There’s no question that the Dodgers‘ big league, 25-man roster is structured to handle a short-term absence from just about any player on the squad. The team has relief pitchers who can start, starters who can relieve, outfielders who can play the infield, and even a utility man who can handle the catching duties. However, if another type of unfortunate, long-term injury occurs at any point during the season, the club may find themselves forced to dip into the minor league depths for added cover.
We keep hearing about the depth of the entire organization, and although the system isn’t overloaded with many star-studded, blue chip prospects, it is indeed very adept, as it still could be ranked among the Top 5 in baseball.
By my count, there are about a dozen players on the Triple-A Oklahoma City roster who may be capable of handling everyday duties for a number of teams across the MLB. Yet, as far as the Dodgers go, there are five who stand out from the rest of the pack, and chances are pretty good that all five could be called upon at some point or another during the 2018 campaign.
Walker Buehler—It’s quite possible that 23-year-old righty Walker Buehler could be the first starting pitcher who is promoted from the farm this season. Considering the Dodgers’ frequency which they used the disabled list last year, every starting pitcher in the current rotation may receive a “rest” at some point, and Buehler is the best available starter to fill that prospective slot. In OKC’s season opener, the Kentucky native completed four full innings of work on 72 pitches, giving up just one earned run on four hits while striking out five.
Andrew Toles—Andrew Toles‘ battle with Joc Pederson for the final big league 25-man roster spot went down to the final days of spring training, and should the club be in need of a left-handed hitting outfielder at any point, Tolesy will undoubtedly get the first call. Apparently, his leg is fully healed after suffering a torn ACL early last year; however, management thought it would be best that the 25-year-old begin the year at OKC for the sake of playing every day. Aside from Yasiel Puig, Toles may have the next strongest arm in the organization and can handle all three outfield spots with ease.
Brock Stewart—If, for some reason, the Dodgers decide to be conservative early with Buehler and restrict an early promotion, Brock Stewart could be the next in line to slip into the major league rotation should there be a need. Many believe the 26-year-old right-hander may have a higher ceiling as a reliever; yet, for the moment, management continues to groom him as a starter. Stewart will make his 2018 debut against Iowa on the road on Saturday night.
Adam Liberatore—At one point in 2016, Adam Liberatore was one of the key pieces in the big league bullpen, setting a franchise record by going 24 consecutive appearances without being charged a run. But elbow soreness towards the end of that season would lead to him getting a bone chip removed during the winter. His 2017 campaign was a wash after problems with his groin, and later, with the very same arm. Nevertheless, Liberatore appears healthy at the moment, and skipper Dave Roberts believes the lefty is “on a mission” to work his way back onto the major league squad.
Rob Segedin—There are plenty of right-handed bats around the current Los Angeles clubhouse, but should the Dodgers have a need for another, Rob Segedin may be at the top of the totem pole. What’s more, while the club doesn’t have a “natural” first baseman to cover Cody Bellinger, Segedin can capably handle such a role should the utility crew for some reason thin out. Additionally, Segedin can adequately manage the duties at third base, as well as both corner outfield spots.
Honorable Mentions—Alex Verdugo could very well be a starter on many other teams around the league; however, it’s tough to argue his case for a big league spot when he’s below Toles on the depth chart.
The same might also be said for both Jake Peter and Tim Locastro. Each player is somewhat of a mirror-image of the other, with the exception that Peter hits from the left side and Locastro bats right-handed.
Lefty reliever Edward Paredes showed his value at the major league level late last season, yet considering how well Liberatore is throwing at the moment, the 31-year-old Dominican native may be further back in line.