Most Disappointing Dodgers Players in Spring Training So Far
Through the first nine games of spring training at Camelback Ranch, it’s clear that the Los Angeles Dodgers are beginning to shake off the winter rust.
Most of the players are, anyway.
Some members of the team have yet to find their rhythm on the mound and in the batter’s box. While the sample size is small, these players will need to turn things around if they have aspirations of making the 25-man roster when camp breaks in less than three weeks.
Here's the shortlist of early-spring disappointments for the Boys in Blue.
Enrique Hernandez has not made the most of his early opportunity to impress this spring as he battles for one of the team's final roster spots.
Although the 23-year-old utility player acquired from the Miami Marlins in the Dee Gordon deal has demonstrated superb versatility by playing four positions, Hernandez is scuffling at the plate.
Entering Thursday, he had managed just one hit in 16 at-bats. That's a .063 batting average.
"Defensively, I think he’s handled everything," said Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, per Bill Plunkett of the Orange County Register. "I think we all feel he’s pressing offensively, trying a little too hard. That will pass too. If a guy can hit, he can hit. You can see his swing is good."
A career .272 hitter in the minor leagues, Hernandez showed promise last season when he batted .319, mostly at Triple-A.
Los Angeles has Justin Turner and Darwin Barney as the main backup infielders, with Chris Heisey brought in to be the second-string outfielder alongside Scott Van Slyke. Hernandez will need to get it going soon if he wants to earn a spot with the big club for Opening Day.
“We’ve talked about it a lot, how multi-position guys in the National League have so much value,” Mattingly said, per Plunkett. “(Hernandez) is a young guy with a lot of energy, swings the bat well. He’s going to be a valuable guy. It’s just a matter of time.”
Right-hander Carlos Frias will be competing for a spot in the starting rotation this spring, according to Plunkett, but a slot there for him right away seems unlikely for two reasons.
First, the Dodgers already have five starting pitchers penciled in ahead of him on the depth chart. Second, he hasn't made a strong case for himself during his 3.2 innings on the mound this spring.
He's already allowed five hits and four walks. Those four free passes are more than any other pitcher on the staff has surrendered. More baserunners have, in turn, presented more problems for Frias. Two of them have scored to saddle him with a 4.91 ERA in the early going.
Newly acquired right-hander Juan Nicasio hasn't fared much better in his limited spring training action.
Nicasio, who pitched for the Colorado Rockies last season, ran into trouble during his first appearance out of the bullpen for his new team. Facing the middle of the Chicago White Sox order, Nicasio gave up a single to Adam Eaton, then got Melky Cabrera to line out. Slugger Jose Abreu singled to set up Adam LaRoche, who smacked a two-run double off Andre Ethier's outstretched glove in center field. Avisail Garcia then followed with another double to score LaRoche.
"I wasn’t good today," Nicasio said afterward, per J.P. Hoornstra of the Los Angeles Daily News.
Nicasio has since allowed another run, and his spring ERA stands at an even 12.00 over three innings. Opposing batters are hitting .429 against him. The Dodgers may use Nicasio as a spot starter and will also consider him as an interim closer until Kenley Jansen returns from a foot injury, per Hoornstra.
Another new addition to the team is Hesiey, who was acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in exchange for pitching prospect Matt Magill.
"I’d be lying if I told you I didn’t think, 'This is interesting,'" Heisey said when asked about his initial reaction to the trade, per Mark Saxon of ESPNLosAngeles.com. "I looked at the roster, I saw all the guys there and I’m thinking, 'They’ve got a lot of guys.' But I’ve got to believe they don’t make moves for no reason and they have a plan. It’s one of those things we have to deal with, kind of being a pawn."
The Dodgers ended up trading Matt Kemp to clear up some of the outfield logjam, but Heisey's role in Los Angeles will remain as a backup outfielder.
Heisey owns a career .422 slugging percentage and hit four pinch-hit home runs last season.
However, he has yet to record a hit in 10 at-bats while wearing Dodger blue at Camelback Ranch. Hesiey, usually an above-average defender, also bobbled a ball while in left field during the first game against Chicago. The misplay did not result in an error.
Heisey profiles similarly to Van Slyke, last year's right-handed bat off the bench and backup outfielder for the Dodgers. Van Slyke is still on the team and is hitting .364 this spring.
It appears that either Heisey or Van Slyke is destined for Triple-A at the end of March. Right now, Heisey is the new guy with more to prove.
"We’ll have a chance to look at him all through camp," said Mattingly, per Saxon. "The combination of guys and who ends up being here, that’s all up in the air."
The Dodgers may also turn to Brandon League to close games in April as Jansen recovers from foot surgery.
But that potential plan has gotten off to a rocky beginning.
League imploded against the defending World Series champions earlier this week, facing six Giants and retiring just one of them. The other five scored. Overall, he gave up three hits, a walk and hit a batter in the frame.
In fact, most of League's tenure in the Dodgers' bullpen has been far from stable.
After signing a three-year, $22.5 million contract following the 2012 season, he began 2013 as the team's primary closer before eventually losing the job to Jansen.
League rebounded slightly in 2014, but his cumulative performance has not justified the contract that former general manager Ned Colletti originally offered him.
The 31-year-old will earn $7.5 million this season, plus an additional $2 million of his signing bonus. There's also a $7.5 million player option waiting for him next winter if he manages to pitch in 55 games this year.
All statistics are courtesy of MLB.com unless otherwise stated.