The Los Angeles Dodgers boast plenty of depth on and beyond their 40-man roster. Some players will of course factor more prominently into the team’s success this season, while others will be used sparingly and some may not reach the Majors.
In the second installment of ranking players on the Dodgers 40-man roster, a reminder of the criteria…
I’m thinking only about the 2018 season and ignoring contracts, salaries, age (for the most part), etc. This is not a trade value column, but rather a “considering overall impact in 2018, which players are the “most valuable right now” column.
30. Tom Koehler, RP
Given that he has been saddled with the expectation of being this season’s version of Brandon Morrow, the reality is that Koehler remains a question mark heading into 2018. The good news with Koehler was that as a reliever last season, he was effective — allowing a .217 batting average and .279 on-base percentage to opposing hitters.
But the bad news is that this was in just 14 appearances. Up until this point, Koehler has long been a starter only (and an occasionally effective one), but it’s clear that as of now his role for the Dodgers is as a reliever.
If not for the guaranteed Major League contract that was given to him, he might be lower on the list, but as of now it’s clear he’ll play a big role (for better or worse) this season.
29. Yimi Garcia, RP
In 2016, Garcia pitched a total of 15.2 innings across four levels (including the Majors). In 2017, he pitched zero. So why so high on the list?
Despite coming back from Tommy John, Garcia has been great when healthy for the Dodgers. In 2015, he thew 56.2 innings and posted a 3.20 FIP while striking out 68 batters. In 2016, just before getting injured, he had a 2.91 FIP in nine appearances.
I’m bullish on Garcia this season, and think he’ll be one of the most pleasant surprises the team has.
28. Matt Kemp, OF
I mean, where does this guy belong? Can he still hit at the Major League level? Definitely. Can he field? Umm, no (think David Ortiz level fielding). By all accounts, the Dodgers have no interest in keeping Kemp around — and can’t seem to find anyone interested in him.
While I wish there was a scenario where he could contribute, there’s just no room for Kemp on this roster as a professional pinch-hitter.
27. Adam Liberatore, RP
Like Garcia, this is someone I’ve always been high on. And someone I think could carve out a nice role for himself.
In 42.2 innings in 2016, Liberatore posted a 2.89 FIP, nearly lowering it by a full run from the previou season. Unfortunately, 2017 was a season year by injuries and it’s honestly unclear just how healthy Liberatore is right now.
If he is ready to go in Spring Training, Liberatore could join Tony Cingrani and Scott Alexander as lefties available out of the bullpen.
26. Ross Stripling, RP
Forever famous for being pulled from a no-hitter in his MLB debut, Stripling made the transition to full-time reliever last season and was rock solid there. In 74.1 innings, Stripling posted a 3.68 FIP, but perhaps most impressive was his 27 appearances of 1.1 or more innings pitched.
While he is unlikely to become a dominant reliever, Stripling is the type of guy you love to have filling out your bullpen. One interesting thing with Stripling is considering what the Dodgers would do if they needed a No. 7 starter early in the year due to injuries.
It seems like Brock Stewart might get the first call, but beyond that is it Stripling? Wilmer Font? Walker Buehler?
25. Alex Verdugo, OF
It’s funny to think that we’ve already discussed four or five players who could start the season with the team, and we’re just now getting to the top 25 of our list. That’s because while some yet-to-come prospects are more talented, they could see themselves in the Minors to begin the season.
Will Verdugo be one of those? Tough to say.
As it stands there doesn’t appear to be a clear path to regular playing time for him as long as Chris Taylor remains in the outfield, unless Verdugo can beat out Andrew Toles, Kiké Hernandez and Joc Pederson for a spot in left field.
That said, Verdugo remains one of the best prospects in all of baseball and is the most likely candidate to continue the Dodgers’ streak of Rookie of the Year winners.
24. Brock Stewart, SP
Talk about a guy who — for his own statistical success — is in the wrong organization. While more than talented enough to be a starter at the Major League level, Stewart has found himself buried on a depth chart with seemingly dozens of other MLB-caliber arms.
The good news for Stewart is that a couple of those guys (Brandon McCarthy, Scott Kazmir) are gone, and so he’s now in line to be the No. 6 starter when the season begins. Of course, once Julio Urias returns from injury and Buehler develops more that might change.
But for now, Stewart’s the first guy to get the call. And, I should add, that’s good news for the Dodgers
While his numbers aren’t pretty, he has always struck me as a guy who was more unlucky than anything else. I think the stuff is there, and if given enough of an opportunity, that he could develop into a solid No. 4 or 5 starter.
23. Pedro Baez, RP
Talk about a fall from grace. Here are Baez’s ERAs over the past three seasons: 3.35, 3.04, 2.95. Note that he improved every single year. And over that stretch, Baez has logged 189 innings across 191 appearances.
That’s the most appearances of any Dodger pitcher over that stretch. And yet, here we are on the fringes of the 25-man roster and we find Baez? Well, yes. A deeper dive in the numbers would explain why.
While his ERA has improved every season, Baez’s FIP tells the opposite story — increasing every season to the point where it reached 4.44 this past season. That was worst among any Dodgers reliever with 30-plus innings pitched. To put it in perspective, FIP says he was worse than Chris Hatcher last season.
Now, the truth of the matter is that these numbers are all impacted by a dreadful September and October in which Baez allowed 12 runs in 8.2 innings. Hitters slashed .342/.449/.732 against him during that time.
Even with that aside, however, there are lots of reasons for concern. Baez’s strikeouts per nine innings were down, while his walks per nine were up.
I think it’s safe to say that it’s far from time to give up on Baez, but probably more fair to say it’s time to give up on him being the eighth-inning reliever the Dodgers have wanted him to be in recent years.
22. Josh Fields, RP
While less talented than some of the guys below him, Fields makes up for it with his durability. Since 2013, Fields has averaged over 48 appearances a year at the Major League level, and while 2017 was a down year, his overall numbers have been impressive.
Last season, Fields posted a 2.84 ERA, but that was more a product of good fortune than anything else (4.18 FIP). That said, Fields has traditionally been someone who has gotten bad luck — posting a far better FIP than ERA in each of his previous three seasons.
21. Julio Urias, SP
Like Kemp, this felt like an impossible ranking to give, considering the uncertainty surrounding his health for 2018. Urias had shoulder surgery last June that shut him down for the year and which threatened this season as well.
The good news, however, was that the latest report indicates that the Dodgers believe he could be back as early as May.
When healthy, Urias, who is still just 21 years old, has been impressive — posting a 3.17 FIP in 18 appearances in 2016, and a 4.70 FIP in five starts last season. If he can return to full health (a massive ‘IF’), Urias should slot into the rotation regardless of the health of others ahead of him.
Thus, it makes this ranking seem fair even with the guaranteed missed time.