Compared to previous years, the beginning of the upcoming 2023 campaign will be a lot different for the Los Angeles Dodgers because of the uncertainty of which players will see the most regular playing time. Last year, we saw players like Trea Turner and Justin Turner — who have both departed the organization — handle the everyday defensive duties at shortstop and third base, respectively.
Although JTurner is on the downside of his career, he was still a decent defensive option at third base, at least when compared to all the alternatives the team had on the 40-man roster. Missing out on the chance to bring back TTurner was huge, especially when considering the gap the team could have up the middle to start the 2023 season.
Defensively, the infield will be anchored by Freddie Freeman at first base and Will Smith at catcher, but there’s not much written in stone outside of those spots. From what we can tell, Chris Taylor may see most of his time in a thinned-out outfield. In addition, the coaching staff will likely give Gavin Lux all the chances in the world to prove himself as the regular shortstop, leaving Max Muncy, Miguel Vargas and Miguel Rojas to fill in at the other positions.
Where Does Max Muncy Fit?
Muncy isn’t exactly stellar with the glove anywhere you put him, but one would think he would slot in better at second base, although some pundits suggest Vargas could be the better second baseman being that he has slightly better range. Over the course of his four-year minor league career, the righty-hitting Vargas made 205 appearances at the hot corner, 28 at second base, 23 in left field and 14 at first base.
Rojas also hits from the right side of the plate and has primarily played most of his MLB career as a shortstop. Over his nine years as a big leaguer, Rojas has made 719 appearances at short, 99 at third and 73 at the keystone. Although Rojas underwent wrist surgery early this winter to remove a bone formation, all indications are that he’ll be ready when spring camp opens in a few weeks.
There’s definitely a lot of balance with those options, but there’s really not much to write home about offensively, particularly if Muncy doesn’t produce beyond the numbers he put up in 2022. Conceivably, Michael Busch could see some action early in the year, particularly if the club is seeking a spark with the bat.
Designated Hitter Options
Righty-hitting J.D. Martinez will hold down most of the designated hitter responsibilities if healthy. With a career slash-line of .282/.343/.500 against righty pitching and a .306/.377/.579 line against southpaws, the 35-year-old Miami native’s splits are favorable. Still, there’s always the option of having Muncy slide into DH against right-handed pitchers should the matchups favor it.
The early perception might be that the 2023 infield will be a work in process throughout the season with the hopes of building a solid corps just in time for the stretch run of the regular season. For now, should the team stay healthy, we’ll probably see Freeman at first, Lux at short, and some combination of Muncy and Vargas handling the duties at second and third base by the time Opening Day rolls around.