I often border on the offensive… however, that picture is pretty cool: Orel Hershiser and Russ Martin.
How many teams have two starting catchers who can play several other positions? Russ Martin is a catcher who can also play LF, 3B, SS and 2B… probably 1B as well. Austin Barnes, who is also a catcher, can also play 2B or 3B. Now, I am not saying they are Gold Glove defenders there, but that flexibility could come in handy occasionally… and it could mean that the Dodgers could carry 12 position players and 13 pitchers, especially now that Andrew Toles is out of the picture (at least temporarily).
In addition to having two catchers who can play other positions, let’s look at the flexibility other players have in being able to play multiple positions:
- Cody Bellinger – 1B, LF, CF, RF
- Justin Turner – 1B, 2B, 3B
- Max Muncy – 1B, 2B, 3B (Emergency C)
- Kike Hernandez – Name it (Emergency C and P)
- AJ Pollock – LF, RF, CF
- Joc Pederson – LF, CF
- Alex Verdugo – LF, CF, RF
- David Freese – 1B, 3B (he can be an emergency C)
- Chris Taylor – 2B, SS, 3B, LF, CF, RF
- Corey Seager – Just a SS (what a slacker?)
This type of flexibility makes predicting an opening day lineup almost impossible. Who leads off? Taylor, Pederson, Verdugo, Pollack? It’s likely to be one of those four. Pick one…
There has been a lot of discussion about Alex Verdugo. It’s a running joke but I do not really think Alex will be Tony Gwynn, but he could be “Tony Gwynnesque.” He has a great eye, he doesn’t strike out much and he walks, which is why, with maturity and launch angle changes he could be a special player. He could also develop significant power as he does hit the ball really, really hard. All that is up to him and how he plays. Nothing is sure, however just changing a hitter’s approach on launch angle and keeping the bat in the zone longer can have a amazing impact on their power.
Look at Max Muncy. He’s a strikeout guy, but changing his launch angle gave him the ability to hit 35 HR. He struck out a lot before and strikes out a lot afterward, because he does not have elite bat-to-ball skills like Verdugo. After further review, I think I may have been wrong in predicting Alex would hit 20 + HR. I actually think it is double that! He will still strike out a lot less than Muncy if he changes his launch angle. In fact, staying in the zone longer can give him the ability to hit even more HR than Max because he makes elite contact.
I think the conventional wisdom that he will not be a HR hitter is wrong using the new techniques being taught by the new Dodger hitting instructors. Alex Verdugo could actually become a power hitter. Again, I am not saying that WILL happen – just saying that it could happen and maybe that is part of what Friedman sees in Verdugo. Usually, the guys we have heard about changing their approach and launch angles were not elite-bat-to-ball specialists. What if you try that on a guy like Verdugo? I think we may find out…
The Dodgers have several “all-or-nothing” hitters and while Joc Pederson has had some success, he falls into that category. I think the LF job is Verdugo’s to lose. How he hits will determine his fate, but with Toles gone, he will almost certainly break with the team.
There is also the perception that Kike is an “all-or-nothing” player. That is a misconception. He has cut his strikeout rate nearly in half the past two years and now strikes out at about a 12.7% rate. While he may never be JD Martinez, I do think he will improve again.
The Dodgers seem intent on putting Muncy at 1B, Taylor at 2B, Pollock in CF and Bellinger in RF. So, it appears that Pederson and Verdugo will fight it out as to who starts in LF. Edwin Rios has been mentioned as a player who could make the team as well. I happen to think he is a AAAA player. I think his bat is a tick slow for MLB. I hope I am wrong, but that’s the way I see it.
I was asked yesterday if I would rather trade for Kluber or Bauer and my answer was:
At this juncture, I don’t want to give up the requisite prospects for either one. Starting pitching is a huge strength for the Dodgers. Now, if Kershaw or others go down or lay an egg, then it can be addressed before the Trade Deadline, but at this juncture, I don’t want either one.
The Dodgers just signed Kershaw to a nearly $100 million 3-year deal. Yes, they did it to keep him in the organization as a Dodger for life and in that respect, it was a payment for past services, but if they did not reasonably expect him to pitch well for these next three years, I do not think they would have done the deal. If healthy (and he’s only 31) he has been the best pitcher of this generation and you have to let this play out… at least for a half-season. Get back to me at the All-Star Break on this.
Here’s another reason for optimism: Many Dodgers, including Seager, Jansen, Turner, Hernandez and many others are going “dairy-free” to reduce inflammation according toPedro Moura of The Athletic. It’s a wonderful read. These guys are locked an loaded on playing and winning game-by-game and playing the final game about 250 days from now. Tomorrow, let the games begin.
If you look at the photos onDodger Insider, you will see that Ryu plays ping-pong RH. I’m just sayin…
Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers