Let’s take a shot at predicting the 13 position players who will make up their half of LA’s Opening Day roster. First, let’s start with the sure things (assuming health):
Catcher: Will Smith, Austin Barnes
Infield: Freddie Freeman, Miguel Vargas, Gavin Lux, Max Muncy, Miguel Rojas
Outfield: Mookie Betts, Trayce Thompson, Chris Taylor
Designated hitter: JD Martinez
That leaves just two roster spots available, and both of them will probably be set aside for outfielders. With Taylor’s ability to play both infield and outfield, he and Rojas should be able to handle the backup infield jobs.
There are four outfielders vying for those last two spots: James Outman, Michael Busch, Jason Heyward, and Bradley Zimmer.
Busch has mostly been an infielder in the minors, but there isn’t really room for him there, so if he’s going to make the team, it will be in left field. Having Busch would also make it easier to carry five outfielders, because he would join CT3 in the “outfielders who can also play infield” category.
Outman played four games in the big leagues last year and was outstanding, and he was also great in Double-A and Triple-A in a much larger sample size. It seems likely that he can handle center field defensively, so if he can hit at all, he seems to have the best shot at that starting job.
Heyward has been a star in the past, and he’s well respected in every clubhouse he’s been in. The question is whether he can hit. If he can rediscover some of his old offensive magic, he could be a great addition as a utility outfielder. You have to think Dodgers leadership is hoping Heyward can earn his way onto the roster.
In order for Zimmer to earn a spot on the roster, he would need to become something he’s never been in the big leagues: a decent hitter. Los Angeles non-tendered Cody Bellinger because he wasn’t providing any offense, but his OPS+ last year (78) was seven points better than Zimmer’s career mark and only seven points worse than Zimmer’s career high. Miracles happen sometimes, but I sure wouldn’t put any money on Zimmer becoming one of them.
Looking at these options, Outman is as close to a sure thing as you can get with a rookie who’s played just four big-league games. He’d have to be absolutely awful this spring to not break camp with the team.
So that brings us down to Heyward, Busch, and Zimmer for one last spot. If Heyward can make any sort of splash at all, the spot will be his, especially because Busch could probably use some full-time work in left field in the minors if that’s going to be his position going forward. More likely might be the Dodgers looking to trade Busch to a team that could use a second baseman, because his bat is much more valuable at 2B than in left.
That’s it, we’re calling it. Outman and Heyward get the last two roster spots.
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