Los Angeles Dodgers: Early Projections for the Final 25-Man Roster
The Los Angeles Dodgers have added a significant amount of star power to both the rotation and the lineup over the last six months, and the roster is filling up with quality talent because of it. General manager Ned Colletti has his hands full trying to select 25 men to make the final roster.
Luckily, he has guys like me to lean on for that. I may not be all-knowing, but I can give you some solid insight into why certain players will start the year in the minor leagues or break camp with the big boys.
Most teams reserve 11, 12 or 13 spots for pitchers, meaning the Dodgers are looking at no more than about five hitters to back up the eight starting position players. Will a speed demon like Dee Gordon make the cut? Will any old faces fall to the minor league ranks?
Read on to find out.
Let's start with an easy one. We all know that A.J. Ellis is the starting catcher this season. He proved his worth last year with a great on-base percentage, good defense and some clutch hitting down the stretch. But one shortcoming in 2012 was his backup, Matt Treanor.
This year, Colletti has finally given the nod to top catching prospect Tim Federowicz to be the primary second-stringer behind Ellis, and "Fed-X" should break camp in that spot. If Federowicz falters, the duties will fall to one of the recently signed veteran journeymen—Ramon Castro or Jesus Flores.
Again, barring injury or some kind of historic slump, Ellis will be the starting catcher on the final roster, backed up by rookie Federowicz.
Final roster spots: A.J. Ellis, Tim Federowicz
There are a few things we know for sure here. Hanley Ramirez has the starting job at shortstop, Mark Ellis at second base and Adrian Gonzalez at first base. All indications are that third base is Luis Cruz's job to lose, too. But with uncertainty at the hot corner and backup infielders a necessity on any team, who else joins the fray?
Other guys who are almost guaranteed to be on the final roster are second baseman Skip Schumaker, utility man Nick Punto and the completely useless Juan Uribe. They won't give Uribe any playing time, regardless of how Cruz does. But, they have $7 million devoted to Uribe and will sit him on the bench for most of the regular season.
Assuming that the Dodgers have four spots to split between the backup infielders and outfielders, I'm also betting on veteran Jerry Hairston Jr. to retain a spot, as he is valuable in almost any position not named catcher or pitcher.
That means the most notable guys who will start the year in Triple-A are Gordon and Justin Sellers.
Final roster spots: Adrian Gonzalez, Mark Ellis, Hanley Ramirez, Luis Cruz, Skip Schumaker, Nick Punto, Juan Uribe and Jerry Hairston Jr. (also plays OF)
I mentioned in the previous slide that Hairston Jr. will be a primary outfield backup, as well as see some time in the infield. If everything goes the Dodgers' way this year and the three main starters in the outfield stay healthy, Hairston Jr. won't be finding much time out there.
Matt Kemp will be starting in center field, Andre Ethier in right and Carl Crawford in left. All three are bona fide stars when healthy and hopefully won't need too much time off. But all of the above have been injury prone in their careers, so having Hairston Jr. and another backup on hand would be a smart move.
My money is on Elian Herrera becoming the second option behind Hairston Jr. to back up any of the outfield positions. Though he tailed off toward the end of his days in the big leagues last year, he's shown a knack for clutch hits and brings a good speed element.
Final roster spots: Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford, Elian Herrera, Jerry Hairston Jr. (also plays IF)
This is where things start getting messy. Not only do the Dodgers have a ton of good bullpen talent, but they are looking at a logjam of starters that will likely push a couple veteran pitchers into this group as well. Here is what we know:
Brandon League will be the closer to start the season, and Kenley Jansen will be setting him up. Other locks are Ronald Belisario and J.P. Howell, leaving two spots up in the air to start the season. Javy Guerra, Matt Guerrier, Shawn Tolleson and Paco Rodriguez all pitched very well at times last season.
But I have a feeling that one of their spots will go to either Chris Capuano or Aaron Harang (whichever one doesn't get traded), leaving Ted Lilly and Chad Billingsley to prove they are healthy enough to snag the fifth rotation spot.
With such a tight window, you would think Colletti would want another southpaw in the pen until Scott Elbert heals up, but I believe that Guerrier and his big contract will be awarded the last spot in the bullpen. That leaves the Dodgers with a lot of options and great talent across the board, just short on lefties.
Final roster spots: Brandon League, Kenley Jansen, Ronald Belisario, J.P. Howell, Matt Guerrier, Chris Capuano
The first four spots in the rotation are pretty much set, barring injury or an unbelievably bad spring by any of these guys. Clayton Kershaw will head the rotation, followed by Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett and Hyun-Jin Ryu.
After that, there is one spot up for grabs that Billingsley, Harang and Lilly will battle for. Harang has already mentioned that he'd prefer to start, and Lilly has said he'd prefer to just pitch anywhere for the Dodgers rather than go to another team.
For me, the main question mark is Billingsley's health. If he's fully healed and ready to go by the time the final rosters are made, he is the fifth starter. If not, it's looking like Harang's job. One other aspect is the potential trade of Harang, which would free up the spot for Lilly in the case that Billingsley isn't hurt.
My heart tells me all three starters will be on the team come Opening Day, but my brain begs to differ. With another starting hopeful, Capuano, in the bullpen, I believe Lilly starts the year as the No. 5 starter and Harang gets shipped to another team.
Final roster spots: Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Josh Beckett, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ted Lilly
Final 25-Man Roster
There are a couple tough cuts, but these predictions will morph as players inevitably get hot, get cold and get injured during spring training. For example, expect to see Billingsley on this roster at or around Opening Day, when they feel he's 100 percent ready to go. Here is my predicted 25-man roster for the Dodgers:
SP Josh Beckett
RP Ronald Belisario
SP/RP Chris Capuano
LF Carl Crawford
3B Luis Cruz
C A.J. Ellis
2B Mark Ellis
RF Andre Ethier
C Tim Federowicz
1B Adrian Gonzalez
SP Zack Greinke
RP Matt Guerrier
IF/OF Jerry Hairston Jr.
IF/OF Elian Herrera
RP J.P. Howell
RP Kenley Jansen
CF Matt Kemp
SP Clayton Kershaw
RP Brandon League
SP Ted Lilly
IF Nick Punto
SS Hanley Ramirez
SP Hyun-Jin Ryu
2B Skip Schumaker
3B Juan Uribe