With five weeks remaining before pitchers and catchers begin filing into the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch, there’s still a bit of time remaining for the Dodgers to enhance their player roster with a prospective trade or free agent signing. However, when considering its existing core of players, the club remains one of the most formidable powerhouses in the National League, although building a squad to succeed deep into the playoffs is a completely different story.
We’ll start hypothetically pairing down the 40-man roster into 26 players in a few weeks. In the meantime, I though it would be a good idea to look at a few of the fringe players, specifically Matt Beaty and the potential role he will play during the upcoming season.
Conceivably, the most productive part of the 26-man roster is loaded with lefty bats, which doesn’t help the case for Beaty. Nevertheless, because the MLB’s new active roster rules allow 26 players instead of 25—coupled with the uncertainty surrounding Alex Verdugo‘s health—Beaty has a much better chance of being included on the big league squad on Opening Day.
During his rookie campaign last year, the left-handed hitting Beaty played in 99 games and collected 268 plate appearances, slashing an overall .265/.317/.458 with nine homers, 19 doubles and 46 RBI. His .775 OPS was just a hair above the MLB average, and he ended up producing a 0.6 bWAR. Defensively, he made 35 appearances at first base, 34 in left field, nine at third base and two in right field. In 219 chances at all of those positions, he committed only three errors. All of them came at first base.
As far as projections go for 2020, Baseball Reference has him at 334 PA with a .263/.324/.454 slash line, 12 long balls, 20 doubles and 51 RBI. Interestingly, Steamer has Beaty hitting .274/.326/.440 with four homers over just 120 PA.
We talked about the outfield a little earlier in the winter, stating that a crew of Verdugo, Cody Bellinger and Joc Pederson could be seeing the bulk of the time, specifically against right-handed pitching. Should Verdugo not be able to go in the early part of the season, Beaty could theoretically be part of that crew, depending on how many reps the team elects to give the righty hitting A.J. Pollock.
In essence, with Bellinger patrolling the outfield most days, the first base duties belong to another lefty hitter, Max Muncy. Consequently, the left-handed hitting Gavin Lux is setting up to be the everyday second baseman. If the team trusts Beaty’s glove to handle the duties at third base—or Muncy’s, for that matter—it could allow Beaty to appear in the infield more against right-handed pitching.
Although they’re still relatively small sample sizes, Beaty’s splits will probably limit his time against southpaw pitching moving forward. Last season, he hit just .125/.176/.156 with just one extra-base hit over 32 AB against southpaws, while slashing .286/.338/.502 alongside 28 extra-base hits in 217 AB versus righties.
Regardless, perhaps the most impressive part of Beaty’s game is his clutch hitting. With runners in scoring position last year, he hit a very productive .379/.446/.621 to tally a 1.067 OPS, including nine extra base hits over 66 AB. In high-leverage situations, he averaged .333, while hitting just .239 in medium-leverage and .257 in low-leverage scenarios.
With a fully healthy roster, Beaty’s inclusion on the 26-man could ultimately depend on how the Dodgers structure their pitching staff. If they set up their crew with the traditional split of five starters and eight relievers, there’s a much better chance that Beaty is around for Opening Day, regardless of what happens with Verdugo.
If he indeed has plenty of successful opportunities as the summer months approach, Beaty could be a player the team tries to move in a prospective trade package in order to upgrade the roster to prepare for a playoff run.