendrick in 2016. Even with his dismal success rate against righty pitching, to say that Forsythe should see time against southpaws only could limit him to approximately 200 plate appearances all year, in theory.
Looking at it from another angle, it’s a bit easier to put together a working lineup against lefty pitching. Forsythe would be the second baseman, with Taylor in center, Puig in right and Enrique Hernandez in left. From an analytical standpoint, as compelling as Matt Kemp‘s bat is, there’s just too many better options that exist regardless of the offensive splits to warrant his spot on the roster.
Against right-handers, we’d see Forsythe on the pine, with Taylor at second, Puig in right, and Andrew Toles and Joc Pederson in left and center, in some shape or form. If Forsythe were to be moved into the utility role like we mentioned, it could hinder Rob Segedin‘s chance of making the 25-man, giving the club the flexibility to use an extra reliever or even add some speed to the squad by bringing in somebody like Tim Locastro.
Having the luxury of mixing and matching on both offense and defense between many different talented players has been paramount in the Dodgers’ recent string of success, and there’s absolutely no sign of that trend changing anytime soon. And while the thought of shifting Taylor between second base and the outfield may sound like the best option right now, a lot can still happen, and the perspective on that particular option could change completely before the arrival of Opening Day on March 29.
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