Snubs, Surprises and Grades for Dodgers' Final 25-Man Roster

Nick Ostiller@@NickOstillerContributor IIApril 6, 2015

Snubs, Surprises and Grades for Dodgers' Final 25-Man Roster

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    Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

    The Los Angeles Dodgers finalized their 25-man roster over the weekend, less than 48 hours before Clayton Kershaw takes the mound Monday afternoon against Matt Kemp and the San Diego Padres at Dodger Stadium.

    There weren't too many surprises amid the collection of players that manager Don Mattingly will take into battle for the first few games of the 2015 season. However, some of the players left out of the fold might have a legitimate gripe about their exclusion. We'll examine these decisions and also hand out a quick pre-Opening Day report card.

    But first, here's a rundown of the Boys in Blue as they begin their National League West title defense:

    Position Players (14): Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Scott Van Slyke, Adrian Gonzalez, Jimmy Rollins, Howie Kendrick, Juan Uribe, Justin Turner, Alex Guerrero, Darwin Barney, Yasmani Grandal, A.J Ellis.

    Pitchers (11): Clayton Kershaw, Zack Greinke, Brandon McCarthy, Brett Anderson, Juan Nicasio, Joel Peralta, J.P. Howell, Paco Rodriguez, Chris Hatcher, Pedro Baez, Yimi Garcia.

    Disabled List (5): Hyun-Jin Ryu (shoulder, 15-day DL), Kenley Jansen (foot, 15-day DL), Brandon League (shoulder, 15-day DL), Chris Withrow (elbow, 60-day DL), Brandon Beachy (elbow, 60-day DL).

Surprises

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    Yimi Garcia earned a bullpen spot after posting a 0.79 ERA and striking out 15 during spring training.
    Yimi Garcia earned a bullpen spot after posting a 0.79 ERA and striking out 15 during spring training.Christian Petersen/Getty Images

    Yimi Garcia, RHP

    A team once again in search of a reliable bullpen this season, the Dodgers will turn to Yimi Garcia to help solidify the relief corps. The 24-year-old definitely earned a spot, limiting opposing batters to a .139 clip while striking out 15 in 11 spring innings. Only Clayton Kershaw fanned more hitters at Camelback Ranch. 

    Garcia made his MLB debut last year with 10 innings of September work. The Dodgers originally signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2009. With the closer role up for grabs until Kenley Jansen returns from the disabled list, don't be surprised if Garcia and his sharp slider see ninth-inning responsibility in the early going for Los Angeles.

    Paco Rodriguez, LHP

    Another reliever who ended up on the right side of the bubble is Paco Rodriguez. The side-winding lefty mirrored Garcia and did not surrender a run or a walk during spring training. Instead, he limited opposing batters to a meager .108 average and struck out 13 in 10 innings.

    According to Eric Stephen of True Blue LA, president of baseball operations Andrew Friedman provided the most telling assessment of all regarding Rodriguez making the team: "Paco has really generated some of the worst swings out of hitters in this camp."

    Rodriguez spent most of 2014 in the minors after leading the team in appearances during his rookie season in 2013.

    Darwin Barney, SS/2B

    If it wasn't already clear with the offseason roster revamp, the Dodgers have placed a high value on defense in 2015. That's why they included sure-handed middle infielder Darwin Barney on the Opening Day roster.

    Los Angeles had the option of using this roster spot on another pitcher but opted to go with the defensive versatility that Barney can provide in the later innings of tight games. 

    It helped that Barney—who has always been known for his gold glove instead of his bat—compiled an impressive .354 average at the plate in spring training. His 17 hits ranked fifth on the team.

Snubs

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    Reliever Adam Liberatore did not make the 25-man roster despite pitching 10 scoreless innings this spring.
    Reliever Adam Liberatore did not make the 25-man roster despite pitching 10 scoreless innings this spring.Associated Press

    Adam Liberatore, LHP

    The biggest 25-man roster snub for the Dodgers was Adam Liberatore. Acquired from the Tampa Bay Rays during the offseason, Liberatore reeled off 11 scoreless appearances this spring.

    His inexperience may have ultimately cost him, as third-year southpaw Rodriguez earned the spot with a similar March performance. Liberatore, who shined in Triple-A last season, will have to wait to make his MLB debut.

    “At some point during the course of the season, Lib will get his chance,” said Friedman, per Steve Dilbeck of the Los Angeles Times. “We feel from the left side we have a lot of really, really good arms.”

    Enrique Hernandez, UTIL

    After failing to record a hit through his first 13 spring at-bats, Enrique Hernandez finished with a flourish, going 16-for-47. His six home runs tied for the team lead, but it still wasn't enough to make the Opening Day roster.

    The 23-year-old utility player acquired from the Miami Marlins in the Dee Gordon deal exhibits superb versatility with an ability to play four positions, but there doesn't seem to be room for him right now in the big club. It's why the Dodgers have sent him down, and Hernandez understands the decision.

    “I had a pretty good spring,” he said, per Dilbeck. “They know what I can do. … I’ll just be patient.”

    Joe Wieland, RHP

    When the news broke that Ryu would begin the season on the disabled list, Dylan Hernandez of the Los Angeles Times reported that the Dodgers were looking at Joe Wieland as a candidate to replace the Korean left-hander in the rotation.

    After all, Wieland's spring stats certainly warranted consideration: 14 innings, 10 strikeouts and a 1.93 ERA.

    But his name was not included on the 25-man roster, and the decision is likely related to Ryu's recovery. Los Angeles does not need a fifth starter until April 15 against the Seattle Mariners. It appears that the Dodgers are confident that Ryu will be back in the fold by then. Wieland, who was acquired from San Diego in the Kemp trade, will start the season in Triple-A and make for a solid spot starter as the year progresses.

Grades

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    The Dodgers are hoping that All-Star Yasiel Puig can take yet another offensive leap in his third MLB season.
    The Dodgers are hoping that All-Star Yasiel Puig can take yet another offensive leap in his third MLB season.Associated Press

    Infield: A-

    The Dodgers plugged defensive holes at shortstop (Hanley Ramirez) and second base (Dee Gordon) with Jimmy Rollins and Howie Kendrick, respectively. Analytics heavily favor these two veterans with the glove, and the new middle infield pair should handle the bat just as well as who they are replacing.

    The corners will feature baseball's reigning RBI king in Adrian Gonzalez at first base, fresh off Gold Glove and Silver Slugger honors last season. Third baseman Juan Uribe held down the hot corner marvelously a year ago, but durability is a concern now that he is 36. It will also be difficult for Uribe to replicate his .311 average from 2014.

    Outfield: B+

    Joc Pederson didn't just win the center field battle with Andre Ethier; he locked it down and threw away the key by leading the team in spring hits. But how well that performance translates to a 162-game season remains to be seen. Pederson is definitely a better defensive player than Ethier and might even be better than Puig in right field.

    The Cuban highlight reel will be entering his second full season and will have a slightly larger offensive responsibility in the lineup with Kemp and Ramirez out of town. Carl Crawford's weak arm in left field will be a defensive liability and the polar opposite of Puig's, but the veteran should be able to provide quality at-bats and some sneaky speed on the basepaths.

    If Pederson lives up to the hype and Puig takes that next step, this grade could easily become a solid A.

    Bench: A-

    The Dodgers have returned several key bench players, most notably Justin Turner and Scott Van Slyke.

    Turner slashed .340/.404/.493 in a breakout campaign last year and followed that up by batting .429 this spring. He is a quality backup who can play multiple infield positions and should contribute more of the same versatility and clutch hitting in 2015. 

    Van Slyke will assume his familiar role of platoon outfielder who starts against left-handed pitchers. He led Los Angeles with a .524 slugging percentage and .910 OPS in 130 plate appearances last year.

    Los Angeles will feature a starting-caliber player in Ethier off the pine, although this second straight year of bench-warming will not sit well with the veteran outfielder. Alex Guerrero is an intriguing option, as he showed immense upside at the plate in Triple-A last season. Finding a position for him in the field could prove difficult, though. Lastly, Barney should provide elite late-game defense.

    Rotation: B+

    The Dodgers know what they're going to get from Kershaw and Zack Greinke atop the rotation. A dynamic duo like that usually qualifies for an A grade by itself, but the question marks in the back end of the rotation bump Los Angeles' rotation grade down to a B-plus.

    Ryu will begin the season on the disabled list, but his durability concerns pale in comparison to those of newcomers Brandon McCarthy and Brett Anderson. While they have proven effective in short stints throughout their careers, they're just as liable to land on the disabled list with an injury.

    It doesn't help that their springs weren't awe-inspiring. But again, it's never wise to invest too much stock into March performances.

    Bullpen: C+

    The Dodgers' central weakness last season was their bullpen. Los Angeles' relievers combined to allow more earned runs than 18 other bullpens around the league. They also ranked 22nd in ERA, 20th in FIP and 27th in walk rate.

    There are plenty of fresh faces comprising the 2015 relief corps, which is both a good and bad thing. It's not ideal that Los Angeles will begin the season without a closer as Jansen recovers from foot surgery. But the opening has allowed young players like Garcia, Rodriguez and Pedro Baez an opportunity to prove their worth.

    Veterans J.P. Howell and Joel Peralta will look to build on solid 2014 seasons, while Chris Hatcher and Juan Nicasio hope to establish themselves as reliable options after shaky springs.

    There are hardly any sure things in the Dodgers' bullpen as of now, and this inherent uncertainty makes it increasingly likely that the Achilles' heel of the team may not have shifted over the winter.

    All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs unless otherwise linked/noted.

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