The Dodgers have finished the first half of the season with the best record in the major leagues, sitting at 60-32. They reached 30, 40, 50, and 60 wins before any other team in the major leagues, and are three games ahead of both the New York Yankees and Houston Astros. They’ve done this with some of their best players on the IL (and a shaky bullpen).
Over the next week or so, three players that had been out for injuries will return. David Freese, Corey Seager, and A.J. Pollock have been out varying times, leaving it up to some new faces to take their place. Matt Beaty, Kyle Garlick And Will Smith have all seen their major league debuts, and have performed admirably. Chris Taylor has also had to step up in the absence of Corey Seager, and has done a phenomenal job.
So what happens to the roster when they return? Obviously, the rookies will be sent back down to Oklahoma City, where Smith already is. But what do you do with Chris Taylor? His bat has gotten so hot that you need to have it in your lineup. Does he take over to second base, which has been manned mostly by Max Muncy and Enrique Hernandez? Muncy, just recently named to the All-Star team, obviously should be an everyday player. Kiké, while he has been better as of late, probably should not be an everyday player.
Taylor is a little better defensively than Muncy at second, so righty-lefty matchups could be played out there. Muncy has also seen a lot of time at first, but with Freese back, and Joc Pederson taking a lot of reps there, that’s also not a spot to permanently Max.
The outfield will be a little more crowded with the return of Pollack. Alex Verdugo will no longer be roaming centerfield. Cody Bellinger won’t be relinquishing right field duties anytime soon, so Verdugo will be left splitting time with Pederson. Both being left handed, they can’t play pitching matchups to split the time.
It’s a happy problem to have, too many good players for not enough positions, although the maintaining egos parts could be difficult for manager Dave Roberts. But he’s shown to be more than proficient at that over the last few seasons. One does have to wonder though, with the Dodgers trade one of their players to help improve the bullpen for that World Series push? Could that be why Joc has been playing so many games at first base, to show off his versatility?
Most likely, Doc is just trying to get players reps at as many places, so that down the stretch, he’s able to give players as much rest as possible. Still, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that, given their propensity to keep their young prospects, that it could be a current player that’s traded come the end of July, if not sooner. There’s no doubt the bullpen needs help, and it’ll be highly interesting to see what the front office does to make that happen.