clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Predicting the Dodgers opening day roster

Guessing the 28 active players for April 8

Los Angeles Dodgers v. Colorado Rockies Photo by Dustin Bradford/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Opening day for the Dodgers is just 11 days away, so let’s figure out where they stand regarding the opening day roster.

At the moment, 45 players remain in big league camp, so 17 cuts still need to be made to finalize the roster for opening day on April 8 against the Rockies in Coors Field.

Position players

The offense is nearly set, with 10 guaranteed contracts plus Will Smith, who is arguably the best catcher in the National League. There are 14 position players on the 40-man roster still in big league camp, leaving only one, maybe a couple actual decisions remaining, based on a few factors. Those 11 locks:

Catchers (2): Will Smith, Austin Barnes

Infielders (5): Freddie Freeman, Max Muncy, Trea Turner, Justin Turner, Hanser Alberto

Outfielders (3): AJ Pollock, Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts

Infielder/outfielder (1): Chris Taylor

Carrying 13 position players would leave Gavin Lux, Edwin Ríos, and Zach McKinstry fighting for two spots, among players on the 40-man roster. McKinstry is the likely odd man out, which isn’t terribly surprising considering he only played two major league games in the final two months of last season once the Dodgers were at mostly full strength.

Perhaps a larger threat to one of these spots comes from the non-roster invitees.

Jake Lamb bats left-handed just like Ríos, and both can play third base and first base if needed. Lamb has also added corner outfield to his bag of tricks, which would help, but he’s also hit just .203/.308/.355 with an 80 wRC+ over the last four injury-plagued seasons. If he’s healthy and something closer to his 2016-17 seasons, when he hit 59 home runs and made an All-Star team for the D-backs, he could snag a bench spot.

The Dodgers have redundancies built in at first base (Freeman, Muncy, Bellinger) and third base (Turner, Muncy, Taylor), and have five players they’re comfortable with in the outfield (Pollock, Bellinger, Betts, Taylor, Lux). If they want another outfielder, they might be more likely to pick Kevin Pillar from the group of non-roster invitees.

Pillar can play all three outfield spots if needed, and as a right-handed batter has a career 104 wRC+ against left-handed pitchers.

Pitchers

The starting staff is pretty much set. Walker Buehler will start opening day. Julio Urías and Clayton Kershaw will follow, in some order. Dave Roberts told reporters in Arizona on Sunday that Andrew Heaney has a rotation spot, Tony Gonsolin is on track for the fifth spot, and they will talk to Tyler Anderson about pitching in relief, at least to start the season.

“It’s going to bleed into the regular season. Industry-wide, there might be a couple outliers, where a guy is built up to five innings. But across the board it’s going to be a job by committee-type thing,” Roberts said on March 15. “Three to four innings is going to be more common, certainly for us, and across baseball.”

Those six pitchers will figure prominently in adding to the innings pile in some fashion this year. And it’s likely there will be many more, with Mitch White and Andre Jackson available now, Dustin May likely ready for some point in the second half, plus Bobby Miller, Ryan Pepiot, and Landon Knack waiting in the wings.

There will be some decisions among the relief group, with some delayed by health and availability.

There are 20 pitchers on the 40-man roster still in big league camp. Six of them are the starters (or “starters”) listed above, leaving 14 more pitchers for nine spots, assuming the Dodgers start the season with 15 pitchers and 13 position players on the active roster.

Blake Treinen and Daniel Hudson have guaranteed contracts. So does Tommy Kahnle, though in rehabbing from Tommy John surgery from September 2020 he has yet to pitch this spring. Kahnle on Sunday threw his first bullpen session since the surgery. It’s a certainty he opens the year on the injured list.

David Price has one more year on his contract, too, but also hasn’t pitched in a spring game yet this season, limited instead to action on the backfields at Camelback Ranch. He certainly won’t be built up to start, but it’s not out of the question he at least might be ready for short relief appearances by opening day.

Now we’re down to 10 pitchers on the 40-man roster for six, maybe seven spots.

The Dodgers have a very functional roster in that nine of these 10 pitchers can be optioned, so they aren’t locked into a spot. The two groups:

  • Right-handed relief pitchers (5): Brusdar Graterol, Phil Bickford, Evan Phillips*, Mitch White, Andre Jackson
  • Left-handed relief pitchers (5): Justin Bruihl, Garrett Cleavinger, Caleb Ferguson, Victor González, Alex Vesia

*Phillips is out of options, which puts him in a position similar to veteran Shane Greene, who signed a minor league deal. Green is one of three non-roster pitchers left in camp, along with Yency Almonte and Reyes Moronta.

Bickford pitched well enough last season to be a roster lock this year, but has yet to appear in a Cactus League game, so his opening day status is up in the air, belying the right-hander’s 45-percent career ground ball rate.

I figured I’d end up picking one non-roster invitee to make the opening day roster. Lamb, Pillar, and Greene have the best shots, but I went with the pitcher to give the Dodgers another right-handed reliever since Bickford hasn’t pitched yet this spring.

2022 opening day roster projection

RH pitchers (7) LH pitchers (8) Catchers (2) Infielders (6) Outfielders (3) IF/OF (2)
RH pitchers (7) LH pitchers (8) Catchers (2) Infielders (6) Outfielders (3) IF/OF (2)
Walker Buehler Clayton Kershaw Will Smith Freddie Freeman (L) Mookie Betts Chris Taylor
Tony Gonsolin Julio Urías Austin Barnes Max Muncy (L) Cody Bellinger (L) Gavin Lux (L)
Blake Treinen Andrew Heaney Trea Turner AJ Pollock
Daniel Hudson Tyler Anderson Justin Turner
Brusdar Graterol Alex Vesia Hanser Alberto
Evan Phillips Victor González Edwin Ríos (L)
Shane Greene Caleb Ferguson
David Price

Injured list (5): Phil Bickford, Tommy Kahnle, Dustin May (60-day), Jimmy Nelson (60-day), Danny Duffy (60-day)

Without knowing why Bickford hasn’t yet pitched, this is just an assumption that he’ll open on the injured list. Price could very well be there too. Maybe Mitch White would take his bulk role if Price is unable to start the season.

We have 11 days to figure out what the real roster will be.