With Opening Day now less than three weeks away, the suspense surrounding the Dodgers Opening Day 25-man roster is growing with each passing moment. Of course, there are a number of players who may be on the bubble of making the club, but there are also a handful of legitimate longshots who could sneak in under the radar if several circumstances align themselves.
As for the fringe guys who are right there at the top of the list, the position player group consists of Trayce Thompson—who is out of options, Andrew Toles, Joc Pederson, Tim Locastro and Kyle Farmer. There’s still time for Rob Segedin to make a case, but his late start after recovering from wrist surgery over the winter may have sealed his fate to begin the year at Triple-A Oklahoma City.
While the starting rotation has been set for months, the bullpen has a few spots which are completely wide open. Among the fringe players here are Henry Owens, Yimi Garcia, Wilmer Font, Edward Paredes and Adam Liberatore. Roster spaces are indeed tight, but all the players listed above have somewhat of a realistic shot of making the team, as small as they may be.
Nevertheless, I have hand-picked three dark horse candidates, who, if a few chips fall in their direction, could sneak onto the 25-man roster and surprise everyone. Several weeks ago, they were probably viewed as certain farmhands to start the year, but now are approaching the fringe status with the aforementioned players as spring training continues to progress.
Alex Verdugo—In the eyes of many, Alex Verdugo is currently as low as sixth on the outfield depth chart, behind players such as Toles, Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Chris Taylor and Matt Kemp. Needless to say, there isn’t much room for a sixth outfielder—not even in a bench capacity. However, should the Dodgers conceivably have a need to slide Taylor into shortstop—as Andy pointed out yesterday—and should Kemp be sent away before March 29, Verdugo would fit right in. So far this spring, the left-handed hitting, 21-year-old is slashing .381/.409/.810 with two long balls and three doubles in 22 plate appearances. He can capably handle all three outfield spots, and would bring a much-needed element of speed to the squad.
J.T. Chargois—We made a case for the inclusion of J.T. Chargois a few weeks back, and now with righty Tom Koehler set to begin the year on the shelf, Chargois is approaching bubble status very quickly. Chargois has a legitimate top-of-the-scale fastball that can touch 100 mph and sits in the upper 90s consistently, and could conceivably fit the mold of a bonafide set-up man. His best year in the minors came in 2015 across two levels of the Minnesota farm, when he logged 48 appearances and 15 saves with a 2.63 ERA alongside 53 strikeouts over an even 48 innings of work. The fact that he does have one option on his contract could fare well into his ascension to the big league roster.
Jake Peter—Another candidate to slide into the 25-man if Seager’s not 100% ready by Opening Day, Jake Peter could fill the club’s infield needs without having to move Taylor from the outfield. During 2018 cactus League play, Peter has hit for a .368 average with a 1.000 slugging percentage, leading the club with 12 runs driven in. He’s rumored to be capable of handling all three outfield spots and all the infield spots except pitcher and catcher. The rebirth of Enrique Hernandez may be among us.
Obviously, we saw the impact of the loss of someone like Koehler; and if another major injury—or even a minor one—comes into play during these final few weeks of camp, we could see more of these dark horse players emerge. For now, all we can do is sit back and keep our fingers crossed that the injury bug stays away. In the meantime, we’ll continue to report on the complexion of the 25-man roster as news continues to break.