Way Too Early Dodgers Opening Day Roster Prediction
We have made it through the offseason, ladies and gentlemen. And I imagine you'll agree when I say that "pitchers and catchers report" is one of the most beautiful phrases in the English language. It's usually followed by the hurling of cliches, such as "you can never have too much pitching, " "he's in the best shape of his life," and "hope springs eternal." Which it does.
In 2020, p and c report marks the end of fan angst over four months of Dodgers inactivity, turned upside down and right side up with the acquisition of Mookie Betts and David Price from the Red Sox Tuesday. Nobody cares a lick about what didn't happen before, because what did occur was such a lift for faithful. Los Angeles is pumped.
With Joc Pederson and Ross Stripling seemingly entrenched after a trade blown up by Boston's indecisiveness and the Angels' folly, the Dodgers 40-man roster is set with the competition for jobs revolving around in-house candidates only.
Yes, it's way too early for this exercise. But indulge me for a minute, will you please?
As much as big boss Andrew Friedman will try to wish away the injury bug, he's confident in the knowledge that he's put together as perfect a roster as can possibly be. There are backups at almost every spot on the team and backups for the backups in some cases. With thriving young players and veterans galore. Keeping Joc and Strip helped assure the latter (thank you for the charity Arte Moreno).
It's more important for me to predict the makeup of the Opening Day roster than to spell it out specifically with starting pitchers and relievers, but I'll go out on a limb anyway. Twenty-six man rosters are new for 2020, remember, so here ya go:
Starters: Walker Buehler, Clayton Kershaw, David Price, Julio Urias and Dustin May.
I don't buy the May-to-OKC rumor. He's just too good and is ready for a rotation spot from the jump. And after having pitched 134 innings, 132 2/3 and 141 1/3 in 2017, 2018 and 2019 respectively, May should be free and clear to go 175-plus with no restrictions. And yes, I'd be fine with him in high-leverage bullpen work if that's the way the club chooses to go. Liberal use of a six-man rotation wouldn't be beyond the realm.
Bullpen: Kenley Jansen, Blake Treinen, Pedro Baez, Joe Kelly, Alex Wood, Adam Kolarek, Dylan Floro and Ross Stripling.
For the record I can see Scott Alexander instead of Adam Kolarek and Tony Gonsolin, Brusdar Graterol or Jimmy Nelson instead of Floro -- and wouldn't object if that's what the competition yields -- but since camp has just opened and nary a pitch thrown I'll go with who I think are the leading contenders as of this afternoon. Floro is out of options, by the way. And I don't really expect Nelson to make the team. Maybe he'll surprise me.
Regulars (versus right-hand pitchers): Mookie Betts, Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger, Max Muncy, Joc Pederson, Corey Seager, Gavin Lux and Will Smith. And that is a great eight.
Bench: Kiké Hernandez, Chris Taylor, A.J. Pollock, Matt Beaty and Austin Barnes.
Edwin Rios deserves better than to be left out, but if someone falls during the exhibition season, the 25-year-old left-hand hitter should get the call.
I realize that the game is played on a diamond instead of paper, and that a 106-win season is unlikely to be topped, but this is the best Dodgers team in the Guggenheim Administration. And quite possibly the best in club history. World Series victory or bust.
And remember, glove conquers all.
Howard Cole has been writing about baseball on the internet since Y2K. Follow him on Twitter.