Dodgers Roster: Exploring the Big League Depth at Shortstop

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(AP Photo/Mark J. Terrill)

As of Sunday morning, there was no additional news on the exact condition of Corey Seager’s hand, aside from the fact that X-rays administered on Saturday night showed a fracture. Either way, the untimely injury will cause yet another shakeup to an already fluid active roster. Including the four players on the 60-day injured list, the Los Angeles Dodgers will have a total of 13 players on the shelf at the start of Sunday’s finale against the Marlins.

(Update: Reports Sunday afternoon indicated that Seager fractured the fifth metacarpal in his right hand, but surgery will not be necessary. There has yet to be any estimated timetables announced for a prospective return. Keibert Ruiz has taken Seager’s spot on the active roster for Sunday’s game.)

Seager was in obvious pain after being smacked on the hand by a 90- MPH Ross Detwiler sinker in the fifth inning of Saturday’s middle game against Miami. After barely making it halfway up the first base line, skipper Dave Roberts removed Seager from the contest, replacing him with Sheldon Neuse, who would stay in the game to play second base.

Gavin Lux slid over to shortstop, giving onlookers a preview of what may be in store defensively in the immediate future. In the early portion of the 2021 season, there have been quite a few conversations in this space regarding what may happen if Seager signs elsewhere should he become a free agent at the end of the year. Conceivably, fans might be getting a preview of that scenario with Lux.

When Seager missed almost the entire 2018 season after having UCL surgery, the Dodgers used just two players at shortstop—Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez—before acquiring Manny Machado at the summer trade deadline. Taylor made 81 appearances there, committing 10 errors and gathering 197 assists on 302 chances.

In addition to Lux and Taylor, the Dodgers might have a third option at shortstop with Neuse. The 26-year-old righty hitter has not played shortstop since making his MLB debut in 2019, but he did log nine appearances there for the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators before being called up that season.

“Grew up playing shortstop, played third when I got into professional baseball,” Neuse said in an interview during 2021 Cactus League play. “Made my major league debut at second base and played a little first base here and there. So, honestly, anywhere in the infield I feel comfortable.”

During the game on Saturday, the Dodgers announced they acquired utilityman Yoshitomo Tsutsugo from the Tampa bay Rays for a player to be named later or cash. Since making his MLB debut last year, the 29-year-old lefty hitter has not played any shortstop, having seen most of his time at left field and both corner infield spots. He’s a career .187/.292/.336 hitter in 272 big league plate appearances. Roberts told reporters on Saturday that Tsutsugo will not become active in the organization until sometime next week.

Similarly, the Dodgers claimed another utilityman, 24-year-old lefty hitting Travis Blankenhorn, off waivers after he was released by the Twins earlier this week. Blankenhorn made just two major league appearances over the past two years, with both coming at second base. He hasn’t played shortstop since 2015 in the Gulf Coast Rookie League.

Zach McKinstry, who has been on the shelf with an oblique injury since April 23, has not yet logged any time at shortstop in the majors. However, during the 2019 season, he made 29 appearances there with Double-A Tulsa.

Omar Estevez, journeyman Elliot Soto, Jacob Amaya, and Clayton Daniel are among the shortstop headliners on the farm.

The organization’s third-highest rated prospect, 23-year-old lefty hitter Michael Busch, has been seeing the lion’s share of time at second base for Tulsa. Splitting time between first base, second base, and left field at the University of North Carolina, Busch has not seen any action at shortstop since high school.

17-year-old righty hitting Wilman Diaz, who has yet to make his organizational debut, is a natural shortstop and is currently rated as the system’s eighth-best prospect.

With Seager heading to the injured list and veteran Albert Pujols expected to join the team as soon as Monday, there will certainly be quite a few roster moves ahead for the Dodgers in the coming days.

28 thoughts on “Dodgers Roster: Exploring the Big League Depth at Shortstop

  1. 1. Mookie Betts (R) CF
    2. Max Muncy (L) 1B
    3. Justin Turner (R) 3B
    4. Matt Beaty (L) LF
    5. Chris Taylor (R) 2B
    6. Gavin Lux (L) SS
    7. Luke Raley (L) RF
    8. Austin Barnes (R) C
    9. Jimmy Nelson (R) P

    Blankenhorn, Neuse, Tsutsugo do not fill me with confidence. Pujols might run into one once a week but it’s time for Betts,Smith and Lux to get it going.

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  2. If it weren’t for bad luck I’d have no luck at all, Seager fractured hand on IL.
    Good News is Lux is beginning to look better at the plate and is hitting over .300 the last week. Not impressed with Neuse at all. Looks ineffective at the plate. Peters got a line drive hit and a couple of RBI’s. Thrown out attempting to go to 2nd. Mentally he must have been freaking out with the hit & RBI’s.
    Now is the time to see if Estevez or Amaya is able to have a clue about handling MLB pitching. Or to move Lux to SS his natural position and bring up Busch, or Mann or …
    It does not instill confidence in the Farm Team when the Dodgers are picking up Ray and Minnesota guys placed on waivers. IS the Farm Team that bad? They must feel the Farm Team is useless. If I were in AAA I would be very concerned that the Dodgers are picking up a Ray placed on waivers hitting .167. Dodger farm guys can’t do better? Wow, I do not think I will ever believe the Dodger Farm Team hype again.

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  3. Why move everybody around? Just play Pujols at shortstop.
    I have more good ideas like this if anyone is interested. 🙂

    The one thing I’m not anxious to see but that I’m sure will happen with Seager’s injury is that Pujols will start getting a fair amount of starts at first base against southpaws with Muncy moving to second or third on those days. Max has gotten very comfortable at first and I think he has become a really decent first baseman and has gotten very good at scooping short throws, something a first baseman should excel at. Now they’ll start moving him all over the place and he’ll become less than average everywhere they put him. The defense is already bad enough without doing that.

    On the other hand, as Dennis points out, moving Lux to short would give them an idea of how well he can field the position at the major league level and might determine other moves this winter. If Lux can hit and field the position at short, maybe they go after a third baseman this winter instead of a shortstop.

    Looking at Tsutsugo’s stats, you just have to wonder what would have made AF go after him but he was in on him a couple years ago before he signed with the Rays, so maybe there is some talent there that just hasn’t surfaced yet. He had some excellent years in Japan.

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    1. I say it’s a complete rejection of any of the players in the Dodger minor league system when you are picking up players with histories hitting below the Mendoza line.

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      1. I’m sure that AF would tell you the strength of the farm system at this point is below the AAA level. OKC has started out the season something like 1-9 so it’s not like they have guys who would help here if they were just brought up. Raley, Peters and Neuse, all of whom are basically AAA players, have struggled mightily when given a chance to play up here this year.

        Tsutsugo and Pujols aren’t likely to do any worse than those three guys and hopefully within the next 7-10 days we’ll have Bellinger and ZMac back. If Tsutsugo is having a Tampa-like performance at that point I’m sure he’ll be cut loose.
        And while I’m mentioning McKinstry (and I’m a huge fan and have been for the past couple of years), we can’t necessarily assume he’ll continue to hit the way he has because………………………………………..small sample size.

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      2. Some teams and the Dodgers included have some of their most talented at AA. Bellinger came from there as I think May. Once you prove you have the talent there is no reason to spend years checking the boxes at AA, AAA, etc unless you are blocked. Everyone reportedly raved about Pepiot, Busch, Hoese in the AZL league, and now that the Dodgers are bringing scrubs off the waiver wire the guys at AA do not have the talent to match that? Peters has a hole in his swing that apparently no amount of coaching will help. Raley and Reks are simply very average AAA talent.
        Although they have both had decent hitting success in the minors.
        IF Busch is all that bring him up move Lux over and play Busch at 1st or 2nd and see how it goes. Instead, they sign guys from the Rays and the Twins wire? Rios goes down bring up Hoese.
        I understand the Pujos signing the man is a HOF first ballot and if he can contribute a bit that is great. Just having a guy like him around gives you a stronger team. But scrubs averaging .167? really? I have a feeling the Farm Team Talent is an illusion fostered by Friedman and his picked draft guy.

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      3. As I recall, Bellinger and May had had some good success in the minors before coming up and they were both considered major prospects. The guys you refer to, Pepiot, Busch and Hoese are barely out of college and haven’t had much of any experience even in the low minors. On top of that, there was no competitive minor league ball last year so that’s something else to consider when you think about bringing those guys up.

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      4. Friedman knows what he has on the farm. It’s his job to hype the prospects up, even if it’s beyond their true value. Honestly, I think he’s become good at receiving much more than what he gives away. (Although Yimi and Floro are doing their best to prove that wrong this year.)

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  4. The factor I watch most closely with Lux is how he hits LH pitchers. Will he be forced to be a career platoon 2B/SS? Over his ML career, at-bats against LH pitchers: 48 PA, 5 H (4 1B, 1 HR), 2 BB, 17 SO, .111 BA. That’s almost automatic out level. I do hope the best for him.

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    1. Lux might continue to hit .111 against LH pitchers over a 15 year major league career but I think you’d have to agree that 48 PA is an extremely small sample size. And I would be saying the same thing if he were batting .333 in 48 PA.

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      1. Of course, it is not predictive at this stage. But at the end of the season if he looks like he can’t handle LH pitching routinely, the Dodgers may need to enter the FA or trade market for a SS. It’s easier to find platoon partners at 2B than SS.

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      2. The other thing to think about is what might happen with Chris Taylor. If both he and Seager end up elsewhere next season, there’s gonna be a few holes to fill, unless the team is content with Lux, Neuse, and McKinstry. I really don’t think there are any minor leaguers close aside from maybe Amaya, who’s been hanging right around the Mendoza Line so far this year.

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      3. It’s a real shame that Seager has another major injury to deal with. The pitch that hit him may very well cost him a few million dollars since it just adds to his rep for being injury prone.

        On the other hand, that pitch may have earned CT3 a few extra million. I just can’t imagine AF letting Taylor leave at this point, and that was probably true even before Seager got hurt. He may not be among the 3 or 4 “best” players on this team but may very well be one of the 2 or 3 most valuable.

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    2. I’ve noticed that with Lux, too. Back in 2019, he slashed .280/.320/.420 against lefty pitching between OKC and Tulsa, so at least there’s that. Maybe the MLB southpaws have found a hole in his swing.

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  5. You don’t want Raley up in a rally.

    We’ve sure seen a lot of minor league players lately. One of them, Uceta, looked pretty good until Duval plastered that center cut gopher into the Frank Howard seats.

    We need a walk off.

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    1. Looks like McKinstry might be headed for a rehab assignment sometime next week. Apparently, Bellinger isn’t too far behind. There’s a few offensive upgrades right there. Team needs to figure out how to stay healthy as a whole.

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    2. Dodgers hopefully knew Peters, Raley, Reks were not Major League material as they certainly have not performed. Going forward they now know they do not have a Farm Team that can support the MLB team in case of position player injury.

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      1. Calling up Reiz is another example of the total lack of depth. No ability to play anywhere except catcher and pinch hit. AF is getting desperate.

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      2. Floro and Garcia are pitching well. I think Friedman thought Knebel would get them through. Kelly has looked great in his last two starts. Fastball 97-98 with a nasty late break, close to un-hittable. Dodgers have to hope to stay close in the standings and hope that Bellinger, McKinstry, Knebel & Graterol get back in time to help get to the playoffs.
        It appears the cupboard is bare as far as position player talent for the next several years. If they actually thought highly of Busch, Hoese, or any of the others they would bring them up. Neuse’s has been below the Mendoza Line his entire time up and his error today probably cost them the win.
        So you have Peters, Neuse, Raley, & Reks that have not performed when given the chance. And so far Lux can’t hit left-handed pitching. But if they get healthy and can get to the playoffs this team can win. If everyone is back.

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      3. I think Gerardo Carrillo and Andre Jackson, both pitchers, are the only remaining guys on the 40-man who haven’t been recalled yet. But I guess the 40-man is in for a couple more changes tomorrow. Again.

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    3. Roberts just announced he never would have sent Luke up in that spot had he realized his name was Raley instead of Rally.

      Uceta was the loser today but I like what I’ve seen from him. I hope he doesn’t have to stay up too long and will have a chance to start on a regular bases at Tulsa this year (I’m assuming that’s where he would be sent) so he can refine his craft. As far as I’m concerned, he’s a keeper.

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  6. They all seem like they are the same though. Swing and Miss is all of their Modus Operandi! It’s amazing so many Dodger players cannot make contact it when it is absolutely essential they move the man on base over. Mind-boggling.

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