Dodgers Facing Several Tough Roster Decisions Ahead of 2021 Opening Day

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As the days continue to dwindle before the 2021 season opener, the Dodgers will face a few difficult roster decisions regarding which players will suit up against the Rockies in Denver on April 1.

In addition to the freeway series against the Angels on Mar. 28-30, the Dodgers have ten Cactus League games remaining to analyze player performance, including Wednesday afternoon’s clash with the White Sox. Indeed, 13 games does seem like a lot, but the next few weeks could quite possibly be filled with a few surprises and unexpected turns.

Zach McKinstry

While there have been several standouts for Los Angeles this spring as far as younger players go, one who has shined particularly bright is 25-year-old utility man Zach McKinstry. No question McKinstry has shown that he has deserved inclusion on the major league roster through both his offensive contributions and his defensive versatility, but one might wonder how much playing time he will see in a prospective utility role and whether a limited number of appearances could affect his overall performance in terms of consistency.

Colorado has yet to announce its Opening Day starting pitcher, but if Bud Black goes with righty German Marquez like he did last year or right-hander Jon Gray like he did in 2018, it means that not only the lefty-hitting McKinstry could be relegated to the bench for Los Angeles, but also one of the best run producers in Chris Taylor could be riding the pine, specifically if the Dodgers remain committed to giving Gavin Lux the bulk of playing time at second base against righty pitching. In any event, this is another example of the club’s tremendous player depth.

Either way, McKinstry is one of those gritty types of players who should remain unaffected regarding regular playing time. At this point, there’s about a 90 percent-plus chance he makes the team, barring an ailment or injury.

DJ Peters vs. Matt Beaty

As DJ Peters and Matt Beaty are two completely different types of players, the final roster spot among position players just might boil down to these two bubble candidates. And, while Beaty has already proven that he’s able to produce in a pinch without consistent playing time, Peters might be one of those guys who needs to be on the field every day, at least until his approach at the plate solidifies.

Conceivably, nobody has had a better spring on the Dodgers than Peters. He has shown flashes of brilliance with his glove, flaunted his power with the bat, and has finally indicated that he’s gaining patience at the dish, as made evident by his five Cactus League walks. However, even at 25 years of age, he still may need just a little more time at Triple-A to develop his eye.

Beaty can capably handle both corner outfield spots, first base, and even a little third base if the team is in need. He has already made valuable offensive contributions to the club, especially coming off the bench in clutch moments. It’s probably safe to say that Beaty is in and that Peters suits up for the Dodgers at some point this year, just not on Opening Day.

The Starting Rotation

There’s no question that the Los Angeles bullpen will entail some of the final few roster decisions, but some of those particular spots hinge on what happens with the starting rotation. According to the safest assumptions, we know right now that Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, and Trevor Bauer will be among the starting five. Which players end up filling the remaining two spots are anybody’s guess.

Veteran lefty David Price has already told reporters that he’s committed to performing in whatever capacity that makes the team better, including throwing in relief. Juan Toribio, who replaced the retired Ken Gurnick as MLB.com’s beat writer for the Dodgers, not only has projected Price throwing in relief, but has also penciled Tony Gonsolin into the rotation over Dustin May. Gonsolin has been nearly perfect over his three outing so far, yet it certainly might be unwarranted to build a rotation on spring training performances alone .

With more than a dozen games remaining to help team management decide how the Opening Day pitching staff will stack up, Toribio’s guess is as good as any.

Stay tuned.

13 thoughts on “Dodgers Facing Several Tough Roster Decisions Ahead of 2021 Opening Day

  1. Speaking of guys on the bubble, old friend Zach Pop has a good chance of making the Marlins opening day roster. He was a rule 5 draft pick from the Orioles after having had TJ surgery in 2019.

    Remember back in the day when you and I were discussing Pop and Kasowski as being future Dodger bullpen pieces Dennis? Looks like Pop might be the first to make it to the majors, unfortunately not with the Dodgers.

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    1. I’ve been able to stay in touch with Zach here and there through messenger. I get down to Baltimore a couple times per year, so I was hoping he’d latch on there so I could see him throw. I told Shea Spitzbarth that I’d look for him in Pittsburgh if he indeed makes the team. I talk to him every now and then. I wonder how Jordan Sheffield is doing with the Rox.

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  2. Most have predicted what you are outlining for roster spots. Peters has been impressive but riding the pine will not advance his skillsets. I think we would all love to see a rotation of Kershaw, Buehler, Bauer, Urias, & Gonsolin. I agree May could use some time perhaps offsite to work on his secondary pitches and get more experience. He is very young. A standing ovation to David Price’s willingness to do whatever is best for the team. Hopefully, Roberts doesn’t screw it up. Impressed with Gonsolin for working hard to improve, he has been great this Spring.

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    1. I must say, I’m really impressed with Price. He hasn’t even thrown a pitch for us yet but he’s contributed in three very significant ways:
      1) He gave every Dodger minor leaguer $1000 out of his own pocket last year to make up for their not having a season
      2) He kept in constant touch with his teammates throughout the year even though he chose to sit out. He didn’t just disappear but tried to still be a part of the team.
      3) He has told management that he would be willing to pitch out of the bullpen this year if they felt that is where he would be the most help. This is a former Cy Young winner who is willing to pitch in relief, not because he isn’t capable of starting, but because that might help the team more.

      Kudos DP. I hope others are watching the way you do things.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. D J Peters is striking out more than 40% of his plate appearances – against spring training pitchers. What’s he going to do against major league pitchers when the Dodgers need at least productive outs. He won’t make the team out of spring training and if his whiff rate doesn’t come down substantially he might never have a long run at the top level.

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    1. Those are my feelings about DJ and they have been for the past couple of years. I would love to see him succeed because he really gives it his all, but I’m not optimistic about his ultimate chances for success.

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    2. Neuse, who is everybody’s favorite pick to make the team is striking out even more than Peters even though he is hitting .300. He has 9 K’s in 21 at bats, and he has only walked twice. He has shown no power at all, and Peters OBP is over .400 since he has walked 5 times. No doubt he can benefit from some time at AAA, but this spring he has outplayed Neuse. Price is starting today. My prediction, Kersh, Bauer, Buehler, Price and Urias will be the starters with Gonsolin as the swing man and May at AAA.

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      1. He is probably better than White. But all I heard about was his power. Have not seen any of that. He has made some nice plays on defense, but I just am not sold.

        Liked by 1 person

  4. Hate to repeat myself but Zacmac is a lock until lux can lock up 2nd base, which now looks likely as it is his to lose. The other 2 are too old to be prospects and really have no future with this team. They are just holding a seat until until someone younger comes along. But I do agree that Beaty will make the roster as he has played well in the past few seasons and Roberts sticks to what he knows. The pitching staff is where the competition is and who knows who will grab the 8 bullpen spots.

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  5. Peters struck out 550 times in three minor league seasons. Unless he cuts that down he will forever be a 4A player. Dodgers don’t need a Rob Deer.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I’m thinking the bench battle is more between Neuse and Beaty rather than Neuse/Peters, mainly because Neuse is right handed. Beaty probably has the upper hand because you can’t judge him on numbers strictly. He’s clutch and plays both corner outfield spots and first base well. We need that more than another guy who can play 2b, 3b, 1b like Neuse. We have Taylor and McKinstry for that need. Peters goes down, especially since we likely keep Rios on the bench for a while.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I still think it will be Beaty. However, while Peters is still striking out a lot he has a .412 OBP and a .930 OPS to go with his .259 avg. Neuse has not shown any power nor has he stood out in any way from what I have seen. I think Peters ends up in OKC but there are several teams that could benefit from his playing in the outfield.

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