Spring Training has a week in the books, and a lot has happened so far. Some good, and some bad.
On Sunday night, I took to Twitter, and asked the fans what some of their early surprises are from the first week of Dodger baseball.
Oh, by the way. If you haven’t already, make sure you head on over and follow @TrueBlueLA on Twitter.
Coming into spring, many Dodgers fans were well aware of the power that 23-year-old DJ Peters was capable of. He hit 29 homers last season in double-A, and has a total of 69 during his minor-league career.
He’s put his power on full display so far during the spring, already having hit two homers in 15 at-bats.
Manager Dave Roberts spoke highly of Peters, really liking what he has seen early on. “This winter he really worked on some things mechanically in the batters box,” Roberts said. “His intent, how much he cares and how much he competes, we all talk about it. The at-bats he puts on guys, the hustle down the line. It seems like every time he gets out there, he makes something happen.”
Though he only has five at-bats, Errol Robinson has caught the eyes of many Dodgers fans. He’s played two games, having dazzled in both. In his second game, he led off the third inning with a triple, ultimately coming in to score shortly after.
He also has a ground-rule double and single. Not only that, he’s shown off in the field as well, showing he’s an above-average infielder.
“He is [a fun player to watch]”, Roberts said when asked about Robinson. ““He’s been on our side in the organization for three years and I just like his energy and he can catch the ball at shortstop.. he’s going to be fun.”
Nobody is going to want and forget their 2018 season more than Austin Barnes. He hit .205 with only four home runs, and just couldn’t seem to figure things out at the plate.
With Yasmani Grandal gone, Barnes is likely going to be the starting catcher come Opening Day. With a lot of question marks surrounding whether or not he’s fit for the job, he has quieted the naysayers over the first week.
Barnes is hitting .286 with a .333 on-base percentage, but is currently tied with Cody Bellinger for the team lead with five RBI. Tied for sixth in hits, Barnes has looked like a more confident hitter at the plate. With Russell Martin already dealing with an injury, Barnes looks poised to be the starting catcher for the first game of the season.
One of the more underrated players in the Dodgers’ organization over the last few seasons has been Matt Beaty. Over 342 minor-league games, the 25-year-old is hitting .309 with an OPS of .812.
He’s showed his hitting ability this past week, as he currently is tied for the team-lead with six hits. One of those hits was a home run, and he’s driven in three as well.
Beaty will likely begin the season in triple-A with Oklahoma City, but don’t be shocked if this is a guy that finds himself on the every day big-league roster by the middle of the season.
After battling and overcoming many injuries over the last few seasons, Yimi Garcia heads into 2019 fully healthy and looks poised for a breakout season this year.
Garcia has appeared in three games so far, throwing only one inning in each appearance. He has yet to allow a hit, and has six strikeouts, which is the second most on the team.
“With last year being abbreviated, he’s on a mission,” Roberts said about Garcia. “You just see it every time he takes the ball. The ball’s coming out, his command is really good and he’s sequencing the right way. He’s using his slider when he needs to. He’s pitching down, but then he goes up when he needs to, too. His sequencing is really good.”
So far we’ve had pleasant surprises. Now, we get to the worrisome surprises. With the Dodgers not signing Bryce Harper, an outfield spot is officially up for grabs. The favorite coming into spring to win that third spot was Joc Pederson.
That may not be the case anymore.
On top of Alex Verdugo hitting .333 and leading the ball club in hits, Pederson has been the worst hitter so far this spring. He’s hitting .077 (1-for-13), and leads the team with eight strikeouts.
Though he gave the Dodgers their first home run of the spring, he’s done essentially nothing since then. With Verdugo young and hungry, it’ll be interesting to see if Joc can find enough playing time this upcoming year.
Kenley Jansen saw his first action of the spring on Sunday afternoon. He threw one scoreless inning, striking out one and not allowing a base hit.
“[I] Feel great. [I] Feel awesome,” he said after his appearance. “Everything felt right. I wasn’t trying as hard. Just good effort and making sure I hit my spots.”
He appeared in the third inning, and aside from a runner reaching on an error, the Rangers looked as if they had no answer for him.
“First time back, just ease my way back into it,” he said. “You don’t muscle up and try to create some power too early. I just tried to make sure I stayed behind the ball make pitches.”
Jansen said he’ll be on two days rest, and then he’ll get back into another game.
Mentioned earlier, but one of the hottest hitters at the plate this spring has been Alex Verdugo. Having checked in as the Dodgers No. 1 prospect for 2019, Verdugo hopes to see more playing time in 2019.
He’s making a solid case so far, as he’s tied for the team lead early on with six hits. On Sunday he helped his cause, going 2-for-3 with two doubles, including two runs driven in. “I just stuck with my approach,” he said. “Found a hole and was able to get some runs in.”
The 22-year-old said he’s putting his emphasis at the plate on staying back and away, hoping he’s able to get more barrel on the ball for some line drives.
With a starting outfield spot up for grabs, Verdugo doesn’t find himself under any pressure, and is just going out and playing the game he loves.
“I don’t put any [pressure] on myself,” he said. “I just come out here and have fun, try and make an impact for the team. Base-running, offense, defense, I try and make it easier for the guys to play.”