Because MLB rosters will remain at 28 players for the postseason, there shouldn’t be too much drama for the Dodgers in determining theirs — but that’s not to say there won’t be any. Let’s take a look …
Locks (23): These are the players who, barring any injury over the next 10 days, have ensured their spot in October.
Starting pitchers (5): Walker Buehler, Tony Gonsolin, Clayton Kershaw, Dustin May, Julio Urías
- Buehler should be healthy enough to pitch in the playoffs, even if it’s unclear for how long.
- Because of the rarity of off days, the Dodgers will need five starters. Whether or not they use an opener like Brusdar Graterol, let’s consider these five the starting pitchers for simplicity’s sake.
- Players are listed alphabetically. Given what’s happened in 2020, expect Kershaw to start the first game of the playoffs. Matchups could dictate the order thereafter.
Left-handed relievers (3): Victor González, Adam Kolarek, Jake McGee
- Caleb Ferguson’s Tommy John surgery is a blow, but the Dodgers are still as strong from the left side of the bullpen as I can remember.
- Right-handed batters are 5 for 40 with a .367 OPS against McGee, 5 for 29 with no walks and a .426 OPS against González.
- Scott Alexander was a mainstay of the bullpen for the first half of the 2020 season, but it’s getting late for him to work his way back.
- Alex Wood (6.10 ERA) is not a lock. His versatility is a plus, but he has been in seven games this year and really only had two effective appearances. Perhaps the Dodgers are seeing progress under the surface, but at a minimum, they don’t need him simply because he is a lefty.
Right-handed relievers (4): Brusdar Graterol, Kenley Jansen, Joe Kelly, Blake Treinen
- Jansen became a lightning rod again with consecutive poor outings against Arizona and Houston, but overall he has had a good year. That said, unlike previous years when the bullpen was weaker, the Dodgers don’t need to ask him to do all the heavy lifting at the end of games.
- On Friday, Joe Kelly pitched a perfect inning in Colorado on the second day of a back-to-back. Assuming no issues in the coming week, he’s on board.
- Pedro Báez probably should be a lock — he has even been used to get two saves — but he hasn’t seemed right all season. He has allowed baseruners in 13 of 14 apperances.
- Dylan Floro is not a lock because he has allowed six runs and 11 baserunners in 6 1/3 September innings.
- Dennis Santana has been effective at times but also erratic.
- Josh Sborz has a 0.69 WHIP, but has only pitched 4 1/3 innings in 2020.
- Mitch White has allowed two baserunners in his first three major-league innings and can also give the Dodgers some length, but obviously his inexperience could count against him.
Catchers (2): Austin Barnes, Will Smith
- Dodger catching has been a black hole for many a 21st-century October, but Barnes’ resurgence and Smith’s ascendance offer hope.
- Given the potential for Smith to be used as a designated hitter when he isn’t catching, Keibert Ruiz might get a glance as a third catcher. But he probably isn’t necessary.
Infielders (4): Max Muncy, Edwin Ríos, Corey Seager, Justin Turner
- There’s hardly any scenario where Gavin Lux doesn’t make the postseason squad, but his inconstency almost requires one to at least stop and think it over.
- Ríos hasn’t been consistent either in limited duty, but his immense power and his ability to play third base when Turner might need to be a designated hitter guarantees him a role.
Infielder-outfielders (4): Cody Bellinger, Mookie Betts, Kiké Hernández, Chris Taylor
- With that lone appearance at second base, you have to put Betts here now, though I don’t see any reason he needs to play any infield in October given the alternatives. In particular, Taylor (.832 OPS) has quietly had an excellent season.
- Matt Beaty has a shot at postseason action, but right now Zach McKinstry has his roster spot, and McKinstry himself probably has no shot.
Outfielders (1): A.J. Pollock
- Yes, Pollock is the only pure outfielder who’s a lock to make the postseason roster. You’d like him to face as many lefty pitchers as possible (1.042 OPS), but he has been solid against righties this year (.767 OPS, seven homers).
- It feels weird to suggest Joc Pederson isn’t a lock — especially when he has had some big playoff moments — but this has been a rough year for him, although hopefully his family situation is improving. He has been on base three times in the past three weeks.
With the 23 locks, that leaves five spots open.
- At least two of those will go to pitchers (boosting the pitching staff up to 14), and the safest bets there remain Báez and Floro.
- Two of the spots will go to position players, with Pederson and Lux the most likely.
Now we’re down to the 28th man on the roster, and while the Dodgers could always use another option off the bench, it’s unlikely that Beaty, McKinstry or Ruiz would get enough action to outweigh the advantage of a 15th pitcher, given that a) short outings are the rule, not the exception, for Dodger starters and b) extra-innings will be played under pre-2020 rules — no runner on second base to begin the inning — so games might go longer. If you did pull from this group, Ruiz might be the smartest pick, just to completely unshackle Smith and allow him to be used as a DH or pinch-hitter without reservation on days he isn’t catching.
But let’s go back to the pitchers for that 28th spot. Anyone who hasn’t been on the roster in the final week of September is probably an injury replacement option at this point, so that eliminates Alexander and Santana. Sborz has gone back and forth enough (five options this year) that he’s the exception to that rule. That said, Wood’s experience probably makes him the favorite, unless White or Sborz get more opportunities in the final week and shine.