Infielders: Turner, Chone Figgins, Miguel Rojas, Brendan Harris, Clint Robinson
Outfielder: Joc Pederson
Catchers: JC Boscan, Griff Erickson, Chris O’Brien, Miguel Olivo
Pitchers: Sam Demel, Carlos Frias, Zach Lee, Daniel Moskos, Red Patterson, Chris Reed, Ross Stripling
Two years ago, Jamey Wright made the Dodgers’ Opening Day roster out of camp as an NRI. Last year, no non-roster invitees made the roster — though you figure Kevin Gregg was close. The Dodgers’ surplus of starting pitchers squeezed Gregg out of a job in Los Angeles, and he eventually became the Chicago Cubs’ closer.
So recent history says that the 17 NRIs are competing for one job at most. Not all have a realistic chance of making the team. In most cases, injuries will dictate the winner of the logjam. That’s particularly true for Pederson, the catchers and the pitchers.
The Dodgers are carrying four outfielders (Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig) with large guaranteed contracts. The fifth is Scott Van Slyke, who has value as a corner outfielder/first baseman with power off the bench. Pederson, who turns 22 on April 21, can turn heads in camp if his .912 OPS in the Venezuelan Winter League was no fluke, but that might be all he can do. There’s no job for him without another significant injury hitting the outfield — and remember that Kemp still isn’t running on his surgically repaired ankle.
Among the catchers, all A.J. Ellis and Tim Federowicz need to do to reprise their 2013 Opening Day jobs is stay healthy. Olivo, who’s played in more than 1,100 major-league games since 2002, knew that when he signed with the Dodgers on Jan. 17. He’ll try to push Drew Butera for the primary catcher’s job at Triple-A Albuquerque.
The pitching staff is also surprisingly stacked with veterans who are difficult to displace. Lee, Stripling, Reed, Patterson and Frias are competing to make an impression and learn the ropes in their first camp, not land an Opening Day job. Demel and Moskos have major-league experience but are slotted for roles in the Albuquerque bullpen and rotation, respectively.
So that leaves us with the infielders. Second base is an open competition until Alex Guerrero learns the position defensively. Until we see him in camp, it’ll be hard to pin down Guerrero’s learning curve. Other than starting third baseman Juan Uribe, and light-hitting utilityman Justin Sellers, Dee Gordon is the only player on the Dodgers’ 40-man roster with experience at second base. He only learned the position last year. There’s a reasonably wide opening here.
Rojas will go as far as his bat will take him — historically, he’s struggled to hit at the Triple-A level.
The same goes for Figgins, whose 68 OPS+ the last three seasons isn’t enough to justify a 40-man roster spot. Figgins will have to prove in camp that his bat speed at age 36 is as major-league ready as his foot speed and defensive versatility — he’s played 647 career games at third base, 274 at second and 27 at shortstop. No other player in camp is quite as versatile, and the longtime leadoff hitter will help his cause if he can steal a base.
In some ways, the 33-year-old Harris is a slower version of Figgins. He’s able to play third base, shortstop and second base, and carries a light bat (.695 career OPS).
Robinson is a 28-year-old first baseman whose career consists of 3,337 at-bats in the minors and four in the majors. With at least two first basemen ahead of him on the depth chart in camp, Robinson’s chances of getting a major league at-bat this season range from slim to none.
Turner is an above-average fielding second baseman and has been for parts of five major-league seasons. What really makes him stand out in this group is his track record at the plate. Turner is the definition of an average hitter, as a 100 OPS+ and 0.9 oWAR last season attest. Baseball-reference.com’s version of oWAR rated Turner a 1.6 in 2011, his only full major-league season.
Dodgers manager Don Mattingly and general manager Ned Colletti have agreed that second base can be a defensive position in 2014. But if they want to give the second-base job on Opening Day to an above-average fielder and an average hitter, Turner might be the only man in camp who fits that description.
Some bullet points for a Ronald Reagan Day:
• Should Yasiel Puig lead off? From SportsOnEarth.com: “Over those last three months and 78 games, (Puig’s production) amounted to a .298/.366/.470 line, which looks perfectly fine for leading off in a lineup as loaded as that of the Dodgers.”
• One more link on Puig leading off, from TheScore.com: “Base running shouldn’t be the determining factor when laying out the batting order. Yes, Puig gets on base a whole lot more than Crawford. But the extra power in Puig’s bat makes me think he’s a better fit for the two slot.”
• DodgersDigest.com explains why potential free-agent target Bronson Arroyo is a tough pitcher to nail down. “What seems to be the separator in the negotiations,” writes ESPN.com’s Buster Olney, “is whether Arroyo will get three years in an offer from any of the teams, as he wants, or if he’ll have a choice of two-year deals.”
• You read it here first (unless you didn’t):
On May 14, 2014, the #Dodgers will play their franchise’s 20,000th game.
— MLB Play Index (@BRefPlayIndex) February 6, 2014
• Anderson Cooper once did a feature on a woman who is a prisoner to an obsessive-compulsive disorder that compels her to wash her hands dozens of times daily. In related news, this guy wants every Tim Wallach baseball card ever printed.
• I’m a couple days late on this: BaseballAmerica.com estimated how much all 30 teams spent on international players subject to MLB’s spending limits (i.e., not Hyun-Jin Ryu or Alex Guerrero). According to their estimates, only two teams spent more the Dodgers: the Cubs and Rangers.
• Remember, the Dodgers acquired some international bonus money from the Cubs in the Carlos Marmol trade, and from the Marlins in the Ricky Nolasco trade. Every high-ranking Dodgers executive I’ve spoken to said that they didn’t exceed their international spending limit last year, so either Baseball America’s estimate is high or the Dodgers acquired at least $1.48 million in bonus money.
• The rapper L’Orange isn’t French, but his new single hints at a strong jazz influence: