Dodgers Roster: 3 Potential Surprises for Beginning of 2021 Season

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Although an entire year has passed, there’s no more certainty as to what may happen during the 2021 season compared to last year, especially as far as the Los Angeles Dodgers are concerned.

The good news is that some of the rules surrounding the game have recently been made clear, specifically the concept of a 26-man active roster and the absence of a universal designated hitter. However, because there are still a few question marks surrounding the makeup of the Los Angeles roster, the team might conceivably look a bit different when the players take the field on Opening Day in Denver against the Rockies.

Listed below are three potential surprises fans might see at the beginning of the season with regards to the Dodgers’ roster.

Dodgers Employ Six-Man Rotation

While it seemed for some time that teams were beginning to steer away from the traditional sense of starting pitching, the fact that the Dodgers landed Trevor Bauer this winter strengthens their commitment to a conventional rotation. Last year, we saw numerous teams employ the strategy of using an “opener” in bullpen types of games, as the Dodgers were even forced to utilize this tactic at some points in the 2020 postseason.

Nevertheless, due to the shift back to a 162-game schedule this year (hopefully), we could see Los Angeles use a six-man starting pitching rotation, something we have been discussing for a few years here on this website. Giving pitchers an extra-day off limits their workloads, theoretically keeping them healthier and more potent. Plus, with the possibility of more double-headers, the team might be able to take a more strategic approach to the second leg of a double bill.

Should the entire staff be healthy by the time the season begins, the Dodgers could credibly roll out an insanely stacked rotation consisting of Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, David Price, Bauer, Julio Urias and Dustin May or Tony Gonsolin. To boot, youngsters Mitch White and Josiah Gray will be eagerly awaiting at the team’s alternate training site for their respective chances to contribute.

Matt Beaty Sees Increased Playing Time

One name we have not heard discussed much over the winter is Matt Beaty. Because Joc Pederson has departed, it could give the opportunity for the 27-year-old utilityman to see more playing time, especially in the outfield. Although his time in the outfield was limited last year, let’s not forget that Beaty played 34 games in left field and two in right during his 2019 campaign, predominately when regular left fielder AJ Pollock was out with elbow surgery.

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Obviously, there won’t be a straight platoon in left field, but Beaty’s lefty bat might bring some much-needed balance on the offensive side. The Dodgers apparently still don’t trust Beaty enough to handle consistent duties at third base, but the idea that he can play there in a pinch might also increase his playing time. Additionally, should Max Muncy need a day off or cover at another defensive spot, Beaty has shown that he can capably handle playing first base.

ZiPS has Beaty playing 109 games and collecting 365 PA this year while slashing .256/.312/.411 with 20 doubles, 10 homers and 44 RBI. Those figures might be about right, although I think the slugging and OBP could end up being several ticks higher.

There’s a New Closer in Town

No question the 2021 Los Angeles bullpen has the potential to be the most effective it’s been in years, if everyone is able to stay relatively healthy throughout the year. And, unquestionably, Kenley Jansen has faced more scrutiny than any other Dodger reliever in recent seasons.

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While I believe that there’s a chance Kenley might start the season in the closer’s role, his spot there might be short-lived, whether it results from control issues, faulty mechanics, or simply the inability to effectively perform. Indeed, there are a number of alternate options like Blake Treinen, Corey Knebel, Victor Gonzalez, Brusdar Graterol, or even Urias (which is another topic for another time). Consequently, I believe one of these arms, Treinen in particular, might be called upon early to close down games.

Jansen is beginning the final year of his contract, and chances are virtually nil that the Dodgers bring him back on another deal. In the meantime, the team could decide to begin its search for the closer of the future. Until either Graterol, Gonzalez, or Urias settle into that role, Treinen just might be the man for the job.

20 thoughts on “Dodgers Roster: 3 Potential Surprises for Beginning of 2021 Season

  1. It will be interesting who makes the 26 man roster. How many pitchers do the Dodgers carry? If they sign Turner is there room for Beaty? The Dodgers use options as well as any team and if someone is not on the 26 man roster they could still see a lot of playing time. Will the Dodgers use more pitchers at the beginning of the year to allow the starters to get their innings up? That is what usually happens. If so the Dodgers may carry an extra pitcher or three for the first quarter of the year. I like the idea of a 6 man rotation when you have the type of talent the Dodgers have. Saving your pitchers for what really matters, the playoffs is the point correct?

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    1. Six man rotations mean one less guy in the bullpen, no matter how many pitchers you planned to carry. I don’t think they’ll go that route. Maybe they’ll just let Bauer pitch every fourth day like he wants to and that will give everyone else more rest.

      MLB needs to give teams a 28 man roster this year to accommodate larger pitching staffs.
      You point out that they might carry extra pitchers at the beginning of the year but due to the short season last year pitchers are far more likely to run out of gas later in the year, so they’ll need extra pitching then also.

      Because the player’s union and the owners can’t agree on much of anything (except health protocols), they haven’t put in the DH or larger rosters this year and both of those exclusions are likely to lead to more injuries. Really stupid.

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      1. Jeff I agree. Baseball is a mess. The owners and players union do not trust each other. I think the probability of a strike in 2022 is high. I expected them to make a deal as the owners reportedly offered to delay spring training and play a shorter schedule but pay the players for a full season. The players could have gotten the DH & possibly another roster spot. This year is not going to be business as usual. The US is still short on vaccine and the variants are spreading.

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  2. I like Beaty, think he has potential, but at this point isn’t he just a poor man’s Edwin Rios? Rios plays all the same positions and a much better hitter. It’s going to be a very competitive spring training, lots of potential roster surprises.

    Hope Jansen can hold on to the closer position. If he can, means he’s effective which means we have a killer bullpen.

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    1. I could be wrong, but I’m under the impression that the Dodgers aren’t very keen with Rios playing left field. That’s where I think the door is open for Beaty, especially since he’s a lefty hitter. Could be a battle between him and McKinstry.

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      1. I always think of Beaty as more of a contact/singles type hitter and Rios as the big bopper. Unless I need a homer, I’d rather have Beaty as a pinch hitter where I just need a hit. I agree that it could be a battle between Beaty and McKinstry except that Beaty can’t play short or second. I’ve had this feeling all winter that Beaty would be included in a trade, except for that to happen AF has to make a trade.

        I’m really torn, because I’m a Beaty fan, but I think it would be better for his career if we shipped him off to another team where he could get more playing time.

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      2. Good point Dennis. It’s not as though ZachMac is a sure bet future HOFer so he needs to prove himself before being handed the roster spot. I’m sure that’s how the team is approaching it.

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      3. First few weeks of the season are gonna be very interesting, that’s for sure. I’m still overwhelmed by the idea that Friedman spent that much money on Bauer. I wouldn’t have been surprised if it was somebody like Brian Cashman, but Friedman? No way. Especially after winning a WS. I guess I just feel that somebody with Andrews gifts and skills for roster building would have found a better way to spend $40 million. I hope he proves me wrong. 🙂

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      4. There was a story in the LA Times about Kershaw’s not being sure of what he wants to do after this year. Maybe AF knows more than we do about that and is preparing to lose him, either to retirement or to the Rangers. So maybe he’s just trying to replace him one year early. Or not.

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  3. Friedman always has a plan and is usually several steps out. Someone once said Friedman is playing chess and the rest of the league checkers. The Bauer signing is odd on the face of it. Friedman and Kasten must have a strategy for the future. Kasten only won the one WS in Atlanta while being a dominant team. I think he has decided to make sure this team is extremely competitive and to go for multiple rings not rest on their WS win. Which is great for Dodger fans.

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    1. I think there is a whole lot more going on here than we know. White and grey may not be near as good as we think and the dodgers clearly had no confidence in gonsolin and may last year during the post season. And white and gonsolin are close to the career minor leaguer category. Both are 26/27. And if kersh moves on our depth may become a weakness very quickly. While I don’t get (or like ) the bauer signing maybe it makes sense. I expected some or all of the bottom 3/4 pitchers to be traded, to upgrade our bench. Beatty, rios and Mac aren’t really big leaguers and at their ages never will be. Hope I’m wrong but we’re talking about a bunch of guys that are past been prospects , except possibly may.

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      1. May is only 23 throws a ball with late movement can hit 100 and is consistently around 97. He has a bright future. Gonsolin was very effective during the season. His split-finger is a great out pitch and he throws with velocity also. White is the player we cannot be too sure of as he has had injury issues and has not pitched very much at a high level. Gray from what we have read is probably a very real top prospect. Don’t forget the Dodgers have guys that are on the 60 man like Carrillo and Jackson that are highly thought of and Periot was thought to have been one of the top pitchers in the AZ league according to reports. Not to mention recent draft choices that are highly thought of. The Dodger starting rotation may look different in 2 years when Price’s contract is up and depending on what Kershaw decides.

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  4. Jim Duquette is comparing will smith to a young Realmutto today, that might be a bit of a stretch, but it’s nice to know people on national media have recognized his potential.

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  5. Jeff, and max, about your comments yesterday on the DH, and player/owners relations. The owners negotiated a 300 million deal for extended playoffs without ever talking to the mlbpa, that was a major sign of disrespect. The owners offer didn’t really give the players that much. A DH without a permanent roster spot is useless, I doubt if the players are all that worried about a DH. The biggest problems the players face with salaries are the QO, or the compensation attached to it, and the luxury tax, the tax has become so severe, the owners rarely cross it. if the owners want increased playoffs, which they do, or they wouldn’t have made a 300 million deal, the players have to use that to get the salary increases they are looking for. If the players agreed to the owners offer for this year, it would make them look bad when they were trying to use the playoffs as a negotiating tool next season. I don’t expect a DH for this season, but I would like to see it as part of the next CBA.

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    1. I agree there is a lot of maneuvering for next year’s contract negotiations. I want the DH in the NL. The DH especially helps talent-rich clubs like the Dodgers. The Draft Compensation and the Luxury Cap are going to be fought over in 2022. The players are not going to agree to either without changes and may not agree to them at all. I believe there will be a strike and possibly a long one.

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    1. Actually he will be. It will just be for a team not named the LA Dodgers. He probably doesn’t think so right now, but this is probably the best thing that could have happened for his career.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. If I were the Angels or another team with a poor farm team I would jump on any Dodger DFA’s especially pitchers. Sborz had a few opportunities but never was able to stand out. Wish him well.

        Liked by 1 person

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