On the night of Tuesday, May 9th, Mexican Heritage Night at Dodger Stadium, Julio Urías, a 20 year old from Mexico, was throwing 6+ no-hit innings. On a ball hit by Andrew McCutchen, Andrew Toles made a valiant effort to preserve and save the historic, special night. Instead, the ball bounced into the seats for a ground-rule double and Andrew Toles, or “Tolesy” as Manager Dave Roberts calls him, tore his ACL. Requiring surgery, this injury is expected to sideline the left-fielder for the rest of the season. While a devastating loss and sure to have an impact on the Dodgers’ production this year, this is a key example of why having depth is so vital. You never know when someone can go down for an extended period of time, and it’s important to have valuable depth. The Dodgers have exactly that.
With the dawn of Cody Bellinger and reinvigorated rebirth of Chris Taylor, the right side of the infield has looked very capable and fresh, albeit differently than expected at the start of the year. Adrián González and Logan Forsythe, both on the DL, were expected to be mostly everyday players, but due to injuries have had limited impact. However, there is now a Tolesy-shaped hole in left field and no obvious answer to fill it. Cody Bellinger, a first baseman by trade, also plays a solid LF, but if he plays there that does open up 1B. Though there are plenty of options to cover 1B such as Chase Utley, Scott Van Slyke, and obviously Bellinger as well, it does become a lot more fluid as to who will play everyday. It’s unclear for sure when he will, but until González returns, his position will likely be covered by Utley as it has been most days so far. (Note: He does seem to be close to returning now.) By extension, LF will usually be covered by Bellinger. However, he is likely the go-to backup 1B regardless of who is starting, since it is his natural position, he’s young and fresh, and swinging a bat hotter than molten lava. This can persist if González continues to provide negative value, but if he returns to form, expect Gonzo’s bat in the lineup most days, especially given his contract. On González’ off days, Bell Either way, regardless of his defensive placement, Bellinger should be getting his offensive reps consistently throughout the summer.
Without even mentioning Kiké Hernandez or Franklin Gutiérrez, it seems that the Dodgers have the depth to get by without Andrew Toles and an injured right-half of their infield. This will also be helped by the revitalization of a few previously struggling players. For example, Yasmani Grandal, after May 1st, was batting just .213, with an OPS of .697 and a wRC+ of 91. In the last 2 1/2 weeks (not accounting for his 1-for-4, 2 RBI performance on Wednesday, May 17th) he’s improved those numbers to a .288 Batting Average, an .837 OPS, and a wRC+ of 125. He’s done so by getting 16 hits, including a homer and 5 doubles, as well as collecting 10 RBIs, in just 10 games.
Chase Utley is another solid example. The 38 year old second baseman, traditionally, has played 5 of the last 6 games at 1B, and has also started to swing a hot bat. Though a small sample size, in the last 8 games he’s appeared in, he has 9 hits in 24 plate appearances, including 2 doubles, 2 triples, and has batted in 5 runs. His season stats are still well below what any major leaguer’s should be, but in fairness to him, he has been playing in a limited role and seems to be coming out of his slump now. Don’t give up on Chase Utley just yet.
Overall, the Dodgers have more than enough talent to be great even when accounting for injuries. However, it’s still a possibility to see them make a trade for someone like Ryan Braun to really round out the lineup full of heavy hitters. Though possible, this would take a lot to happen and right now the most likely and smartest choice is to look for value from within. The Dodgers have collected quite the depth of valuable players and now is the time to utilize it.