Los Angeles Dodgers: 8 Long Shots Who May Earn Opening-Day Roster Spots
As the halfway mark of spring training rapidly approaches, it's safe to say that at least 22 spots on the Los Angeles Dodgers' Opening Day 25-man roster are basically set.
However, considering the likelihood that potential swingman Vicente Padilla will open the season on the disabled list and the fact that reliever Ronald Belisario has been placed on the restricted list, several spots are still up for grabs—especially in the bullpen.
With three weeks remaining in Cactus League play, anything can happen in terms of hot streaks, player injuries or even the possibility of a trade.
All that being considered, the following slides show eight sleeper players who, against all odds, may have a shot at being part of the Opening Day roster on March 31.
After spending most of July of the 2010 campaign with Triple-A Albuquerque trying to rediscover his mechanics, coupled with the Dodgers' offseason acquisitions of relievers Matt Guerrier and Blake Hawksworth, Ramon Troncoso's chances of opening on the big league roster were seemingly slim when camp began in February.
Now, with the final two spots in the bullpen a virtual free-for-all, Troncoso's chances are improving.
So far in Cactus League play, he's taken full advantage of all three appearances he's made. In 3.1 innings pitched, he hasn't surrendered a run and has struck out three while allowing only one hit.
In 2009, after making 73 relief appearances and registering a 2.72 ERA, he's proven he has the ability to stay durable and effective over the course of an entire season.
However, because Troncoso still has one option remaining on his contract, the Dodgers may decide to utilize him in Triple-A, at least until one of the veterans falters.
Early in February, the Dodgers signed Ron Mahay to a minor-league deal with hopes that he might contend for the left-handed specialist spot in the Opening Day bullpen.
Mahay, who turns 40 in June, spent last season with the Minnesota Twins, where he appeared in 41 games and posted a 1-1 record with a 3.44 ERA and a 1.206 WHIP in 34 full innings of work.
Entering camp, it was speculated that the 14-year veteran would be competing with Scott Elbert for the lefty specialist spot, but because Elbert still has options and has been struggling with control, Mahay may get the nod.
In terms of Cactus League stats, however, Mahay hasn't been very impressive thus far. In three appearances, he's carrying a 9.00 ERA after surrendering two home runs and allowing three total earned runs.
The Dodgers outfield is basically set with Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Jay Gibbons, Marcus Thames and Tony Gwynn Jr., and it's extremely rare that a big league club decides to carry six outfielders. However in the case of Xavier Paul, the Dodgers could possibly decide to utilize a sixth outfielder.
Paul has no options remaining on his contract, and if he indeed doesn't earn a roster spot like some speculate, he would need to clear waivers first if the Dodgers wanted to retain him in their minor league system.
Tony Jackson of ESPN Los Angeles has already reported that a high number of scouts have been in attendance at Camelback Ranch, most specifically to evaluate the skills of Paul.
Still, a trade could also be a possibility, as it seems unlikely that general manager Ned Colletti would sacrifice Paul to another team without receiving at least something in return.
Like Xavier Paul, Hector Gimenez also has no options remaining on his contract, and because he is already named on the Dodgers' 40-man roster, he would need to clear waivers before being assigned a spot in the Los Angeles farm system.
Ned Colletti signed Gimenez, 28, to a minor-league deal on November 11, before Dioner Navarro became part of the catching picture, with foresight that the team might have a need for depth.
Because Gimenez has the ability to cover both corner infield positions in addition to catcher, he may have a slight chance to earn an Opening day roster spot.
In 2010 with the Pirates' Double-A affiliate, the Altoona Curve, Gimenez hit .305 with 16 HR, 29 doubles, and 72 RBI while appearing in 94 games.
In six games and 13 at-bats during Cactus League play, he's maintaining a .308 average with a .375 OBP.
Known more for his glove than his bat, Castro signed a minor-league deal with the Dodgers on December 11 for the second consecutive season.
Ned Colletti has already stated that the club is leaning towards carrying two reserve infielders, and because Colletti prefers veterans over youngsters who have options, Castro may indeed get the nod.
In six games and 14 at-bats so far this spring, the 16-year veteran is carrying a .286 average with four hits, including a double, a home run and four RBI.
If Castro does indeed earn a roster spot, he will be holding down the fort temporarily until middle infielders Justin Sellers, Dee Gordon or Ivan DeJesus prove that they're ready for big league play.
Mike MacDougal, 33, has 10 years of MLB experience and has spent time in the Kansas City Royals, Chicago White Sox, Washington Nationals, Florida Marlins and St. Louis Cardinals organizations.
His signature season came in 2003 with the Royals, when he finished with a 3-5 record with 27 saves in 68 relief appearances.
After signing a $2.65 million deal with the White Sox in 2009, MacDougal appeared in 17 games for the Cardinals in 2010, where he posted a 1-1 record with a 7.23 ERA and a 1.875 WHIP in just over 18 innings of work.
He was signed to a minor-league deal on January 28 in an effort to bolster the bullpen, and now with the shortcomings of Vicente Padilla and Ronald Belisario, he may be in line to earn a big league roster spot.
In three appearances so far this spring, MacDougal has completed two-and-two-thirds innings of work. He hasn't yet surrendered any hits or runs.
In 2008, Tim Redding proved he still had a bit of gas in the tank in posting a 10-11 record with a 4.95 ERA in over 180 innings of work for the Nationals.
After signing a one-year, $2.25 million deal with the Mets in 2009, he was poised to become the team's fourth or fifth starter. However, he was shut down in spring training due to shoulder fatigue.
After brief stops in the Rockies and Yankees farm systems, he pitched for the Samsung Lions in Korea for the remainder of 2010. The Dodgers signed Redding to a minor-league deal on January 3 of 2011.
So far this spring Redding hasn't surrendered a run in three appearances and eight full innings of work. He's only allowed six hits while striking out four and walking two.
He could be a potential temporary replacement for Padilla, and if Redding can show any type of effectiveness as a reliever, he has a shot at being part of the bullpen picture moving forward.
If indeed Ned Colletti decides to go the veteran route for the second reserve infielder, the final roster spot could come down to a battle between Juan Castro and Aaron Miles.
Colletti signed Miles to a minor-league deal on February 9 with added monetary incentives if he finds a way to earn a spot on the 25-man roster.
Miles has eight seasons of MLB experience under his belt and has proven his versatility by playing shortstop, second base and third base, as well as a handful of games in the outfield.
In eight games and 18 at-bats this spring, Miles is carrying a .389 batting average and .722 slugging percentage. He's already tallied seven hits, including a double, a triple and one home run.