If there were any questions lingering about whether Los Angeles Dodgers and manager Dave Roberts gave a lick about Spring Training results, those questions were answered this week as the team put the finishing touches on their 2017 Opening Day roster.
Among the final spots up for grabs were a utility man and a lefty-mashing first baseman/outfielder. The competition for those spots boiled down to Chris Taylor, Kiké Hernandez, Scott Van Slyke and Rob Segedin and/or Trayce Thompson.
For the entire spring, these two battles seemed neck-and-neck. In fact, it wasn’t until the middle of the week that it seemed Roberts arrived at a decision. The question being, What was he looking for?
Was it performance from last year? Performance this spring? Apparently the answer to both questions was a resounding ‘no.’
By sending Taylor, Thompson and others to the Minors on Thursday, it became clear Hernandez and Van Slyke had earned the final two spots on the Dodgers roster. A look at their recent performance, however, adds little-to-no clarity to the situation.
In 43 at-bats this spring, including the Freeway Series opener, Van Slyke is hitting .256/.431/.302 with no home runs and eight strikeouts. Hernandez, on the other hand, is slashing .206/.308/.294 with no home runs and seven strikeouts in 34 at-bats.
Thompson had similar production as he worked his way back from last year’s season-ending injury, but the numbers couldn’t look more different Segedin and Taylor. Segedin slashed .406/.441/.844 with three home runs, while Taylor hit .370/.500/.522.
Add in the fact that Taylor is a much better shortstop defensively and that Segedin can not only play first base and outfield, but also third base, and the decision making process still remains fairly murky. Though, Roberts did credit Hernandez’s ability to play center field as a key factor.
Now, even with all of this, I’ll be the first to acknowledge that I don’t care much at all for Spring Training. The Yankees went 24-8 this spring, while the Cubs went 12-18. To think either of those records is relevant would be foolish.
To say that Segedin hit three more home runs than Van Slyke does nothing to account for whether they were off of Major-League level pitching or players who will return to the low levels of the Minors next week.
The decision made by the Dodgers and Roberts surely reflects what has been seen on the practice fields, in the cages and in the clubhouse. And obviously, these are things the average fan simply doesn’t have access to.
It remains interesting, however, to have a heated battle, see some players outperform others (albeit in essentially meaningless competition), and come to the conclusion that Roberts did.
The good news, as I’ve noted all along, is that Segedin, Taylor and Thompson are not going anywhere. So with all four will remaining part of the organization throughout the season, it means the trio will almost assuredly get their shot with the Dodgers at some point this season.
The question then will be: What will they do with it once the games actually count?