The Dodgers are the reigning champions for the first time in this young sports writer’s lifetime, but that doesn’t even begin to describe all the storylines worth watching for the Boys in Blue in 2021. Here are our top 10 names to watch this Spring Training, as the Dodger’s depth competes internally for those coveted 26 roster spots.
- Gavin Lux
Lux has a lot to prove after a brutal 2020 rookie year. The poor kid only played 19 games but slashed a horrific .175/.246/.349 compared to his AAA 2019 line of .392/.478/.719. No one was expecting Lux to bat .400, but it was hard not to feel the same excitement we felt as Corey Seager crushed his way to ROY. In fact, Lux was THE favorite for ROY going in to the 2020 season. Now he enters 2021 spring training with a fresh start and hopefully a confident mind.
He currently sits as the left handed 2nd base option next to Chris Taylor. But another poor start could lead to a Lux demotion to regain whatever it is he lost in the minors again. On the other end of the spectrum, a hot 2021 for Lux has multiple side effects. He could start full time at second, the Dodgers may let go of Corey Seager, or they made trade away one of top prospects Hoese or Busch.
Overall, Lux is THE guy to watch this spring for the Dodgers. Good or bad, his performance has ramifications up and down the organization.
- David Price
Our number 2 spot goes to Price. After missing all of the 2020 season, it’s hard to know just how the Dodgers intend to use him. We made what we think is a compelling argument to use David Price as an Opener for Dustin May, but as of right now, he seems to have a rotation spot locked down.
Obviously performance is important to watch for Price considering he’s likely the starter with the least amount of hold on his spot. However, we are more interested in watching how the Dodgers build up Price. What is his pitch count up to by the end of spring training? How does he fair the second time through the lineup? Do they use him out of the bullpen as a long reliever?
We just aren’t convinced that Price should be a workhorse starter this late in his career, or for a team as loaded with pitching depth as the Dodgers.
- Zach McKinstry
McKinstry comes in as our number 3 much watch ST name. In case you forgot, McKinstry was a Cactus League cheat code in the pre-covid spring training of 2020. Not only that, but he gave Lux a run for his money in AAA as his teammate. He slashed .383/.421/.753. Almost identical to Lux’s OPS, except McKinstry wasn’t ranked as a top prospect in all of baseball.
But now Lux has graduated, and McKinstry may be the Dodgers best chance at another ROY winner. Unfortunately for McKinstry, he’s another lefty in possibly the most talented pool of left handed infielders on one team ever. As of right now, he has the roster spot left by Kiké. He’s so defensively versatile he qualifies as an INF/OF.
However, if he can put on another show this Spring and Lux disappoints, he could find himself playing 3 or 4 games out of every 5 as the lefty LF and 2B. To us, he could be the Dodgers Jeff McNeil breakout.
- Sheldon Neuse
We are so excited to see what Neuse can do. We look at him and see all-star potential. The only issue is finding enough playing time to show it. He says he can play any infield spot and brings a big right handed bat with him. He was a top 5 Oakland prospect and now a top 15 Dodger prospect.
To us the biggest things to watch is his contact and walk skills at the plate, and his defense at SS and 3rd. In his times in the minors he showed the ability to be a .300 hitter with power. More so, if he proves to be a defensive stud at 3rd, or shows that he can play a solid shortstop, he will find playing time with this team. He could also be a Muncy and or Taylor replacement in the long run.
- DJ Peters
Will the Dodgers ever release Peters? It’s pretty simple with Peters, can he bat better than AJ Pollock. We know Peters has the power to hit 40 homers with enough at bats, but every year it seems less and less likely he’ll ever get enough.
If Peters fails this spring, he may never play for the Dodgers. He’s a good trade piece for a team that has the luxury of Bellinger and Betts in his positions, but he is also capable of being the JocPop that moved to Chicago. Defensively, we’re not worried about Peters since he’s a natural CF who would be playing LF. But we’ll be watching him very closely at the plate, and just how many opportunities the Dodgers will be giving him.
- Keibert Ruiz
Ruiz has yet to show up to camp for reasons that have nothing to do with baseball, but he will come in as the 3rd string catcher once again. Barnes got a 2 year extension. Will Smith is being praised as a top 5 catcher in baseball. The window for Ruiz is very small at the moment.
We’re actually not worried about the switch hitter at the plate, or behind the dish this spring. We are only watching one thing, and that is who he catches for. Is he the primary catcher for the guys that seem bound for AAA, or does he start catching for guys like May, Gonsolin, JoJo? Or even the holy grail… Does he catch Kershaw? If you see the Dodgers begin to pair him with MLB bound pitchers this spring, we expect to see Ruiz sooner rather than later.
- Dustin May
May is the best starter in baseball… to not have a starting spot. As of right now, he’s being looked at out of the pen which we think is a waste. We’ll be watching to see how many innings and when they bring in May. In our opinion, we think he should be paired with Price every 5 games. So watch pitch counts, what situations the coaching staff uses him in, and if he starts throwing harder because he knows he’s only in an inning or two.
- Gerardo Carrillo
Carrillo could be Graterol 2.0 for the Dodgers. The surprisingly small righty put on some extra pounds and is lighting up radar guns ever since. We’re going to be watching to see how the Dodgers intend to use him out of the pen, or if they’re grooming him to close in AAA. If he’s a next year option, we would most likely see him come in earlier to face off against other MLBers. If he’s closing out against the subs later on in ST games, we would expect Carrillo to start the year in the minors and be waiting for his call up.
- Garrett Cleavinger
We already did a full breakdown on Cleavinger when the Dodgers acquired him, but we think there is genuine interest from the front office in the lefty. We want to see what the Dodgers intend for him on whether he’s a lefty specialist or a true late inning reliever. We’ll be watching the same stuff with him, as we do Carrillo. He’s a borderline 26 man roster player, but his ceiling could be as high as an Andrew Miller type.
- Edwin Uceta
Uceta has long been a favorite of us here at Dodger Dynasty. We noticed his disgusting stuff last spring and think he’s capable of being a front end starter someday. However, we want to see if the Dodgers are considering him out of the pen this year, or as a minor league starter. We’re also curious to see an update on his stuff. He seems to have a tremendous talent for spinning the ball, but his small frame didn’t light up any guns. We want to see if he packed on any weight/muscle since we’ve last seen him. If he has, we’d bet on him being a starter in the minors and a big prospect climber in 2021.