Dodgers Roster: An Early Look at the 2018 Bench Players

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Aside from the massive mystery illness and the huge injury blow dealt to righty swing man Tom Koehler last week, there really hasn’t been any major news lately in the Dodgers‘ clubhouse. However, there has been plenty of speculation in the blogosphere about the team’s Opening Day roster, and the situation surrounding Koehler certainly threw a wrench into many of the early prediction models.

One thing we haven’t talked about much is the bench. The fact that Los Angeles has decided to carry an eight-man bullpen limits the strength of the bench crew, as there will only be a mere four players on the pine for skipper Dave Roberts to utilize.

Three of the four spots have conceivably already been sealed. Whomever isn’t starting behind the plate between Austin Barnes and Yasmani Grandal will assume one spot, while veteran infielder Chase Utley fills another. Super-utility man Enrique Hernandez will be the chief player off the bench for the Dodgers, as his defensive versatility is undeniably among the best in the game.

As complicated as the selection of the fourth and final spots sounds, it actually may be quite simple. As it stands now, in my eyes at least, that spot—which could very well boil down to one of the final few choices for the 25-man roster—could be awarded to Matt Kemp, Andrew Toles or Joc Pederson.

There are just 22 days remaining until Opening Day, and while that sounds like a lot of time, there’s no question it will pass by extremely quickly. It’s hard to believe that there’s not any rumblings about the future of Kemp—for all we know, he’s right there in front of the race for the starting left fielder’s job. Yet, on the other hand, perhaps the front office team has already decided Kemp’s destiny and waiting until just the right moment to make it public.

Regardless, we all shall continue to wait patiently. It may be worth noting that the Opening Day lineup, which will take its hacks against San Francisco ace Madison Bumgarner, will be loaded with right-handed bats, and will not represent the batting order we see each day. And while Roberts is speculated to use a number of platoon-type scenarios throughout the season, there are still plenty of players who will be in the everyday lineup regardless of the pitching matchup, most specifically guys like Chris Taylor, Yasiel Puig, Cody Bellinger, Justin Turner and Corey Seager—if he’s indeed healthy enough to begin the campaign.

With Taylor and Puig making up the backbone of the outfield in center and right respectively, the biggest roster battle—aside from the final few bullpen spots—unquestionably is happening in left field. Kemp has done almost everything right so far in Cactus League play, as has impressed everyone with his level of fitness, including Roberts. Toles has proven that he’s in peak condition after ripping his ACL early last year, and with Pederson’s pop and ability to cover either left or center field, the decision will undoubtedly be a very difficult one.

As much as it doesn’t make sense to carry both Toles and Pederson on the 25-man roster, in theory, it’s still a logical move, even if they both hit from the left side of the dish. Let’s just say, for example, that the starters on one random day are Pederson in left, Taylor in center and Puig in right. With Toles on the bench, it gives Roberts and his crew pleny of options, and it also balances the number of left-handed bats vs. right-handed bats available for late inning use. If that’s indeed the case, then Kemp is obviously not on the squad.

Of course, all of this depends upon whether the club is able to move Kemp. Whatever the outcome is, either way it will be a chunk of news that’s highly scrutinized by everyone familiar with the team. Nevertheless, at the end of the day, a bench consisting of Grandal, Hernandez, Tolesly and Utley isn’t too shabby at all.

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20 thoughts on “Dodgers Roster: An Early Look at the 2018 Bench Players

  1. Assuming that no one makes a worthwhile offer for Kemp (whatever that might mean), I would much prefer to have Kemp and Toles platoon in left and have Joc waiting at OKC for whenever Bison starts fading and ultimately is released. Best case scenario that never happens, Kemp has a productive season, and if Toles performs the way he has for the past two years, it’s probably time to trade Joc. If that plays out, I have no idea at what point the front office would act. End of May, July trade deadline, end of season, who knows?

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      1. Can’t remember where it came from (maybe Dennis can help with this), but it’s a nickname that was given to Kemp early in his days with the Dodgers.

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      2. I’m trying to keep a positive attitude about Kemp. He came to camp in better shape than in years and sounds like he has matured and wants to win. He is hitting well and I believe can still be a big productive right handed bat in our lineup. Toles is definitely out playing Joc. It’s a shame Joc cannot find a productive swing. That first half of his rookie season had us dreaming of big things from him.

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      3. Maybe Joc is just going to be one of those “change of scenery guys” who finds himself after getting traded. If that happens, I just hope it isn’t to an NL West team.

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      4. I don’t want to put words in your mouth Dennis. Are you predicting that Joc will steal 30 bases for OKC this year? 🙂

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      5. Maybe his early success in hitting homers totally changed his mindset and instead of using his speed and concentrating on hitting the ball hard, he started concentrating on becoming the next Bambino. That demonstration he put on in the AS Game Home Run Contest may have ultimately killed his career. I hope not. I really think he’ll find himself, but I don’t think it will be in L.A.

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      6. I remember reading quite a bit about the huge oak tree he used for a bat a few years back, and was always in belief it affected his success. I wonder if he ever downsized. I sent a note to a beat reporter who was at spring camp last year asking about it, but never heard back.

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      7. I would guess that Joc didn’t weigh 220 back then. To go further back, he stole 52in his first 171 minor league games. He seems to find a controlled swing for a short time and then goes back to swinging out of his ass again. He has a pretty good eye for the strike zone, but cannot put the ball 8nto,play enough.

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  2. l’m with you Jeff, kemp, and Toles in, joc goes to aaa to find a fix to his swing, that he can stick with.It’s to bad when he came up, in 2015 I thought he was going to be a star.

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  3. A 4 man bench and 8 in the bullpen is a mistake and will become evident as soon as they have to pinch hit Kershaw because they have run out of players, or they use the backup C and then he gets hurt. Who will catch? Jansen? I d’ont think so. 7 in the Pen should be plenty. Personally, if they would manage the pitchers better, I d rather have a 6 player bench and 6 in the pen. Kemp, Toles and Pederson are all on the team plus someone like Farmer. Lots of flexibility. As much as I’ve liked Utley in the past, I would have rather seen Locastro given a chance and it looks like Peter can play also. I long for the day when starters can go 7-9 innings instead of taking them out in 4 or 5 and then needing 4-5 relievers to finish a game.

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  4. If they go to a seven man bull pen, font probably is the odd man out. I think font would be claimed, they have a better chance to get Thompson through wavers, than font, if we lose Thompson, at least it’s in an area of strength.

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    1. I’m not concerned about losing either Thompson or Font. As you say there are many OF’s ahead of Thompson and there are at least 10 legitimate bullpen contenders on the 40 man roster not including Font. Just my opinion.

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