Predicting Los Angeles Dodgers Depth Charts a Month Ahead of Spring Training

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistJanuary 11, 2017

Predicting Los Angeles Dodgers Depth Charts a Month Ahead of Spring Training

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    Dodgers OF Yasiel Puig
    Dodgers OF Yasiel PuigThearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

    As of this writing, the Los Angeles Dodgers have a glaring hole at second base. Hence the persistent trade rumors surrounding the Minnesota Twins' Brian Dozier.

    Whether the Dodgers acquire Dozier or someone else, the odds are good they'll add a middle infielder of note before the start of spring training.

    For now, though, let's run down the existing depth chart and look at some key players waiting in the wings.

    In addition to second base, there are question marks at the back end of the rotation and some uncertainty in the outfield. However, this roster looks strong enough to compete for a fifth straight National League West crown and the Dodgers' first championship in more than a quarter-century.

Catchers

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    Dodgers C Yasmani Grandal
    Dodgers C Yasmani GrandalSean M. Haffey/Getty Images

    The Favorites

    C: Yasmani Grandal (SH)

    Grandal led all catchers with 27 home runs in 2016 and finished second behind the San Francisco Giants' Buster Posey with plus-28 fielding runs above average, per Aaron Gleeman of Baseball Prospectus. His .228 average doesn't leap off the stat sheet, but that's due mostly to a slow start as he worked his way back from offseason shoulder surgery.

    From July 1 onward, Grandal posted a .267/.386/.581 slash line and hit 20 of his homers. He enters 2017 as one of the top backstops in either league.

          

    Backup C: Austin Barnes (RHB)

    Barnes made the Dodgers' Opening Day roster in 2016 but wound up making just 37 big league plate appearances, slashing .156/.270/.188. The 27-year-old is an adept defender who also saw action at second and third base and appears on track to be Grandal's primary backup in 2017.

    "It's his time," Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts said, per Alanna Rizzo of SportsNet LA. 

                   

    Next in Line

    C: Kyle Farmer (RHB)

    The 26-year-old Farmer hit .258 with 18 doubles and seven home runs in 78 games between the rookie league and Double-A last season. He also made 15 starts at third base.

Infielders

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    Dodgers SS Corey Seager
    Dodgers SS Corey SeagerJennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    The Favorites

    Starting 1B: Adrian Gonzalez (LHB)

    Gonzalez's OPS dropped to .784 last season, his lowest total since his rookie year in 2005. He raised his power production in the second half, however, hiking his slugging percentage 51 points after the All-Star break and hitting 11 of his 18 home runs. Gonzalez turns 35 in May; it's possible his glory days are behind him. However, he's still a capable middle-of-the-order hitter and reliable run producer.

            

    Starting 2B: Kike Hernandez (RHB)

    Again, this is the Dodgers' biggest weakness, assuming they roll with Hernandez, who slashed .190/.283/.324 in 2016. As a versatile utilityman, Hernandez has value. As the starting second baseman on a team with World Series aspirations? Not so much.

          

    Starting SS: Corey Seager (LHB)

    The reigning NL Rookie of the Year and one of the most exciting young players in baseball, Seager hit .308 with an .877 OPS and 26 home runs while grading out as the seventh-best defensive shortstop in the game. He turns 23 in April. Rising stars don't get much brighter.

                  

    Starting 3B: Justin Turner (RHB)

    It cost the Dodgers $64 million over four years to bring Justin Turner back into the fold. Turner earned it after slashing .275/.339/.493 with 27 home runs and 90 RBI while checking in as the top defensive third baseman in the Senior Circuit. 

            

    Backup INF: Chris Taylor (RHB)

    The 26-year-old Taylor hit just .207 in 34 games after coming over in a trade from the Seattle Mariners in June. He came within a single of the cycle on July 15 against the Arizona Diamondbacks and logged innings at second base, shortstop and third base during his stint with L.A. That promise and versatility make him a favorite to land a spot on the Opening Day roster, though if the Dodgers add a middle infielder his status will be less certain.

            

    Backup 1B/PH: Darin Ruf (RHB)

    Acquired in the November trade that sent veteran Howie Kendrick to the Philadelphia Phillies, Ruf has hit 35 home runs in 737 MLB at-bats since 2012. He turns 31 in July and has extreme career splits: .921 OPS against left-handers and a .643 OPS against righties. That could work to his advantage on the Dodgers' lefty-heavy roster and assure him a spot as a power bat off the bench.

                            

    Next in Line

    1B/OF/PH Rob Segedin (RHB)

    Segedin lit up the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League in 2016 with a .319/.392/.598 slash line, 21 home runs, 23 doubles and nine triples, and he showed flashes in his brief MLB debut with L.A. The 28-year-old saw time at first base, third base and both outfield corner positions with the Dodgers, so he has versatility on his side as well.

Outfielders

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    Dodgers OFs Joc Pederson (left) and Yasiel Puig
    Dodgers OFs Joc Pederson (left) and Yasiel PuigKevork Djansezian/Getty Images

    The Favorites

    Starting LF: Andrew Toles (LHB)

    Toles was one of the coolest stories of 2016, as he went from toiling at a grocery store to making his big league debut with the Dodgers. In 48 games with L.A., the 24-year-old posted a .314/.365/.505 slash line. He's untested, and counting on him to remain an above-average corner outfielder is a gamble. At this point, though, he's the best option in a muddled mix.

          

    Starting CF: Joc Pederson (LHB)

    Pederson has the tools to be a star. He hit 25 home runs last season, gets on base and possesses plus speed. He's also a .224 hitter through 914 MLB at-bats who struck out 300 times over the last two seasons. He turns 25 in April, which makes 2017 feel like a potential breakout year. The Dodgers can only hope.

            

    Starting RF: Yasiel Puig (RHB)

    Puig was demoted to Triple-A in August, and it was worth wondering if he'd ever don Dodger blue again. He returned to post a .900 OPS in September and October, however, teasing the pop and five-tool potential that made him one of the game's most tantalizing talents a few seasons ago. 

    The Dodgers may opt to trade him at the 2017 deadline or next winter, but for now it's in their best interest to let him play.

          

    Fourth OF: Andre Ethier (LHB)

    Ethier suffered a broken leg in spring training and wound up playing just 16 regular-season games for the Dodgers. He turns 35 in April and will become a free agent after the 2017 season, assuming the Dodgers don't pick up his $17.5 million vesting option. (Spoiler alert: they won't.) At the same time, Ethier hit .294 with 14 home runs in 2015 and provides insurance in case Toles fades or Puig flames out. 

            

    Fifth OF: Trayce Thompson (RHB)

    Thompson burst out of the gate, hitting .438 with a 1.063 OPS through his first nine games with the Dodgers. In July, he went down with a back injury and missed the remainder of the season. It'll be tough for Thompson to crack the starting lineup right away, but a strong, healthy spring should earn him a spot on the 25-man roster with ample opportunity for advancement. 

             

    Next in Line

    OF: Scott Van Slyke (RHB)

    The 30-year-old Van Slyke hit just .225 with a .606 OPS last season in 113 plate appearances and went down with a wrist injury in late August. He'll battle for a spot in a crowded outfield.

Starting Pitchers

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    Dodgers SP Clayton Kershaw
    Dodgers SP Clayton KershawStacy Revere/Getty Images

    The Favorites

    No. 1 Starter: Clayton Kershaw (LHP)

    Kershaw revealed his mortal side in 2016, as he missed more than two months with a back injury. Still, he finished with a 1.69 ERA and 172 strikeouts in 149 innings, landed fifth in the NL Cy Young Award balloting and turned in some transcendent postseason moments. 

    Incredibly, Kershaw turns 29 in March. Assuming he avoids the disabled list, he's the best pitcher in baseballfull stop.

                  

    No. 2 Starter: Kenta Maeda (RHP)

    Maeda did everything the Dodgers could have hoped for in his first MLB season. He posted a 3.48 ERA with 179 strikeouts in 175.2 innings and, most importantly, avoided the disabled list. That's no small feat considering he logged 1,509.2 innings in eight seasons with the Hiroshima Carp of Japan's Nippon Professional Baseball league and signed an incentive-laden contract aimed at protecting against injuries.

    Like Kershaw, Maeda is entering his age-29 season, so L.A. has every reason to hope for more of the same.

                  

    No. 3 Starter: Rich Hill (LHP)

    After coming to Southern California at the trade deadline in 2016, Rich Hill battled a blister issue but ultimately posted a 1.83 ERA in six starts. That's the story of Hill's career. When healthy, he can be elite, but he's never eclipsed 200 innings in a season. 

    That inserts some risk into the three-year, $48 million deal the Dodgers handed the 36-year-old southpaw. Hill was the top starter in a weak free-agent class, however, and inarguably strengthens L.A.'s starting corps.

              

    No. 4 Starter: Julio Urias (LHP)

    The Dodgers' top pitching prospect went 5-2 with a 3.39 ERA and 84 strikeouts in 77 innings during his rookie go-round. Oh, and did we mention he won't reach the legal U.S. drinking age until August? Most young pitchers deal with adjustments and bumps in the road, but Urias looks like the real deal.

           

    No. 5 Starter: Scott Kazmir (LHP)

    Last winter, Kazmir signed a three-year, $48 million pact with the Dodgers with an opt-out option after year one. After posting a 4.56 ERA in 136.1 middling innings, Kazmir opted to stick around. 

    Therefore, Los Angeles will give the 32-year-old every chance to succeed in 2017. They're stuck with him either way, and he posted a 3.10 ERA as recently as 2015.

           

    Next in Line

    Hyun-Jin Ryu (LHP)

    After missing all of the 2015 season with a bum shoulder, Ryu made one start in 2016 and shut it down again. The Korean lefty is now working his way back from elbow surgery, so his return is anything but certain. He teased his ability in 2013 and 2014 when he went a combined 28-15, meaning the Dodgers are right to hold out hope for a comeback.

Relief Pitchers

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    Dodgers RP Kenley Jansen
    Dodgers RP Kenley JansenJamie Squire/Getty Images

    The Favorites

    Closer: Kenley Jansen (RHP)

    The Dodgers did what it took to bring back their closer, inking Jansen to a five-year, $80 million contract. It's a huge payday for a reliever, but Jansen isn't any reliever. The 29-year-old posted a 1.83 ERA with 104 strikeouts and just 11 walks in 68.2 innings last season, and he provides L.A. with the type of ninth-inning insurance most clubs can only dream about.

          

    Setup: Pedro Baez (RHP)

    Baez gained notoriety for his deliberate pace on the mound, but there was nothing sluggish about his stat line. In 74 innings, the 28-year-old posted a 3.04 ERA with 83 strikeouts and was particularly deadly at Dodger Stadium, where he allowed a scant 10 earned runs in 42 innings.

          

    Setup: Grant Dayton (LHP)

    Dayton made his big league debut with the Dodgers in 2016 at age 28 and made an impression, posting a 2.05 ERA with 39 strikeouts and six walks in 26.1 innings. With J.P. Howell on the free-agent market, Dayton has a chance to slot in as the primary lefty out of the Dodgers' pen in 2017.

           

    Middle Relief: Alex Wood (LHP)

    Wood made 14 appearances for the Dodgers last season, with 10 of them coming as a starter. He'll be in the rotation mix this year if the need arises, but could begin the year as a lefty long man. He missed significant time with elbow issues and underwent arthroscopic surgery in July, but returned in September and finished with 66 strikeouts in 60.1 innings.

           

    Middle Relief: Chris Hatcher (RHP)

    Hatcher put up an unsightly 5.53 ERA in 40.2 innings last season. He also battled an oblique issue that landed him on the disabled list. L.A. will hope for a return to the form that saw him post a 3.69 ERA and 10.4 strikeouts per nine innings in 2015.

                  

    Middle Relief: Luis Avilan (LHP)

    Avilan appeared in 27 games for the Dodgers in 2016, posting a 3.20 ERA with 28 strikeouts in 19.2 innings. Along with Dayton and Wood, he gives Los Angeles a deep contingent of southpaws behind the righty duo of Jansen and Baez.

           

    Long Man: Brandon McCarthy (RHP)

    McCarthy began the season on the disabled list while recovering from Tommy John surgery and wound up posting a 4.95 ERA in 40 innings. The Dodgers owe him $23 million over the next two seasons, so he'll be given every chance to break through. As he approaches his 34th birthday in July, however, McCarthy is an enigma. 

           

    Next in Line

    Ross Stripling (RHP)

    Stripling made 22 appearances and 14 starts as a rookie in 2016, posting a 3.96 ERA in 100 innings. He's a solid option for spot starts in case of injuries and could force his way into the bullpen as a long man.

Next Wave

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    Dodgers P Jose De Leon
    Dodgers P Jose De LeonDenis Poroy/Getty Images

    RHP Jose De Leon

    De Leon has been the subject of trade rumors, particularly in the Dozier sweepstakes. If the Dodgers elect to keep him, the 24-year-old right-hander represents another high-upside option in the rotation after posting a 3.35 ERA in 330.2 minor league innings and going 2-0 in four big league starts.

             

    RHP Josh Fields

    The 31-year-old Fields delivered after the Dodgers acquired him from the Houston Astros at the 2016 trade deadline, posting a 2.79 ERA with 22 strikeouts in 19.1 innings, and could make the Opening Day roster with a standout spring.

                 

    LHP Adam Liberatore

    The 29-year-old Liberatore fanned 47 in 42.2 innings for the Dodgers in 2016 with a 3.38 ERA and, like Fields, could be in line for a bullpen slot with a strong spring showing.

                  

    1B/OF Cody Bellinger (LHB)

    The Dodgers' top prospect according to MLB.com, Bellinger hit 26 home runs with an .872 OPS between Double-A and Triple-A last season. The 21-year-old will likely marinate a bit longer in the minors and is sure to crop up in trade discussions, but he's on a collision course with the Dodgers' 25-man roster.

                   

    All statistics courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference.com unless otherwise noted.