A few years ago I attempted to predict the Great Lakes Loons opening day roster. It proved to be a very difficult assignment as there are so many variables at play. First, it seems impossible to know which young players may have suffered spring training injuries, perhaps minor, or experienced other delays but it does mean they are not on the opening day 25-man roster as expected. A second variable is how quickly the Dodgers front office wants to move players along. I think it is a relatively safe bet that the current front office believes in moving players along as quickly as reasonable while taking extra precautions with pitchers, especially those who have rehabbed from Tommy John surgery. However, trying to guess how they might assign players is tricky at best.
To make the proverbial long story short, I hit a whopping .400 getting 10 of 25 correct. Not to be outdone I tried again a couple of years ago and used a new method. I put all the possible names on a wall board in the basement, closed my eyes and threw darts. My new approach was no more successful than my first attempt.
Although a third try is probably folly, Mark posed some questions a few days ago, that at least made me look at the possibilities. My new approach is to simply construct the Loons 25-man opening day roster as I would like to see it done without any consideration to the needs of the other Dodger affiliates. I did take age into account. First, to Mark’s questions with my opinion only.
- I expect Jeren Kendall to move on to the Rancho Cucamonga. He is 22 and hit much better towards the end of the season. He has to cut down on his strikeouts.
- I also expect Gavin Lux to move on to the Quakes. He is only 20 but hit .336 in August. The Dodgers like their first-round selections to move on up quickly.
- I have Brito penciled in with the Loons. He is young but Brendan Davis was assigned to the Loons at a similar age.
- I believe Morgan Cooper will begin his season with the Loons but not on opening day. He is further removed from his TJ surgery than Walker Buehler was and had a good year in 2017 with the University of Texas but I think he may spend some time in extended spring training. I hope I am wrong.
- Christian Santana will start with the Quakes. He is one of those surprises although AC honed in on him last season.
- Connor Wong to the Quakes also. He is an Austin Barnes type. I think you are right about an alternate position. This from MLB.com: “While he’s strong for his size — charitably listed at 5-foot-11 and 180 pounds — he’s small for a catcher and there’s some concern about whether he’ll be able to handle the workload of a long pro season. If not, he fits the utility profile because he’s capable of playing almost anywhere on the diamond.”
Catching is a big question for the Loons if Wong starts with the Quakes. Stevie Berman – who is big time coaching material – deserves to advance as he would begin his third year with the Loons. I like 19-year-old Ramon Rodriguez as a possibility and wonder if Gersel Pitre might return to catching. Jair Camargo, at 18, will need time with the Raptors and Garrett Hope, in my opinion, should move up to Rancho Cucamonga for a longer stint this year.
There are many infield options and a number of the infielders are versatile. My five are:
- Luis Paz (21) – first base
- Moises Perez(20) – second base
- Rylan Bannon (21) – third base
- Ronny Brito (18) – shortstop
- Brock Carpenter (22) – fifth infielder
The outfield is even more fun also with quite a few options.
- Romer Cuadrado (20)
- Mitch Hansen (21)
- Donovan Casey (22)
- Carlos Rincon (20)
- Starling Heredia (19)
On opening day last year the Loons carried 13 pitchers. This might be back to the dart board but here goes. The first five are starters.
- Logan Crouse (21) RHP
- Imandi Abdullah (20) RHP
- Melvin Jimenez (18) RHP
- Kevin Malisheski (20) RHP
- James Marinan (19) RHP
- Justin Bruihl (20) LHP
- Marshall Kasowski (22) RHP
- Wills Montgomerie (22) RHP
- Colby Nealy (21) RHP
- Evy Ruibal (22) RHP
- Devin Hemmerich (22) RHP
- Justin Hoyt (22) LHP
- Dan Jagiello (22) RHP
The pitching staff is overly loaded with right-handers but I don’t think at the Class-A level that is a concern. As much as winning is a goal, the real goal is player development and advancement. Just as MLB teams have a 40-man roster, teams at the Class-A level have an expanded roster and can move players in and out through the 7-day DL, back to extended spring training, to another level and through other creative means to have a 25-man roster for each game.