Let’s Start Building a Preliminary Player Roster

(Tony Dejak/Associated Press)

The moment the news broke about Justin Turner coming back to the Los Angeles Dodgers, many of the lingering questions pertaining to the player roster were quickly answered.

Obviously, numerous spots on the 26-man roster will be won and lost during spring training and Cactus League play, but having Turner as an anchor in the infield certainly makes the primary corps much more stable.

Of course, front-office boss Andrew Friedman might still have a move or two up his sleeve, particularly if he wants to try to reduce payroll enough to re-enter into the next-lowest tax bracket.

Regardless, active roster projections are always a bit tricky during the winter, but this year there really aren’t an overwhelming number of bubble players. The bullpen is where the competition will be this spring, as the starting rotation and position player crew are relatively stable. Surely, there will be injuries that throw wrenches into our early projections, but here’s what we’re looking at right now—assuming the team starts with an eight-man bullpen:

Starting Pitchers (5) —Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, David Price, Trevor Bauer, Julio Urias

Personally, I’m one of those fans who are in the camp of thinking that Urias will end up throwing in relief at some point during the 2021 season, but for the sake of roster-building, we’ll assume that he’s given every opportunity to start. Also, it doesn’t make much sense utilizing a six-man rotation at least until mid-season because it conceivably might require carrying extra relievers. While there has been talk that Price is being considered as a potential trade piece, it’s highly unlikely anyone pays his salary based on his age, even though Boston is responsible for a portion of his paycheck this year. Whatever the case may be, there might be a chance that either Dustin May or Tony Gonsolin starts the season throwing out of the bullpen, a spot for which both are familiar.

Bullpen (8)—Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Brusdar Graterol, May, Victor Gonzalez, Joe Kelly, Corey Knebel, and Scott Alexander

Indeed, this lineup could change at the drop of a dime based on anything that happens during spring training. I’m guessing the team leaves either May or Gonsolin stretched out at the top of Triple-A Oklahoma City’s rotation just in case something happens to one of the big-league starters. Without Dylan Floro and Adam Kolarek, there’s certainly a void as far as experience and prospective inning-eating goes. Regarding depth, Brandon Morrow, Jimmy Nelson and Brock Stewart are around, in addition to Alex Vesia, Garrett Cleavinger, Mitch White, Dennis Santana, Josiah Gray, Andre Jackson, Gerardo Carrillo, Bobby Miller, Michael Grove and Ryan Pepiot. In theory, Cleavinger might be atop the bubble because he’s a lefty with major league experience. Morrow has already been invited to the big-league side of spring camp.

Outfielders (3)—Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts and AJ Pollock

Infielders (5)—Turner, Corey Seager, Gavin Lux, Edwin Rios and Max Muncy

Infielders/Outfielders (3)—Chris Taylor, Matt Beaty and Zach McKinstry

Perhaps the biggest question of spring training is who will emerge as the team’s everyday second baseman or whether the club might platoon Lux and Taylor. If Lux does eventually emerge as the starter, it will regulate Taylor to his normal super-utility role. Theoretically, Rios might be considered as both an infielder and outfielder, but the lefty hitting Beaty is more than capable of handling both outfield corner spots. As it stands, the starting outfield might be considered the absolute best in the MLB. As far as fringe players go, fans might want to keep an eye on DJ Peters, Zach Reks and Luke Raley in the outfield, as well as Sheldon Neuse, Elliot Soto, Michael Busch, and Omar Estevez as possible infield candidates.

Catchers (2)—Will Smith and Austin Barnes

Barnes’ arbitration case still hasn’t been settled, but it’s tough to imagine there will be any overwhelming complications on an eventual deal. The biggest question mark is what happens with Keibert Ruiz. It’s possible the team carries three catchers, but it’s unlikely unless Ruiz can establish himself as a reasonable offensive threat off the bench. Either way, it should be interesting to see how the season progresses, especially if Ruiz impresses at Triple-A. Tim Federowicz will also be catching at OKC to provide additional depth.

Looking ahead, we’ll put together another projection about a week or so before Opening Day, but aside from several potential injury adjustments or a late-winter trade, this list should be fairly accurate.

(Update: Barnes’ arbitration case was settled on Sunday evening per a report from Jon Heyman)

11 thoughts on “Let’s Start Building a Preliminary Player Roster

  1. I’m a Beaty fan but I think the odds are only 50-50 at best that he makes the opening day roster. I’m not sure how Reks and Raley stack up defensively but if they’re above average and have a good spring I could see one of them taking his spot because they might want a good fielding left handed left fielder on the roster to let Pollock sit against some righties.

    That Soto acquisition slipped right past me. Maybe he’ll turn into another Donovan Solano. I was sorry when we let him go, but I know that Farhan was happy to get him.

    Really anxious to see what we have in Neuse and I could definitely see him making the squad, which again would make Beaty’s spot more tenuous.

    Gotta just sit back and watch it all play out.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dennis, great evaluation. The Dodgers move their top minor league players in and out of the MLB better than any other team. We will see players moving to the Farm Team from the bullpen and the bench and back throughout the year. Dodgers are taking last year’s team with more starting pitching and a slightly different but I think improved bullpen to compete in 2021. If the pitching staff performs as they should and if Bellinger, Muncy, and Lux are better offensively this team will be very competitive every game. I anticipate we will see Ruiz sometime this season. I am hoping Knebel gets back to his dominant form and Morrow makes a comeback. As Bear reminded us if Nelson is healthy he could be a contributor. I will be hoping Rios gets enough at-bats to show he is a true offensive threat. I wish the NL would get the DH and the league allowed a couple of more roster spots. GO Blue cannot wait! it’s been a tough year for everyone. Hopefully, we all have a much improved 2021! Would love to be at the WS Championship Parade in LA for the 2021 team!


  3. Speaking of building a roster, saw this online earlier and it just blew my mind.
    While we’re paying Bauer $40 MM this year, the Indians will be paying their 5 starters less than $3 MM combined!


  4. Ahhh once again the voice of dissent. I do not see Neuse making the roster at all. If they go with 13 pitchers, likely, that makes 13 position players. Starting 8 is set barring injury, Betts, Belli, Pollock, Turner, Seager, Lux, Muncy, Smith. Barnes, Rios and Taylor are bench locks. So with 2 spots left, I think McKinstry is at the top of the list since he is more versatile than any of the other candidates. Which at this point makes it 6 RH hitters and 6 LH hitters. To me, Neuse is going to have to prove himself in Spring. Beaty has way more MLB experience and is a contact hitter. And despite having an off year, like so many others, he flourished in the pinch hitting role his first time around. Neuse has not shown that yet. If they decide to carry 14 arms, Neuse has absolutely no shot. I think Ruiz is now serious trade bait. The starters will be Buehler, Kersh, Price, Bauer, and Urias. Locks for the pen are Jansen, Gonzalez, Kelly, unless he is traded, Alexander, Graterol, Knebel and Trienen. That leaves one spot open, I think Gonsolin gets it. He is more suited for the pen than May. May needs to work on some things and I think he is AAA bound. Gonsolin at this point has more weapons. Of course things can change. I think if he is healthy, Morrow is the real wild card here. And Nelson, if healthy, his stuff is nasty. Peters with a good spring could slip onto the roster, especially if he shows he can cut down on his K’s. I don’t think any of the position players who will be non roster invitees have a snowballs chance in hell of cracking this roster. They are merely depth for a very deep team. Injury’s are about thier only chance to get any MLB time.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Bear I like your synopsis of the roster. I wonder about Beaty and McKinstry. Rios I believe is a lock. I think like every year the Dodgers will burn up the flights from OKC to wherever the club is. I am not completely convinced Beaty or McKinstry stick unless they light up spring training. Dodgers as many have stated picked up some interesting players that might be utility role bound. It will be fun to see how it plays out. As you suggested does Peters slip in there? Taylor and Lux can play all around the infield if necessary. Muncy can play the infield except for SS. Rios plays 1st, 3rd, and the corner outfield slots. Pollock can play any outfield position as can Taylor. Smith can play 3rd. Barnes 2nd. They have options in case of injury.

      Liked by 2 people

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