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.
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.