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:
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.
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.
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.
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)