Baseball is officially back, and it will be a bit different this season. Players will report for Spring Training 2.0 on July 1, with the first official practice on July 3. The regular season is slated to begin either July 23 or 24.
A big difference will be the implementation of the designated hitter in the National League, so for now, so long pitchers who rake.
As far as the Dodgers go, skipper Dave Roberts will have a chance to finally use his depth to its fullest, writing a designated hitter into the lineup card on a daily basis. The DH option gives the team a chance to dig into their monstrous player depth.
With rosters beginning at 30 players then decreasing to 28 after two weeks—and then shifting to 26 for the rest of the season, Roberts has a number of select options at his disposal.
We all know that the Dodgers swung the trade for one of the world’s best players in Mookie Betts. That leaves a crowded outfield with valuable bats that could come off the bench.
Many fingers early on were pointing at Justin Turner or Joc Pederson as a possible regular in the DH spot. However, in a recent radio interview, Roberts said he is not going to issue a full-time DH, instead using the role as a semi-off day for his players. Depending on the pitching matchups, a number of batters can conceivably step into the role. The DH spot could also be used for rehabbing players back from injury easing them into action, instead of rushing them back.
While either Turner or Pederson look to eventually step into the batter’s box as DH on a semi-regular basis, other players such as Matt Beaty, A.J. Pollock or Enrique Hernandez can certainly fill the DH role nicely as well.
Looking at Pederson’s numbers against left-handers, it is more than likely he will sit on days when lefties take the mound. The DH spot could be filled by Hernandez or Chris Taylor who also play all around the field. Days when right-handers take the mound you could certainly see Pederson, Beaty, or even Edwin Rios as the DH.
It would be expected to see the DH spot filled by a left-handed bat if an opposing right-hander is on the mound and vice versa, at least according to the majority of matchups.
Roberts can also look to give opportunities to youngsters as part of the L.A. taxi squad, such as Luke Raley, who is back for his second stint with the Dodgers. DJ Peters or Cody Thomas could also be candidates. Thomas led the team in home runs during Spring Training 1.0 with five bombs.
The DH role looks to be an intriguing one for the Dodgers during the upcoming campaign. It can certainly be a revolving door of good bats off the bench.
Roberts looks to have a good problem on his hands, with an extensive selection of batters ready to contribute.