5 Things To Look Out For This Spring

It’s official, players have reported to Arizona and Spring Training is upon us with the first game set to begin February 28th against the Oakland Athletics. There are so many players to look out for over the next few weeks, but here is a guide to make it simpler.

Rotation Battle: Tony Gonsolin vs Dustin May
The Dodgers rotation appears to be set with Clayton Kershaw, Walker Buehler, Trevor Bauer, David Price, & Julio Urías. However, we don’t know if Bauer is going to pitch every 4th day or the Dodgers open the season with a 6 man rotation to ease guys back in. Regardless the Dodgers are going to need depth and both Dustin May & Tony Gonsolin will be on call for spot starts and one of them could pitch themselves into the rotation. Gonsolin had a fantastic 2020 by pitching 46.2 innings and compiling a 2.31 ERA. It was Dustin May who shined when it mattered most during the postseason, and you could see his confidence growing. During the regular season, May pitched 56 innings and had a 2.57 ERA. Early on Gonsolin has had the better start, but the ceiling for May is higher with better stuff on his pitches and the prospect pedigree. Look for both of these to compete and what is expected to be a tight race.

Gavin Lux
Lux has been considered one of the Dodgers most prized prospects under the Andrew Friedman regime. This Spring is big because with Kiké gone, Lux puts himself into the mix for the starting second base job. Lux is a career .297 hitters in the minors and has showed flashes of brilliance in the leagues between 2019 & 2020, but he’s only appeared in 42 games with 151 plate appearances. If Lux tears it up this Spring Training, then there is no doubt he will be the Dodgers Opening Day second baseman. Of course Chris Taylor is still a good option, but Lux holds the platoon advantage vs right-handed pitching. You can assume the Dodgers will give him every opportunity to prove himself, but now it’ll be up to Lux to come through.

Lefty Pinch Hit Bat
Two of these guys are very likely to crack the Opening Day roster, but there are four guys in the running. Edwin Ríos thrived in 2020. He slugged 8 home runs and came up with a couple big ones against the Braves as well during the NLCS. Ríos offers the most power upside but possibly the worst plate discipline. One advantage he holds is his ability to play both third & first base, and a little left field if needed. Matt Beaty did not have a good 2020, but it was hard for him to find any rhythm. With the DH gone as of now, Beaty has a chance to take back his pinch hit role that he succeeded in during his 2019 rookie campaign. Beaty was also with the team during its title run, but did not receive many at bats. Zach McKinstry will be in the mix. A .270 hitter in the minors and only 25, we saw a brief stint by McKinstry in 2020. What some may view as the left-handed version of Kiké Hernandez, McKinstry offers tons of versatility on defense and has a knack for putting the ball in play. A solid Spring should solidify McKinstry to make the Dodgers. Finally Zack Reks offers tremendous upside with his bat, he is a career .300 in the Minors, and has yet to debut in the Majors. The Dodgers like Reks, but this is a close battle between the four.

Second Lefty Bullpen Option
Adam Kolarek was traded to the Athletics for Sheldon Neuse who is a player you should also focus on. Victor Gonzalez should be a lock as the go to lefty out of the pen, but after that it’s a mystery. Scott Alexander is still a Dodger and always finds a way to make the Opening Day roster until he is demoted to the minors. Alexander has a 4.16 FIP with a 1.32 WHIP over his three seasons with the Dodgers. The ground-ball specialist is likely the favorite, but Alex Vesia and Garrett Cleavinger are two intriguing options. Vesia has a 1.62 ERA over 100 MILB innings, which includes a 40.2 innings scoreless streak that stretched over a previous Spring Training & Minors season. The fastball is touted as one of the best moving in the sport. Cleavinger provides some depth for the Dodgers and had a 4.08 ERA over 220 Minor League innings.

Prospect Watch
The Dodgers top prospect Josiah Gray is expected to showcase his abilities and looked really good last season at the Alternative site as well as an exhibition game against the Angels. Gray is ready for the Majors and could be making his MLB debut at some point during the 2021 season. Keibert Ruiz reportedly struggled during Winter Ball, but the catcher has been praised for a few seasons now about his overall ability. Could this be the Spring where he busts out and challenges Austin Barnes for the backup catcher spot? Kody Hoese and Michael Busch are the next two prospects ranked in the Dodgers system. Both infielders are generating a lot of buzz and if either were to get off to a hot start then we might see them in the Majors sooner rather than later. Finally Bobby Miller who was taken in the first round by the Dodgers last year. Miller is reportedly making great progress and is another electric right-handed starter to just keep a look out for.

Author: Kevin Klein
Twitter: @Klein25
Podcast: The Incline Dodgers