Although there are just four weeks before the Dodgers take the field on Opening Day against the Giants, there’s still plenty of speculation as to how the club’s 25-man roster might shake out. Currently, there are more than 60 players in big league camp, but that number will soon start to shrink as management starts trimming off some of the fat. With last year’s core group steadily intact, most of the big league roster spots have been cemented, however, there are a few which will likely go right down to the wire.
Theoretically, some pundits would say there are about a dozen or so players on the Dodgers’ roster bubble, yet for all intents and purposes, I’m going to go out on a limb and narrow that number down to six players. With the organization seemingly continuing to get younger with each passing season, player options are definitely plentiful, and the beginning of 2018 will once again be a time where the club uses them to the max.
Yet, before we get to the bubble players on the fringe of the major league squad, let’s first talk about the members of the 40-man roster who are likely out of the mix already.
Rob Segedin hasn’t yet appeared in a Cactus League contest, as he’s still recovering from offseason wrist surgery. Even though he should be ready by Wednesday, the setback will see him begin the year at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Nevertheless, depending on the general health of the 25-man early in the year, Segedin may garner a bit of big league action sooner than many think, especially if the team need right-handed hitting depth.
Righty fireballer Dennis Santana has been building momentum since being placed on the 40-man over the winter, but he still hasn’t pitched above Double-A in his short career, and will begin the year somewhere in one of the farm’s starting rotations. In the same breath, joining him in the minors will be Dylan Baker and J.T. Chargois. Southpaw Henry Owens may get plenty of attention during cactus League play, but with Tony Cingrani and Scott Alexander as locks in the major league pen, Owens’ shot opening the year in the bigs is very slim, at best. The same can be said for left-handers Edward Paredes and Adam Liberatore.
As far as depth goes for the big league starting rotation, Walker Buehler and Brock Stewart could be among the first two players considered to slide in should any of the Big 5 not be able to appear. That said, both right-handers will likely begin the year at OKC, although there’s always the possibility that Buehler stays behind at Camelback in an effort to save innings for later in the year.
An eight-man bullpen will leave the team with a short bench, so there definitely won’t be any room for Alex Verdugo or Trayce Thompson on the 25-man, as the outfield crew probably contains some of the best talent in the organization. Thompson has no options remaining, so he’ll need to clear waivers if he’s indeed ourighted in order to stay with the club.
And although the 27-year-old Kyle Farmer has a huge amount of upside as a big league utility man and catcher, the short bench gives him zero chance of making the 25-man. Still, should anything prevent either Austin Barnes or Yasmani Grandal from suiting up, Farmer will likely be the first to get the call—even with Rocky Gale around.
With the players we just eliminated from contention, and Julio Urias recently being transferred to the 60-day DL, that cuts our available number of players down to 28—although I suppose an NRI could conceivably seal a spot on the 25-man. But that’s not likley to happen.
As far as the 22 locks go, here’a quick review. Six of the eight spots in the bullpen consist of Kenley Jansen, Alexander, Cingrani, Pedro Baez, Josh Fields and Tom Koehler. The five in the starting rotation, of course, are Clayton Kershaw, Rich Hill, Kenta Maeda, Alex Wood and Hyun-Jin Ryu, with Grandal and Barnes assuming the two spots at catcher. Cody Bellinger, Logan Forsythe, Corey Seager, Justin Turner and Chase Utley are the locks in the infield, with Chris Taylor—despite being named the starting center fielder—and Enrique Hernandez as the super-utility players. And the outfield locks right now are Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig, barring any injuries.
Add everything up, and that leaves us with six players for three spots. Tim Locastro will begin the year at OKC if everyone else stays healthy, but we’ll still list him on the bubble because he’s probably the closest to the majors of all the utility guys. And my guess is that Yimi Garcia, who still has one option remaining on his contract, joints the relief corps at OKC until he builds up some innings and re-establishes his stamina.
In theory, Ross Stripling could begin the year at OKC if management is super-conscientious about stretching him to provide starting rotation depth, but I think he’ll be needed in the big league pen early, considering that most of the starters will be lasting around the 4-5 inning mark—or less—for the first few weeks. And I believe that Wilmer Font will open the year in the big league pen because he’s also out of options, and that the club will retain him so long as he’s throwing well.
So, after all the dusts settles, the final spot boils down to the venerable Matt Kemp vs. Andrew Toles—and the arithmetic is pretty easy. If Kemp isn’t dealt to another club, he’ll probably start the year on the 25-man, with Toles and his options starting the year at OKC, if only to prove his knee is in full working order. If the Dodgers find another home for Kemp, though, Tolesy probably gets his spot, although Thompson could be a dark horse if the team still values his tools which were on display just a few short years ago.
Obviously, one or two injuries could throw a wrench into this entire picture, but that’s how I’m looking at things right now.
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