The Los Angeles Dodgers played their first Spring Training game of the season yesterday, winning 2-1 over the Oakland Athletics. As of Monday, we are just one month from the beginning of the regular season.
The Dodgers are returning most of their championship team from last season, with a few notable additions and subtractions. Trevor Bauer has joined the starting rotation, and Kiké Hernandez and Joc Pederson have moved on to other teams in their free agency.
Pederson was mostly a platoon outfielder, but Hernandez played all over the field, prompting some to call him a Super Utility player. With that needed person now moved on to the Boston Red Sox, who on the Dodgers is most likely to take over the vacated role of Kiké?
Chris Taylor was the counterpart to Hernandez, and he will continue his role. So far in this early Spring Training, he has taken reps at third, shortstop and second base. Manager Dave Roberts has also said that he will also see some time in the outfield, mostly in left. Roberts stated that Taylor’s versatility on defense will have him playing pretty much every day, just not always at the same position. It will be interesting to watch if he takes over the second base position more permanently if Gavin Lux fails to secure that position as his own.
Matt Beaty has been somewhat versatile in his defense, having played the corners for this infield and outfield alike in his two years in the majors. 2020 was a down year for him, playing in only 21 of the 60 games. Beaty did collect the first hit of Spring Training, and then was later thrown out at home, on a superb throw from the A’s Buddy Reed.
Roberts mentioned that Beaty will spell A.J. Pollock in left field, and he will probably see the majority of his time at first base to relieve Max Muncy. While versatile, and a good bat off the bench, Beaty really isn’t Super Utility material.
Zach McKinstry’s name has been brought up most often this off-season/spring as the heir apparent to the Kiké Utility throne. McKinstry impressed in Spring Training las season before the shutdown, slashing .414/.452/.862, and spent most of the season at the alternate site. He did join the big club for four games in 2020, getting two hits in seven at bats, including a double.
Pollock has been really impressed with the 33rd round draft pick. “McKinstry, that guy can absolutely flat out rake. We saw that in Spring Training, and we know we’re going to have him. I don’t know when, but he’s going to be a contributor for sure”, A.J. said. “He’s just got a really, really advanced approach at the plate,” Pollock said. “His swing, it’s definitely going to play in the big leagues because it’s just so compact; it’s consistent. He’s got a really, really calm demeanor. You don’t see him getting too rattled, too up or down. He’s just super consistent. I’m excited for him. He’s a good dude, and his bat’s definitely going to play in the big leagues.”
Roberts has described McKinstry as a “baseball player”. As he can do a little bit of everything, he seems to be the most likely to step into the role vacated by Hernandez.
Lastly, the most intriguing person in camp could possibly Matt Davidson. Formerly of the Chicago White Sox and Cincinnati Reds, Davidson can play both third and first base. He can provide pop off the bench as he hit 20 homers in both 2017 and 2018 for the White Sox. He hit the first homer of the spring for the Dodgers, a no doubter into a stiff wind.
But most interesting is that he also has logged six games in relief. Davidson broached the possibility of maybe pitching when he first joined the Dodgers, telling Roberts “I believe I can pitch”. He said that he’s touched 92 mph while with the White Sox, and has already started a throwing and weighted ball program with the Dodgers.
“He’s in the mix,” Roberts said, “a guy right-handed bat off the bench, he can play third, he can play first. He’s open to the idea of logging some innings out of the ‘pen. He’s got the good arm with the openness, willingness. Threw a pen the other day, ball came out good. So he just gives us that versatility.”
As with everything else, the Dodgers are rich with depth and have choices that will foster good competition. In a long season after a truncated one, all options will be explored and utilized, and the Dodgers have the luxury of time and resources.
9 thoughts on “Who Will Be the Dodgers’ Super Utility Man in 2021?”
Because of the short season last year and the total lack of a minor league season, it’s going to be harder than ever for AF to make player decisions this year because he won’t really know how deep he needs to be at AAA to cover injuries or guys just running out of steam in Aug-Sept.
If this were a normal year, it might serve us well to decide who our best replacement guys are and then just start trading off some of the others for younger prospects who are farther away. Position players like Reks, Raley and now possibly Beaty and pitchers like Santana and White are beginning to lose their window for having an MLB career because we have so many guys ready to be on the 26 man roster and then another group not too far away pushing from underneath to get spots.
I hope these guys get their chance, if not with us, then with another organization.
The problem for the Dodger players on the fringe is exactly what Jeff D states. There are guys like May, Peters, Santana, White, Reks, Raley that are very talented but have not had the opportunity to get enough playing time to prove it or there is a very good player blocking them. If you are a Dodger pitcher the signings of Bauer and Knebel were an end to their chances this year. There are pitchers the Dodgers will ship back to the Farm that could start for half or more of the MLB! I did not think the Dodgers would or should have signed Bauer he was not needed. Plus he blocks guys like Gonsolin, May, Gray, White, Jackson, Uceta, etc from even getting a fair opportunity. The Dodgers must trade some of these players to replenish their Minors and not lose them to the Rule 5 draft. If I were a Dodger pitcher like Uceta, Carrillo, White, Jackson, Pepiot, Santana, May, etc I would be pissed and would pray for a trade. What about Ruiz he is in the same situation. They signed Barnes for 2 years! What are they going to do about Ruiz?
Ruiz is not even in camp. And I doubt those guys are pissed. Some would be blocked anyway with Price coming back Let alone Bauer. Ruiz has not even spent a full season at AAA. He got some time there in 2019 but got hurt. Those guys you mentioned will get their chance. May is still a kid. Gonsolin at 26 is the old man of the group. Some will end up trade bait. The Dodger depth is what makes them so dangerous to the other teams. Ok, worse case scenario. Buehler has blister problems again and Kersh’s back acts up. Who takes their place if you trade some of your best prospects? May and Gonsolin would be the two considered first, then White and Santana, who both have some MLB time. Gray would be an emergency arm. Just because they signed Barnes for two years does not mean that they cannot trade him. He has a very team friendly contract. You might not have wanted Bauer, but almost every Dodger fan would be screaming if he joined the Mets staff, which right now is pretty good. And AF does not sign people he does not think he needs. He obviously, and ownership too, felt getting Bauer increased their chances of repeating as World Champs, and after all, isn’t that the idea????
I feel sympathetic for some of these guys, but if they are good enough they will get playing time here, or have other teams trying to acquire them. I’m glad we have the depth, I’m anxious to see how good this starting staff can be, If these guys can stay healthy, they could be historic.
I do understand the goal is the win the WS. I simply feel for the young guys that are blocked and may have years wasted in the Minors. What I would like to see after the Dodgers find out how the team is playing and if Lux is going to claim the 2nd base job or not is to trade a couple of the up-and-comers that are not going to make the Dodger club for some needed younger position players. But you guys are right as usual Friedman has this figured out. I really like what we have seen of Peters so far. As well as McKinstry. Lux is hitting the ball hard but it is early and mostly the guys are not seeing quality pitching. I still think McKinstry makes as well as Rios and Taylor. I am not sure who else makes the bench spot. I would love to see Peters but then we would probably lose Beaty. Dodgers are packed with talent.
Since Beatty is a lefty, I bet the FO would like to see him make the roster, to replace Joc’s bat, and play some left field, for pollock. So peters has an up hill battle IMO. I don’t think it’s impossible for him to win a roster spot, I just think they would like another left handed bat for the OF. Peters does have the advantage of being a natural OFer.
Rios and McKinstry have both played a little outfield in the minors although I don’t know how efficiently. Peters is actually a very good outfielder.
On the other hand both Reks and Raley are real outfielders and hit left handed.
Beaty, when asked what his best position is, has answered “left handed batter’s box”.
Taylor is right-handed. Lux and McKinstry are lefties as is Rios. Rios can play left as can McKinstry. I like the idea of a right-handed power hitter that is a very good outfielder and can play all three positions plus maybe 1st base as a good thing. It balances the bench. But I agree he has long odds. Do you think Friedman may make a trade before the season starts?
AF will make a trade if he thinks it will make the club better. I’m not sure what kind of trade that would be at this point but we shall see. As we’ve discussed here over the past few days, with the overabundance of guys who won’t make the 26 man roster and some duplication of talent, he might trade one or two of those extra pieces for lower level prospects.
Or maybe he’ll trade for Bryce Harper tomorrow and make him the left fielder. That would probably take more than Santana and Reks though. 🙂