Dodgers set their Opening Day roster
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As the Dodgers wrap up Cactus League play on Saturday, they’ll depart camp with their Opening Day roster all set.
Los Angeles came into the spring with very few open competitions, but that all changed once Gavin Lux went down for the season with a torn right ACL and once Tony Gonsolin sprained his left ankle while running off the field.
The Dodgers, however, felt good about their depth and feel very comfortable with the 26 players they’ll carry for the March 30 opener against the D-backs at Dodger Stadium. As is always the case, the roster will change over the course of the next six months. Injuries will happen. Some players will emerge, while others will struggle.
But here’s what the Opening Day roster will look like, barring any injuries.
Catcher (2): Will Smith, Austin Barnes
This spot has been a strength over the past few seasons, as Smith and Barnes make quite the case for the best catching duo in the National League. Smith is one of the most underrated hitters in MLB and is expected to take yet another step forward in 2023. Barnes is an above-average backup catcher who knows how to navigate through lineups really well.
First base (1): Freddie Freeman
It was an emotional year for Freeman, but he and the Dodgers couldn’t have asked for a better first season with Los Angeles. Freeman led the Majors with 199 hits in 2022, while his .325 batting average was the highest of his career in a full 162-game season.
Second base (1): Miguel Vargas
Vargas struggled in limited time last season, going 8-for-47 with one homer in his first taste of the Majors. Going into this season, however, Vargas will handle most of the responsibility at second base. After spending the first few weeks of spring camp not being able to swing the bat because of a hairline fracture on his right pinky, Vargas has looked the part at the plate and has made some strides defensively at second base.
Shortstop (1): Miguel Rojas
Lux was going to be the Dodgers’ starting shortstop this season, but he tore his right ACL and sprained his right LCL in a Cactus League game against the Padres, costing him the entire 2023 season. Rojas was acquired as a depth piece from the Marlins in January, but now he’ll be tasked with handling most of the games at shortstop, at least to start the season.
Third base (1): Max Muncy
Muncy was the Dodgers’ primary first baseman in 2021, but his versatility has helped Los Angeles get creative over the past few seasons. After spending time at second and third last year, Muncy will be the Dodgers’ everyday third baseman in ‘23, and he’s looking for a big bounce-back season at the plate.
Outfielders (6): Mookie Betts, Chris Taylor, Trayce Thompson, Jason Heyward, David Peralta, James Outman
Heyward and Outman will break camp with the Dodgers, each earning a spot on the Opening Day roster with solid springs. Outman will be the Dodgers’ primary center fielder against right-handed pitching. Heyward got off to a hot start at the plate, but has tapered off over the last few weeks. He’s expected to be the team’s fourth outfielder and will get playing time against righties.
Peralta will be the team’s left fielder and Thompson will get almost all of his playing time against lefties. Then there’s Betts, who will occasionally play second base, but most of his time will be in right field -- the position at which he’s won six Gold Glove Awards.
DH (1): J.D. Martinez
Given his age and declining defense, Martinez is now viewed as a designated hitter, and a very good one at that. Despite a slow spring at the plate, he should help the Dodgers’ lineup, especially against left-handed pitching.
Starting pitchers (5): Clayton Kershaw, Julio Urías, Noah Syndergaard, Dustin May, Ryan Pepiot
Coming into the spring, the Dodgers’ rotation appeared set, but that changed when Gonsolin once again landed on the injured list, this time with a left ankle sprain. Gonsolin will be sidelined until late April at the earliest.
With Gonsolin going down, that opened the door for Pepiot, who will open the season as the Dodgers’ No. 5 starter. He edged out Michael Grove, who also had a solid spring.
Relief pitchers (8): Alex Vesia, Evan Phillips, Shelby Miller, Brusdar Graterol, Caleb Ferguson, Yency Almonte, Phil Bickford, Andre Jackson
The last spot in the bullpen was the only one in question, and Jackson ultimately won a place on the Opening Day roster following a strong spring. Jackson will serve as L.A.’s multi-inning reliever to start the season, something the Dodgers value given that some of their starters are still building up and the high-leverage relievers won’t be exposed to heavy workloads early in the season.