Predicting the Dodgers' Opening Day roster

March 21st, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Most of the Dodgers’ roster was set as they entered camp in mid-February. But some new developments and a couple of heated competitions will be the focus as the Dodgers look to finalize their Opening Day roster over the next 10 days. 

Figuring out the starting rotation will be the biggest decision for the Dodgers in the coming weeks. The club will also have to take a look at how it will construct the bench and bullpen, especially if a pair of relievers are unable to start the season.

Things can change quickly, but let’s look at what the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster could look like on April 1 against the Rockies.

Catchers (2): ,
Smith and Barnes complement each other well and are lined up to be the two catchers on the Opening Day roster, barring an injury in the last 10 days of camp. Smith has the potential to be an All-Star because of his offensive prowess, but he still has to prove that he can deliver the same level of production over a 162-game season. Barnes, on the other hand, is considered one of the best defensive catchers in the National League and has a good rapport with the pitching staff. With Clayton Kershaw pitching on Opening Day, it’s likely that it’ll be Barnes starting behind the plate. No. 1 prospect Keibert Ruiz, who dealt with visa issues earlier this spring, will be a valuable third option in the Minors this season. Ruiz will be at the alternate training site to begin the season.

First base (2): ,
Muncy had a down season in 2020, but the Dodgers stuck with him in the cleanup spot and he delivered during the postseason, contributing three home runs and 14 RBIs. The Dodgers hope that getting back to a normal routine will help Muncy in ’21. He’ll continue to hit in the middle of the order. 

Beaty will also likely be on the Opening Day roster. His willingness to move to the outfield more often this spring certainly helped his cause. He’ll get playing time at left field, especially against right-handed pitching. Matt Davidson, a non-roster invitee who is experimenting with trying to become a consistent two-way player, could also be an option, but that has become unlikely as camp has gone on.

Second base (2): ,
Taylor will play all over the field this season, but he’ll get a fair share of his playing time at second, particularly against left-handed pitching. Lux has been one of the standouts so far this spring, and the former top prospect will get regular playing time at second base to start the season. Lux will have to prove that his super Minor League production can translate to the big league level. So far, so good for Lux, who was 12-for-31 (.387) this spring entering Sunday.

Third base (2): ,
No changes here as Turner is expected to receive the bulk of the playing time at third base. Turner showed up to camp significantly skinnier, and the hope is that it helps him continue to be agile defensively at third base. He’s been one of the standouts on defense this spring. Ríos will also get a good amount of playing time because of his impressive power. He has struggled a bit this spring, hitting just .182 in 22 at-bats, but the Dodgers aren’t worried about that. Taylor will also get some playing time at third, giving the Dodgers even more depth at the position.

Shortstop (1):
Seager is entering a contract season and will be looking to build on a very impressive 2020, which ended with NLCS and World Series MVP trophies. He played in 52 of the 60 games last season, a heavy workload that will continue in ’21 if the star shortstop is healthy. Seager had five home runs entering Sunday.

Outfield (3): , ,
The Dodgers lost Joc Pederson in free agency, meaning the outfield workload will largely fall on Betts, Bellinger and Pollock, although the club has plenty of versatile players who can fill in as needed. Taylor and Zach McKinstry will also get plenty of playing time in the outfield, especially if Lux has a good start to the season. 

Bellinger’s shoulder was a question mark, but the star outfielder has put any concerns to rest. Despite showing off a new stance, which he has since tweaked again, Bellinger’s swings have looked healthy and there’s no reason to think he won’t be the Opening Day center fielder.

Utility (1):
It’ll be difficult to replace Kiké Hernández’s production both offensively and defensively, but people in the organization have been high on McKinstry and he has a chance to show his versatility this season. Scouts believe McKinstry’s best position is second base, but the utility man has already played second, shortstop, center and right field this spring. He has been a standout in camp. Now it’s up to the Dodgers to make the roster decision.

Starting pitchers (5): , , , ,
The construction of the starting rotation has been the biggest question for the Dodgers this spring. The competition is heating up as pitchers are making their final impressions over the next 10 days.

Bauer, Buehler and Kershaw are locked in to be in the rotation, with Kershaw named as the Opening Day starter. But behind them, things have been interesting. Urías has been impressive this spring and is coming off an outing in which he threw four scoreless innings and showed a very good breaking ball. The Dodgers have been waiting to see what he’s capable of as a full-time starter. This season could be his chance.

While Urías is trying to lock up one of the spots, Gonsolin, David Price and Dustin May are also making their cases. At one point, it looked as if Price was a lock for the rotation, but the left-hander has talked about how open he is in moving to the bullpen and has sounded like a pitcher that is ready to make the transition. In that case, Price could give the Dodgers a second left-handed pitcher in the bullpen. It would also open the door for Gonsolin or May to open the season in the rotation. Things can change quickly in this competition.

Relievers (8): , , , , , , Dennis Santana,
With the NL rules back in play, the club will likely start the season with eight arms in the bullpen, as opposed to nine. That hasn’t been decided. If May and Price lose out in the starting rotation competition, the two will slot right in as multi-inning relievers in the bullpen.  

The thing to continue to monitor over the next 10 days is the availability of Brusdar Graterol. The right-hander has thrown a handful of bullpen sessions this spring, but a slow buildup over the offseason has Graterol playing catchup. Graterol still hasn’t been in a Cactus League game and time isn't on his side. It’s also very likely that Joe Kelly starts the season on the injured list, opening up a spot on the roster. If both Kelly and Graterol are forced to start the season on the injured list, Santana and Nelson would be the likely replacements. The Dodgers would have to open a 40-man roster spot to make room for Nelson. Moving Tommy Kahnle, who is recovering from Tommy John surgery, to the 60-day injured list would be the likely corresponding move.