Dodgers Active Roster: What Can Fans Expect from Jason Heyward in 2023?

If you would have told fans of the Dodgers at the conclusion of last year’s World Series that someone like Jason Heyward would be a key part of the 2023 Opening Day roster, they probably would not have believed you. After all, with a packed house like Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, Trayce Thompson, Chris Taylor and an emerging James Outman, there wasn’t much room for additions.

However, the Dodgers decided to part ways with Bellinger, prompting the need for some kind of additional experience in the outfield, at least from the standpoint of defense. When the smoke finally cleared at the onset of spring, the club secured David Peralta on a one-year deal and snagged Jason Heyward on a minor league pact. For additional security, there was a contingency plan in place consisting of Bradley Zimmer and Steven Duggar, plus J.D. Martinez, who hasn’t flashed his outfield glove in almost two seasons.

Is There Anything Left in the Tank?

Heyward is interesting because he’s only three years removed from his 2019 season when he hit a productive .251/.343/.429 with the Cubs, collecting 21 long balls, 20 doubles and driving in 62 runs in the process. He has five career Gold Gloves under his belt, signifying that he’s more than capable on defense, even in his age 33 season.

The lefty-hitting New Jersey native had a decent start to spring camp and Cactus League play, leading skipper Dave Roberts to reveal early that Heyward would most likely be a part of the active roster come Opening Day. Nevertheless, Heyward’s decline in output over the last month saw him produce a paltry .20/.304/.415 slash line this spring. Obviously, numbers are usually unimportant in Cactus League, but one can probably assume that Heyward will be a part-time outfield option, taking a backseat to the core group of Betts, Thompson and Outman.

Heyward may end up sticking around until he either hits his stride or gives the team no other option but to let him go due to productivity. If he ends up rediscovering his swing, he’ll be a steal since the Cubs are still paying for his salary and the Dodgers will be on the hook only for the league minimum.

Heyward still needs a spot on the organizational 40-man roster, but that task should come easy when the club places Gavin Lux on the 60-day disabled list in the coming days.

2023 Outlook

Anyone’s guess is as good as anyone else’s for how Heyward will produce during the upcoming season. If he embraces his role and proves his value, his playing time could increase, or vice-versa if he’s unable to contribute.  Of all the big predictor engines, Steamer is the friendliest, indicating a .231/.310/.372 slash line with nine homers and 38 RBI over 99 appearances and 320 AB.

At this stage, the outfield could be a work in progress for the Dodgers and conceivably be an entirely different animal at the stretch run of the regular season. If guys like Peralta and Heyward end up not producing, it could possibly open the door for someone like the lefty-hitting Michael Busch to make his MLB debut, whether at second base or left field. Similarly, if Taylor continues to produce inconsistently on offense, it could warrant the team to make a significant splash at the summer trade deadline, primarily at shortstop.

Dodgers 26-Man Roster Set

With less than a week to go before the start of the 2023 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers have announced their roster to start the season.

For the most part, the roster does not contain many surprises. Two additions do stand out, however.

The starting rotation including Julio Urías, Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May and Noah Syndergaard were all to be expected. But the last spot, left vacant by an ankle injury to Tony Gonsolin, was taken by Ryan Pepiot.

It came down to a decision between Pepiot and Michael Grove.

Manager Dave Roberts spoke to the media about choosing Pepiot over Grove.

“They both earned that opportunity. Probably the toughest decision we had to think through,” Roberts said. “I guess, to put it more simply, we just felt Ryan outperformed Michael this spring. … We just felt it was the right decision at this point in time.”

Roberts continued talking about the strides Pepiot has made this spring.

“He’s made huge strides,” Roberts said. “And I say that with the mechanics. The delivery is a lot more consistent. There just seems to be more clarity and things have slowed down for him. We just feel like his stuff plays at the Major League level.”

The bullpen will include Brusdar Graterol, Evan Phillips, Yency Almonte, Caleb Ferguson, Alex Vesia, Shelby Miller, Phil Bickford, and Andre Jackson. Bickford was included because he was out of options.

As for Jackson, Roberts spoke about his inclusion, as a long man.

“To have a guy that can give you 75 pitches is really meaningful,” Roberts said. “Andre has earned the opportunity to be the length guy on our roster.”

Catchers will be Austin Barnes and Will Smith.

The infield will consist of Freddie Freeman, Miguel Vargas, Miguel Rojas, and Max Muncy. Chris Taylor is continue his utility roll, and J.D. Martinez will be the DH.

Outfielders are Mookie Betts, David Peralta, Trayce Thompson, Jason Heyward and James Outman.

Many fans had been hoping that Outman would make the Opening Day roster, as he showed out throughout Spring Training.

In addition to naming the roster, Julio Urías has been named the Opening Day starter.

“Obviously it’s another accomplishment in my career, I’m very happy and thankful to the team for the opportunity,” Urias said in Spanish of his Opening Day assignment.

“With the talent in our rotation, it’s an important role. That they’ve chosen me, I was really thankful and happy.”

“I think he’s earned this opportunity,” Roberts said. “He’s checked a lot of boxes and this is one of the last for him and something that from his teammates to all of us we’re excited for him to have this.”

The Dodgers will open the season Thursday, March 30 against the Arizona Diamondbacks at 7pm EST.

Dodgers Prospect Watch: What Lies Ahead for Michael Grove in 2023?

With righty Tony Gonsolin likely to begin the season on the injured list with a left ankle sprain, the Los Angeles Dodgers will need to dip into their plentiful stockpile of young starting pitchers to round out their Opening Day rotation.

At the moment, it looks like the team will award the final rotation spot to either Ryan Pepiot or Michael Grove, both of whom made their MLB debuts for the club last year.

While the 25-year-old right-handed Pepiot is among the organization’s blue-chippers with a No. 6 team prospect ranking on MLB Pipeline, the righty Grove may be a bit of a dark horse candidate to slide in ahead of everyone else.

Prospect or Minor League Journeyman?

Grove is 26 years old, meaning he’s right on the fringe of exiting the prospect stage. He’s currently ranked No. 24 on the team’s prospect list with a whole slew of other pitchers ahead of him, including names like Bobby Miller, Gavin Stone, Nick Nastrini, Emmet Sheehan and Nick Frasso.

However, Grove has big league experience under his belt and is on the organization’s 40-man roster, putting him ahead of just about anyone on the list, sans Pepiot. During his time in the majors last season, Grove made six starts and threw 29-1/3 innings, registering a 4.60 ERA with 24 punchouts and 10 walks. His best outing came against the St. Louis Cardinals in late September when he threw five full innings and surrendered just one earned run on three hits, notching his first big-league win.

Grove has shown a few flashes of brilliance in Cactus League play so far, but his overall numbers have been mediocre at best. In his last appearance against the White Sox on Saturday, the 6-foot-3, 200-pound West Virginia native went 3-2/3 innings, allowing two runs on five hits and no walks while striking out six batters. One of those hits was a leadoff long ball by Chicago outfielder Andrew Benintendi.

Grove has posted a 4.38 ERA and a 1.05 WHIP alongside an impressive 14:1 strikeout-to-walk ratio over 12-1/3 innings this spring. Meanwhile, Pepiot has a 2.00 ERA, 1.33 WHIP and 13:3 K:BB. Pepiot is currently dealing with a minor side injury, but he’s expected to make his next spring start this week.

Scouting Report

According to MLB Pipeline, Grove “owns a pair of high-spin breaking balls with depth that lack consistency but can overwhelm hitters when they’re on, with his slider that can reach the upper 80s grading better than his low-80s curveball. He doesn’t have much trust in his changeup yet, which has some fade at times but usually lacks much life or velocity separation from his fastball.”

With a heater that can top out as high as 97-98 MPH, Grove has all the tools he needs to succeed. However, command will be the deciding factor whether he establishes himself as a reliable starting option. According to Brooks Baseball, the right-hander used four different pitches last year in the bigs, including a fourseam, a change, a slider and a curve.

2023 Outlook

If Pepiot is indeed selected to the Opening Day roster, Grove will be ready as the next starting pitcher up, staying fresh at Triple-A Oklahoma City in the meantime.

Gonsolin’s inclusion on the Opening Day injured list doesn’t bode well for the Dodgers this early, but by giving the youngsters a chance to show their stuff early and often, it could help the team decide whether it needs to pursue any high-quality starting pitching options before the summer trade deadline.

Dodgers News and Notes: Freeman Injury Update and More

The Los Angeles Dodgers now find themselves just two weeks away from the start of the 2023 season.

Several of the Dodgers players have been participating in the World Baseball Classic. Team USA, with Mookie Betts and Will Smith, and Team Mexico, with Julio Urías and Austin Barnes, have both moved on to the second round.

Teams Canada and Great Britain did not advance, meaning that Freddie Freeman and Trayce Thompson are both back at Dodgers camp.

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Dodgers Bullpen: More Thoughts on the 2023 Closer Role

For the first time in what could be decades, the Los Angeles Dodgers will apparently begin regular season play without a designated closer. Of course, this idea could change as the year progresses — or even by the end of Cactus League play. But, for now, all indications are the team will employ a closer-by-committee strategy that enables the coaching staff to utilize the bullpen more on specific matchups rather than a role-by-inning approach.

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Dodgers Prospect Watch: Keeping an Eye on Andy Pages

Prior to Gavin Lux’s season-ending ACL injury last week, the outfield was one of the most talked about departments as far as big-league roster spots go for the Los Angeles Dodgers. However, with Chris Taylor seemingly scheduled to see significantly more playing time in the infield, it could perhaps open the door for several dark horses to see action in the outfield at the beginning of the season.

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Gavin Lux Likely Out for Season with Torn ACL

About that vaunted Los Angeles Dodgers depth…

This statement is indeed tongue in cheek, as normally the Dodgers do have a ton of depth at almost every position on the team and in the farm system. But, this season, they’re a little lean everywhere. And, of course, three games into Spring Training, a major player incurs a major injury.

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Dodgers Prospect Watch: What Lies Ahead for Ryan Pepiot?

One of the first evaluations almost every Dodgers fan makes heading into Cactus League play is the quality of the major league starting rotation. Los Angeles is almost always in the MLB Top 10 to start the year, but more times than not, the starting five has an entirely different look as the home stretch of the regular season approaches.

The 2023 campaign probably will be no different.

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Dodgers Payroll: Early Thoughts on 2023 Luxury Tax

So far, everything seems to be smooth sailing for the Los Angeles Dodgers during the early days of 2023 spring training at Camelback Ranch. Although there was an initial scare resulting from the omission of Clayton Kershaw from the upcoming World Baseball Classic, the veteran lefty assures he’s in excellent health and that the exclusion is nothing more than complications regarding insurance.

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