The Los Angeles Dodgers have been a major force in the National League for the past decade, and vaunted for their depth at all aspects of the game. But sometimes that depth gets really tested, as evidenced by the likes of Luke Raley and Steven Souza Jr being left to be the pieces on the bench for key at bats in the 2021 postseason.
Luke Raley was traded earlier this week to the Tampa Bay Rays for Double-A reliever Tanner Dodson. Souza Jr is now in the Seattle Mariners organization.
On Wednesday, the Dodgers designated Matt Beaty for assignment, another bench piece from the last few seasons. The Dodgers felt there wasn’t much “runway” for Beaty on the current roster, and DFA’d him in hopes he’ll find a full time job on another team.
This spring, the Dodgers have also brought in some new faces to compete for those key bench players, to relieve the regular starters and be able to get hits in key at bats late in the game.
Jake Lamb has been turning some heads so far this spring training. The veteran has dealt with some injuries throughout his career but seems to be healthy. He has hit .357 over 14 at bats so far this spring from the left side of the plate, with one home run. He hasn’t had high averages in his years in the majors, but he has played first, third, and in the outfield, the kind of versatility the Dodgers look for in a player.
Hanser Alberto has yet to see action in spring training, arriving Wednesday in camp after dealing with visa issues. He was added to the 40-man roster, replacing Beaty. Alberto has the third-lowest strikeout percentage, at 10.2%, among Major Leaguers with at least 1,000 plate appearances since 2019. He has a .323 average against fastballs since 2018. The outfielder is one of the few right handed options off the bench.
The Dodgers have also signed Kevin Pillar to a minor league contract with an invite to spring training. The outfielder also could be a right handed option off the bench, should he make the team.
Edwin Rios is poised for a bounce back season. Out most of the 2021 season after having surgery on his right shoulder, Rios has come into camp healthy and ready to contribute. He can provide a lot of power from the left side of the plate, as well as spell Justin Turner at third and Freddie Freeman at first. Although very small sample size, he has an OPS of 1.125 so far this spring, is batting .500 and has yet to strike out. Rios is the definition of the three true outcomes of an at bat, if you follow that line of thought – lots of strikeouts, but also takes his walks, and can hit a lot of bombs.
Gavin Lux seemingly will start the season on the bench, as Max Muncy will be sliding over the second with the addition of first baseman Freddie Freeman. However, he is determined to work his way into the lineup as much as possible. Dennis covered more of Lux here.
Chris Taylor will also be available off the bench from time to time, but is expected to be in the lineup most days, spelling one player or another. With the versatility of this team, there could be any one of the regular starters that might be on the bench on any given game, also.
With the introduction of the designated hitter into the National League this season, the Dodgers will have plenty of opportunities to keep whoever has the hottest bat in the lineup, although we know manager Dave Roberts has a propensity for scheduled off days regardless of the current temp of the bat. But with a lineup this potent, that shouldn’t be an issue for the Dodgers.