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Inbox: When will LA call on catching prospects?

Beat reporter Ken Gurnick answers questions from fans
February 8, 2019

Now that we know J.T. Realmuto isn't coming to L.A., the Dodgers will start the season with Austin Barnes and Russell Martin behind the plate. How soon can we realistically expect to see Keibert Ruiz or Will Smith in the big leagues? -- @CheckBlueLAAt 23, Smith is three years older

Now that we know J.T. Realmuto isn't coming to L.A., the Dodgers will start the season with Austin Barnes and Russell Martin behind the plate. How soon can we realistically expect to see Keibert Ruiz or Will Smith in the big leagues?
-- @CheckBlueLA

At 23, Smith is three years older and presumably more polished as a college player, while Ruiz might have a higher ceiling but hasn't played above Double-A yet. So realistically, Smith will arrive first, but seeing them both in Major League exhibition games will help answer your question. MLB Pipeline ranks Ruiz as the Dodgers' No. 2 prospect and Smith as No. 5.
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Since Bryce Harper is a no, are they finally going to let Alex Verdugo play every day?
-- @janeen_griffith

Unless I'm missing something, I would expect Verdugo will need to win a job during Spring Training. If you look back to last September and October, Verdugo was a non-factor. He didn't make the postseason roster. If he couldn't make the bench for the World Series, I don't see how he is handed an everyday job at the start of Spring Training over proven Major Leaguers like Joc Pederson, Chris Taylor or Enrique Hernández.
Assuming no injuries or mishaps during Spring Training, who do you see starting on Opening Day vs. AZ?
-- @daleeatherly

Assuming you mean starting pitcher, how about Clayton Kershaw?

How have the Dodgers projected Ross Stripling this year: relief, starter or flexible wingman?
-- @itsaburnerrrrr
Wingman, swingman, whatever you want to call it. Stripling was an All-Star in the first half but he faded down the stretch and had to watch the postseason. I think he falls into the same category as Kenta Maeda and Julio Urías as capable of starting or relieving, depending on the health, performance and need of the pitching staff.
Other than Walker Buehler, who do you expect to give you a full season with 30 starts? The Dodgers need a six-man rotation.
-- @valdez310

Once again, Kershaw. He's due for a healthy season.
What would a Dodgers lineup with the universal DH look like?
-- @BannedRodriguez

Should the rule change, which is only a reported proposal at this point, and were it to apply this season, the Dodgers would probably add a bat. With the current alignment, Pederson, David Freese and Andrew Toles come to mind as DH candidates. The Dodgers played 10 regular-season games with the DH last year and used three players in the role. Matt Kemp had the most starts with five, plus two in the World Series, and he's gone.
What are the Dodgers chances at landing Nolan Arenado?
-- @C_loz10

This front office hasn't signed a massive free-agent contract, and Arenado figures to be in line for one next offseason. If it ever made sense for the Dodgers to splurge on one player, Arenado would seem to be the one, a local product who excels offensively and defensively. It just doesn't seem that this regime believes in committing that much money to one player.

Ken Gurnick has covered the Dodgers for MLB.com since 2001.