With the number of days leading to Opening Day dwindling, many of the conversations around the baseball blogosphere will shift to the battles for roster spots among many teams across the league. For the Los Angeles Dodgers, most of these questions have already been answered, although there still could be two or three spots that are completely up for grabs.
Seemingly, fans of the Dodgers breathed a collective sigh of relief when the club inked Justin Turner to a two-year contract last month. Had the veteran infielder landed elsewhere, who knows what the team would have done to fill the void at third base. With Turner, Corey Seager and Max Muncy being the pillars of one of the most talented infields in the majors, the roster picture quickly fell into place.
Of course, the competition for the final few bullpen spots is a completely different animal, and we’ll leave those discussions for the last days of spring camp. Nevertheless, it probably won’t hurt to start talking about the bubble spots among all the position players.
According to skipper Dave Roberts, 23-year-old Gavin Lux will likely be given the opportunity to garner most of the reps at second base, relegating Chris Taylor to his super-utility role, albeit the role putting him on the field almost every day. Accordingly, Edwin Rios is almost certainly a roster lock because of his capability to play third, while also providing a legit power threat off the pine from the left side.
So, who are the bubble options among the position players? Zach McKinstry, with his ability to play all over the diamond, is apparently on the inside looking out, while another utility guy like Sheldon Neuse is on the outside looking in, just to provide a bit of perspective.
Another big question is what happens with Keibert Ruiz. It’s possible the team carries three catchers at some point, but that scenario is unlikely unless Ruiz can establish himself as a reasonable offensive threat off the bench. Either way, with Ruiz having arrived late to camp, it almost guarantees that he’ll start the year at Triple-A Oklahoma City, learning all he can from 33-year-old vet Tim Federowicz.
In any event, the final one or two roster spots might very well dwindle down to a competition between Matt Davidson, Matt Beaty, and DJ Peters, all three of whom bring a different dynamic to the team. This is assuming that McKinstry will be included on the Opening Day roster.
Davidson, a 29-year-old righty hitter who can handle duties at both first and third base, has already drawn high praise from Roberts for his ability to pitch. However, Davidson hasn’t seen any consistent playing time since his days with the White Sox back in 2018, when he hit just .228 over 123 games, although he was able to tally a respectable 20 bombs and 23 doubles that same season.
Davidson has no options on his contract, meaning it would be a lot tougher for him to secure a roster spot, as the team would need to first and foremost clear space on the 40-man before anything else. Still, the idea of using the 6-foot-3 native of Yucaipa on the bump is intriguing, even if it’s just in a lopsided affair when the club needs to conserve arms.
As far as Beaty and Peters go, we have two players with two relatively different dynamics, with the primary difference being that both hit from opposite sides of the plate. Defensively, Beaty is much more versatile, despite Peters perhaps having the better overall tools. Both players are on the team’s 40-man roster, and both players have option years on their respective contracts.
Beaty can handle first base, third base, and both corner outfield spots, although there’s a sense the Dodgers still don’t fully trust him at the hot corner. Peters can sufficiently field all three outfield spots.
With regards to offense, Beaty has shown he can deliver big in clutch spots, although he’s basically been mediocre in terms of consistency. In 322 big league plate appearances, Beaty has slashed .258/.311/.441, calculating to a .752 OPS and a 97 OPS+, which are about as average as a big leaguer can get.
Peters, on the other hand, has yet to make his MLB debut, but he certainly brings an element of power to the field. He has hit more than 20 long balls in three of his four minor league seasons, while OPSing over .800 three times as well. His glove is decent, and his arm is top notch. Already, we have seen his exceptional range with a sensational catch in center field against the Rockies last week. Perhaps more importantly, Peters has tallied three walks in nine AB so far this spring, which is perhaps a sign that his perenially high strikeout rate might be improving.
At this stage of the game, though, I personally feel that Beaty might have the slight upper hand on an Opening Day spot because of his previous contributions to the club. However, I think Peters will certainly make his debut at some point this year, collecting his fair share of hacks in the process.
Davidson might be even farther down on the totem pole, but anything is possible, particularly if there is an unfortunate outbreak of injuries or ailments.