Ever since the original Opening Day to the 2020 season was indefinitely delayed, I’ve had a fixation on looking at lineups of the Dodgers for their openers to numerous campaigns, as I thought it was a great tool to see how some of these squads developed over the course of a full season.
Last week, I came across an Opening Day lineup for Triple-A Oklahoma City that may be really tough to beat, at least as far as minor league clubs go.
The season was 2017. OKC hosted the Iowa Cubs in front of almost 10,000 people at Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark. Sure, there was plenty of excitement in the air, but little did fans know what magic was about to follow in the months to come, specifically at the big league level.
Here’s the crew that took the field for Oklahoma City in the top of the first inning:
- Taylor SS
- Bellinger 1B
- Thompson RF
- Segedin 3B
- Verdugo CF
- Dickson LF
- Calhoun 2B
- Wilson C
- Oaks P
Although a whopping six of these starters would eventually put in time on the big league roster that season, perhaps the most remarkable thing was that all nine of these players competed in the majors over the course of the next two seasons.
And, we all know how the season turned out for the kid named Bellinger.
Chris Taylor was forced to begin the year with OKC because the middle infield was overcrowded with a pair of veterans in Chase Utley and Logan Forsythe, alongside super-utility man Enrique Hernandez. Nevertheless, when Forsythe hit the disabled list with his dreaded toe injury in mid-April, Taylor was recalled. To say that he made the most of his opportunities would be an understatement.
Having never played outfield at the big league level, CT3 would mainly play left and center field, along with some secondary time at the middle infield spots. He went on to play 140 big league games that season after having appeared in just 34 the previous year. He slashed .288/.354/.496 with 34 doubles, 21 homers and 72 RBI.
Cody Bellinger made his major league debut in late April, but it certainly didn’t come easy. Trayce Thompson and Brett Eibner both saw action in early April, but were optioned back to OKC in favor of the lefty hitting Bellinger. Andre Ethier, Franklin Gutierrez, Rob Segedin and Joc Pederson all hit the DL in April, which definitely made the path for Belli much easier.
Bellinger was also very versatile for the Dodgers defensively, playing all three outfield positions as well as first base. The unanimous National League Rookie of the Year batted .267/.352/.581 with an NL rookie record 39 home runs to go along with 97 RBI.
Taylor reflecting on his own and Bellinger’s 2017 journey:
“It was awesome just to see how the year started for both of us in Triple-A and not where either of us wanted to be. But we both got an opportunity very early and we both capitalized. And it was really cool going from living together in Oklahoma City to living together in L.A. and eventually playing at the highest stage in the World Series. Both of us had really good years. I knew all along how good Cody was going to be eventually. I didn’t know how quickly it was going to happen, and fortunately, he got the opportunity and he just ran with it. It was so awesome to watch all his success and everything he did this year. Unanimous Rookie of the Year and all of his achievements, it was definitely fun to watch.”
Once the dust settled on the regular season, Thompson played 27 major league games (most of them in March and April), Segedin appeared in 13, Alex Verdugo played in 17 contests and O’Koyea Dickson made seven appearances after the rosters expanded in September.
After already having played parts of eight major league seasons, Bobby Wilson played 47 games for the Twins in 2018 and 15 games for the Tigers in 2019.
Coincidentally, OKC lost the game to Iowa, 1-0.
Oklahoma City finished the year in second place in the American North division with a 72-69 record, failing to qualify for the Pacific Coast League playoffs. This did not come as a surprise considering how many of the squad’s key players spent considerable time in the majors.
The Dodgers finished the season with a 104-58 mark and eventually fell to the Astros in the 2017 World Series, four games to three. Needless to say, there certainly was not a lack of story lines in the Los Angeles clubhouse at any point in the season, much less the playoffs.
It didn’t seem like a big deal at the time, but perhaps the most overlooked transaction of the entire year was when the Dodgers signed free agent second baseman Max Muncy to a minor league contract on April 28. The main reasoning was to bolster middle infield depth at the Double-A and Triple-A levels.
We all know how that turned out.