Dodgers 2018 Roster: A Few Thoughts About Second Base

Earlier in November, the Dodgers exercised their option to bring back second baseman Logan Forsythe for another season at $8.5 million, perhaps making evident that the team views the 30-year-old Memphis native as the main guy at the keystone moving into 2018. But there’s one potential problem with the way the roster may shape up—there’s nobody at all on the radar who bats left-handed and can play second base.

Sure, Forsythe could conceivably play every day, and there ‘s a whole slew of players who can provide cover at second—Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor, Austin Barnes, Tim Locastro, or even Justin Turner, in a pinch. However, all these options are righty hitters, and it will be very atypical of Andrew Friedman and his crew not to have a left-handed hitting second baseman on the 25-man roster, especially considering the way Forsythe has hit righty pitching throughout his career.

For the entirety of the 2017 regular season, Forsythe hit just .190/.315/.262 in 286 plate appearances against RHP—a scary thought when considering that roughly two-thirds of the starting pitchers in the majors throw from the right side. Career-wise, his numbers are a little better, but not stellar by any means, as he has a .236/.317/.344 lifetime mark against right-handers. In the greater scope of things, a .344 career slugging percentage for a player hitting in the middle of a lineup with championship aspirations is just a bit grim.

And the scary thing is that the Dodgers don’t really have any second base prospects on the upper levels of the farm who bat left-handed. Willie Calhoun, a Top 5 team prospect who was dealt to the Rangers last July for Yu Darvish, showed a little bit of promise, but even so, Texas doesn’t have much hope for his glove, as the club utilized the youngster as a left fielder in 18 games when he was brought up after rosters expanded.

Max Muncy should be back with Triple-A Oklahoma City next year, and could be a far reach to provide cover at the keystone, but the 27-year-old former Oakland Athletic is more of a corner infielder/outfielder type of utility man—almost a clone of Rob Segedin, if you will. In all, Muncy hit .309/.414/.492 with 12 long balls and 44 RBI in 109 games for OKC last year, however, he only appeared in nine games at second base.

All things considered, Forysthe does have a number of bright spots, most specifically his outstanding defense, his ability to hit anywhere in the lineup, and his propensity to get on base. And if he can carry a bit of momentum into the beginning of 2018, unlike his injury-riddled beginning to last season, maybe things will play out differently. After all, he did have a very productive stretch in the 2017 postseason.

The Dodgers brought in Forsythe last winter for the main reason of generating offense against southpaw pitching after the club as a whole hit below .210 against leftys for the entirety of 2016—and for that purpose, he delivered. Yet, when pondering Forsythe’s career numbers against right-handed pitching, there’s a very good chance the Dodgers make a move to bolster the offensive side of things at second base. There’s about a zero chance that Chase Utley returns, and even if he did, it’s doubtful that he could provide any more pop at the dish against right-handers than Forsythe.

As far as free agent second baseman who hit left-handed go, there are a few options in Jose Reyes, Cliff Pennington or Danny Espinosa, but considering the tendencies and aspirations of the Los Angeles front office crew, they may prefer to make a bigger splash through a potential trade.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

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A Quick Glance at the Dodgers’ Organizational Depth at Catcher

While there aren’t an overwhelming number of trade rumors surrounding the Dodgers as this winter’s hot stove approaches, there has been a bit of conjecture regarding catcher Yasmani Grandal and whether or not he’ll last the entire season in Los Angeles.

The 29-year-old product of Cuba is embarking upon his seventh big league season, and this winter will mark his third bout with salary arbitration. At the end of his 2018 campaign, he’ll become a free agent, prompting many fans to believe the Dodgers will deal him to at least haul in some type of return as Austin Barnes continues as the club’s primary backstop.

In 2017, Grandal hit .247/.308/.459 with 22 long balls, but he set a career high in strikeouts with 130. He also set a personal high with 16 passed balls, which was one of several reasons that allowed Barnes to climb to the top of the catching hierarchy.

The dilemma in dealing Grandal sooner than later is having to face the task of determining whether or not 27-year-old utility man Kyle Farmer is ready for extended duty behind the dish in the majors. His bat is certainly capable, but although he caught 32 games at Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, he saw action in just three games during his time in the big leagues. Without Grandal, though, the Dodgers would lose the option of having a catcher who can hit left-handed, although Barnes’ splits at the plate do show reverse tendencies.

If indeed Grandal is sent elsewhere, and Farmer becomes the understudy of Barnes, the catching crew at OKC could conceivably consist of 22-year-old Will Smith and 19-year-old Keibert Ruiz.

Ruiz began 2017 by slashing .317/372/.423 in 63 games for the Loons and was promoted to High-A Rancho Cucamonga on July 9. With the Quakes, Ruiz hit .315 with six homers, seven doubles, 27 RBI and 24 runs scored over 38 games. In 201 career minor-league games, the switch-hitting catcher has slashed .330 /.372/.461 with 11 homers, 53 doubles and 118 RBI. Offensive skills aside, he’s probably better known for his defense behind the dish, as he’s considered already to be an MLB-caliber receiver by most scouts within the organization. The native of Valencia, Venezuela was named the Dodgers’ 2017 Branch Rickey Minor League Player of the Year.

With Grandal still in the picture and Farmer beginning the season at OKC, Ruiz should have plenty of time to settle in at Double-A Tulsa, at least until some kind of move is made involving Grandal.

With Jack Murphy and Wynston Sawyer heading into free agency, and veteran Bobby Wilson facing either free agency or retirement, Smith is setting up to see considerable time at catcher for Oklahoma City. 2017 saw Smith battle a few injury setbacks, but he’s definitely healthy at the present juncture. Recently in the 2017 Arizona Fall League, Smith led the Glendale Desert Dogs in hitting at .371, after going 23-for-62 at the plate over 18 games played.

Despite Ruiz’s many accolades, some pundits still have Smith with the higher ceiling. Smith is a significantly better athlete than most catchers, with many scouts giving him plus grades for his speed. He has solid arm strength and such a quick transfer that he consistently delivers throws to second base in 1.9 seconds or less. He moves very well behind the plate and is a good receiver who capably handled several pro-caliber pitchers on Louisville’s staff. When hitting, Smith uses a compact right-handed stroke that enables him to make contact with ease. He’s more of an on-base machine than a power threat, though he has the ability to poke an occasional ball out of the park—all qualities reminiscent of Barnes at the big league level.

If he’s still around come spring, Paul Hoenecke could play a role at catcher in the upper-levels of the farm. Over six minor league seasons in the Dodgers’ system, the 27-year-old has hit .269/.317/.449 with 50 homers and 228 RBI in 439 games.

Further down on the totem pole is Garrett Kennedy, who hit .230/.322/.385 with eight long balls across two levels of the farm last season, and Brant Whiting, a 25-year-old backstop who spent most of the year at Low-A Great Lakes. With Kennedy, however, there may be a scenario where he comes back as a coach in the system after having battled an significant number of injuries over the past several seasons.

In an ideal scenario for the Dodgers, if Grandal is indeed moved, a trade won’t happen until the deadlines approach during the summer, affording Farmer the time to focus mainly on catching at the big league level, while giving Smith the time to transition to Triple-A.

Either way, 2018 will see a bit of restructuring in the Dodgers’ catching department, as a few of the youngsters who have been touted the past few years will finally be given a chance to climb to the higher levels of the organizational ladder.

(FOLLOW DENNIS ON TWITTER: @THINKBLUEPC)

 

Dodgers Add Trevor Oaks, Dennis Santana to 40-Man Roster

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(Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Davis)

The Dodgers on Monday made a few adjustments to the 40-man roster by selecting the contracts of right-handed pitchers Trevor Oaks and Dennis Santana. Space was created by designating righty reliever Josh Ravin for assignment after left-handed relief pitcher Grant Dayton was claimed off waivers by the Braves.

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Dodgers Roster: What Ever Happened to Scott Kazmir?

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(Photo Credit: NBC Southern California)

It seems like an eternity, but it’s only been just shy of two years since the Dodgers signed veteran southpaw starter Scott Kazmir to a 3-year/$48 million deal that left many fans excited about a prospective rotation upgrade.

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Dodgers Likely to Adjust 40-Man Roster Ahead of Winter Meetings

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(Mandatory Credit: Tony Capobianco)

While many fans identify baseball’s Winter Meetings as a hotbed for trades and potential free agent signings, few realize that the event also features the annual Rule 5 Draft, which is held on the final day of the gathering.

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Dodgers Starting Rotation: A Few Preliminary Thoughts Heading into 2018

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(Mandatory Credit: David Goldman/AP)

With the hot stove season and baseball’s winter meetings inching ever so closer, there has been a huge amount of chatter and speculation among followers of the Dodgers surrounding potential trades or the addition of a few free agents. But while the squad will indeed have a slightly different look come spring, there’s a pretty good chance that management builds the 25-man roster from the existing framework within the organization. Last week, general manager Farhan Zaidi addressed the media, stating that he thinks the roster won’t need much work.

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Dodgers 2018 Roster: Will Chris Taylor Improve Upon a Stellar 2017?

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(Photo by Scott Varley, Daily Breeze/SCNG)

It was the season that no fan of the Dodgers could have predicted, but Chris Taylor was arguably one of the MVPs of the 2017 squad. So what lies ahead for him in 2018?

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Dodgers Roster: More Thoughts on a Potential Brandon Morrow Signing

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(Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

While it hasn’t yet been a week since the conclusion of Game 7 of the 2017 World Series, there’s already been a ton of speculation stirring on how the Dodgers will fill in the blanks for the prospective 2018 player roster.

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Dodgers Exercise Logan Forsythe’s 2018 Team Option

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Los Angeles Dodgers’ Logan Forsythe runs to home after hitting a solo home run during the third inning of a baseball game against the San Diego Padres in Los Angeles, Monday, Sept. 25, 2017. (AP Photo/Kelvin Kuo)

As a prelude to what may be a busy winter, the Los Angeles Dodgers made several intriguing roster-related moves on Monday. They had previously declined to pick up the remaining $17.5 million on Andre Ethier‘s contract, instead opting to buy him out for $2.5 million. He is now a free agent. In theory, he could still return to the club, albeit at a lower salary.

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Dodgers 2018 Roster: Where Exactly Does Andrew Toles Fit In?

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On Sunday, the Dodgers officially declined the $17.5 million contract of veteran Andre Ethier, buying him out for $2.5 million. He was the longest tenured Dodger player, playing in the big leagues for parts of 12 seasons. His last hit as a Dodger might just be the run scoring single he hit in Game 7 of the World Series.

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