With Gavin Lux out for the season, the plan is for Miguel Rojas to play at shortstop somewhere in between 70-75 percent of the time, with Chris Taylor covering the rest of those games.
Regardless of what happens at short though, Taylor won’t play as much outfield as originally expected, and that opens up the door for some intriguing Dodger prospects to earn even more playing time, and those names are Michael Busch and James Outman, not to mention the veteran Jason Heyward, who has impressed at a very short sample in spring training.
Busch is a hit-first second baseman who would be hard-pressed to find a place in the lineup with a healthy Lux, but now there is a scenario in which he gets some starts at second, with Vargas at left field.
The plan is for Peralta and Thompson to platoon in left, but the latter, along with Betts are more than capable center-fielders, and especially Trayce, should see a regular amount of time there.
Busch has proven all he needs to, in the upper minors, coming off a strong season in Triple A (.823 OPS), and depending on what he shows in spring, could see himself playing in the big leagues, sooner rather than later.
The other obvious name to point out is Outman, the smooth-hitting lefty outfielder isn’t the hyped prospect that Andy Pages may be, but Outman is ready for a big-league role, and already got his feet wet last season.
Outman could see some time in the outfield, and although Trayce will deliver better defense, Outman has had ample experience at the position in the minors. There could very well be a double platoon scenario with Peralta-Taylor, or Peralta-Vargas, and Outman-Thompson or Heyward-Thompson.
Outman was tearing the cove of the ball with a .627 slugging percentage in Triple A last season and had an outstanding debut going 3 for 4 at Coors Field with a home run, yet the organization chose to send him back down after four games, giving regular playing time to the likes of Joey Gallo and Cody Bellinger.
What could be perceived as a lack of faith in Outman, looking at how the front office handled him in the second half of last season, bodes well for Heyward’s shot to earn some of those vacant at-bats in the outfield when Taylor is at short.
However, the truth is that Heyward’s .606 OPS over the last two seasons in Chicago, playing primarily as a platoon bat, simply won’t fly, regardless of how great his defensive work is.
Being a veteran and securing a higher defensive floor, Heyward does have the inside track on that last outfield spot, with Dave Roberts saying as much, but the veteran outfielder needs some form of bounce back with the bat to be a consistent option in the lineup, and other than a dozen spring at-bats which we rate with a grain of salt, there isn’t much actionable data for us to expect that.
The key here is that Taylor’s ability to move to short on a more regular basis, even if he is splitting or on a 35-65 timeshare with Rojas, well, it opens up room for names like Busch, Heyward, and Outman to hit their way into the lineup, especially given that J.D. Martinez has a stronghold on the DH spot, thus hampering a lot of the flexibility that role provided the Dodgers last season, but making up for that with a strong veteran presence in the lineup.