The fragile depth of the Dodgers
When injuries can't be avoided, the cupboard can empty quickly
Welcome to the worst holiday stretch of the calendar. Starting Tuesday, we entered a three-month drought until the next holiday, Memorial Day. After that, we get something every couple of months at worst, en route to the arrival of the best time of the year, November.
But to get us from here to May, we’ve got baseball.
The thin Dodger infield
I don’t mean for this to sound pessimistic. Take it more as a caution flag.
Dodger rookie infielder Miguel Vargas, whom the Dodgers plan to start at second base this season — an unusual level of commitment by the team to a nearly new major-leaguer — suffered a hairline fracture to his right pinky over the weekend. Los Angeles manager Dave Roberts said the injury is not serious (knock on wood), only preventing Vargas from batting for a few days. He can continue to work out at second on defense, which is crucial given his relative lack of exposure to the position.
But this news speaks to how fragile the Dodger infield is. If Vargas were out, Chris Taylor1 could take his place, but then you’ve weakened an already thin outfield that might already be depending on uncertainties in Taylor, Trayce Thompson, recent signee David Peralta, reclamation project Jason Heyward and rookie James Outman to cover both left and center field. Not to mention the alley in between, as Suzanne Vega notes.
Aside from Taylor, Miguel Rojas is a no-offense backup (no offense to Rojas) in the infield, although his defense would be a real asset. Beyond that, Slim Pickens:
Michael Busch, a 2017 first-round draft choice who is promising offensively (career .867 OPS in the minors) but who hasn’t played a day in the majors and also has questions on defense. Busch is ranked No. 74 among MLB prospects by Keith Law of The Athletic, which is better than it might sound.
Yonny Hernández, a 24-year-old claimed on waivers from the Oakland A’s (the Max Muncy path) with 194 career MLB plate appearances and less promise at the plate than Rojas. Good first name, though.
And if you squint like George Costanza, there’s Devin Mann, who turned 26 this month and has been making the slow-but-steady climb in the minors since 2016. Mann has shown some hope at the plate, but he has played 44 games above Double A. Law does not have him among the Dodgers’ top-20 prospects.
The Dodgers — who believe it or not (I can’t) play their first Spring Training game Saturday — can weather an infield injury, but that could mean two shaky bats in the starting lineup, if not three. I’m good to go at the plate with Will Smith, Freddie Freeman, Gavin Lux, Max Muncy, Mookie Betts and J.D. Martinez. Make no mistake, that’s a strong six, with Vargas and Taylor/Peralta/Outman/ Thompson potentially extending it to eight or nine. But if anything else goes wrong, things could go very wrong.
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