Dodgers mailbag: Who should make the postseason roster?

Andrew Toles
The Dodgers’ Andrew Toles hits a grand slam against Colorado on Aug. 31.
(David Zalubowski / Associated Press)

The Dodgers are 84-65. That translates to a 91-win pace. The team leads San Francisco in the National League West by five games with 13 to play. Baseball Prospectus rates the Dodgers’ chances of winning the division at 95.9%.

In order to cough up the division, the Dodgers would have to struggle these next three nights at Dodger Stadium when the Giants are in town. The Dodgers could finish them off, effectively, by winning the series this week. With the magic number at nine, the Dodgers could clinch a fourth consecutive division title by the weekend.

But, as always, there is plenty to discuss. You can reach me on Twitter @McCulloughTimes. Let’s do this.

The concept of “breaking up the lefties,” as you suggest here, holds more merit in the regular season than in the postseason. In the playoffs, you want to utilize your best players as much as possible. With apologies to Corey Seager, the two most important players on the Dodgers’ roster in October are Clayton Kershaw and Rich Hill. You want to use them as much as possible.

So the Dodgers will discuss finding a way to get Kershaw and Hill to pitch four of the five games. I am not sure if it can be done. To do that, one of the two must pitch on three days’ rest in Game 4. Kershaw has done this before, but he is coming back from a herniated disk. Hill pitched once on three days’ rest — in 2009 with Baltimore. He gave up five runs in three innings. He also still has to manage the blisters on his left hand.

I still see Ross Stripling as the favorite. Julio Urias has the most talent, but the Dodgers say he is shut down and moved to the bullpen.

Andrew Toles needs to be on the playoff roster. You could argue that he should start over Howie Kendrick in left field against right-handed pitchers. He’s a defensive upgrade, he can create chaos on the bases, and Kendrick has had one great month this season (July), a couple decent ones (May, August) and several mediocre to terrible ones (April, June, September).

You can always worry about injuries, but the stiffness in Kenley Jansen’s wrist hasn’t appeared to affect his performance. He is throwing harder in the second half than he did in the first. His earned-run average is his lowest since his rookie season. He is still pretty great.

It’s late in the season. Guys get banged up. They play through it.


The Dodgers need a closer, a third baseman, some clarity in their outfield corners (will they trade Yasiel Puig?), some more relievers and perhaps a second baseman (Dave Roberts said something interesting earlier this summer when he mentioned the team viewed Enrique Hernandez as a better defender at second than Howie Kendrick).

But the two big holes will be at closer and third base. The Dodgers are likely to pursue Aroldis Chapman in addition to Kenley Jansen. Justin Turner wants to remain with the team, but his age and rising salary expectations may make that difficult.

Even if Hill doesn’t re-sign, I expect Jose De Leon to start the season in the minors. Both he and Urias will be on innings limits, and the team may try to be creative with the two to keep them fresh for the final months of the season.

It makes very little sense to shift De Leon into the bullpen. He has a high ceiling as a starter.

Of these three choices – both, just Toles, just Ethier – the “just Toles” option looks like an overwhelming favorite. Andre Ethier has been a great player in his career, but his leg is still broken and his bat has yet to awaken. It’s hard to put him on a playoff roster when his body is so compromised and roster spots are so precious.

Grant Dayton looks like a lock. The rest are up in the air. It will depend on how Julio Urias, Adam Liberatore and Alex Wood pitch in the next two weeks. Urias has never been a reliever before. Wood is coming off elbow surgery. And Liberatore hasn’t been the same since his elbow flared up in July. I do not think J.P. Howell, that old warhorse, has much of a shot to make the roster. The Dodgers view Avilan as a less-promising option than Urias, Liberatore and Wood, so his role depends on their opinion of those guys.

Based on your adjectives, I get the sense you do not have faith in the Dodgers bullpen. The team does have four semi-reliable arms in Kenley Jansen, Joe Blanton, Pedro Baez and Grant Dayton. Baez has looked much better since the team shipped him to double-A Tulsa in August. Dayton misses bats. Blanton looks reborn as a slider-heavy reliever. And Jansen is one of the game’s best closers.

After that, yeah, there’s some reason to worry. But the team could fashion an interesting middle-relief contingent involving Ross Stripling, Julio Urias and Alex Wood. Stripling has looked solid in multi-inning stints on this last road trip. Urias and Wood will audition this week against San Francisco.

The Dodgers tried to draft and develop a good third baseman a few years ago with their first-round pick, but it turns out he was too good, and could play shortstop in the majors.

The job is the same. I love working for The Times.


1. My favorite band is Brand New, although I am pretty sure I hate them, at this point. Their music means so much to me, even if I’ve been disappointed with their output for about eight years. The bands I enjoy the most that still make music on a regular basis are the Wonder Years and the Hotelier. Joyce Manor is approaching a similar plateau. I am very eager to see what comes next from the War on Drugs and Turnover.

2. I don’t think anyone should be embarrassed by the music they enjoy. Life is too short to worry about snobbery. Unless we are talking about Vampire Weekend. That band stinks.

It’s pretty great. I caught Pinegrove at the Echo in July. My expectations were low, because I’ve seen plenty of bands over the years that sound great on record but lackluster on stage. These guys brought it. Evan Stephens Hall has a quite expressive face, which I found quite enjoyable. The guitars were tight, and they’ve added a keyboardist who brings more depth to the mix. It was a fun show. 

You could say plenty of backhanded things about “Tidal Wave,” the band’s third record since the original members regrouped in 2010: It’s enjoyable but forgettable; despite being the most potent force in the band, backup vocalist John Nolan has faded far too deep into the background; it sounds like a decent power pop record with chunkier guitars. The only songs that stuck with me beyond the first listen were the early-record 1-2 punch of “You Can’t Look Back” and “Fences.”

But I am not going to complain about Taking Back Sunday creating new music. It makes me happy. It gives them a reason to tour, and to play all those songs that meant so much to me when I was in high school. And these new, middle-aged-emo records are solid. They don’t reach the peaks of the past, but they are far from a valley. 

. . . not for me. I don’t know, man. I’ve given Touche Amore plenty of chances, and they just don’t do it for me. I like melody, I like hooks, I like songs I can sing along with in the car. The energy and bloodletting of singer Jeremy Bolm are impressive, but they just don’t pull me in. It just sounds like he’s yelling at me. Maybe in a few years, the vocals will tone down and he’ll be forced to utilize a more conventional approach. I thought that worked great for Pianos Become the Teeth on their last record

I am sure Touche fans hate this appraisal. But it is, as the kids say, what it is.

Enjoyed the Cruiserweight Classic. It’s fun to see guys I’ve watched in PWG or New Japan take flight in WWE events. There were a lot of fun matches. They told simple stories that paid off: I loved that moment after Cedric Alexander’s loss to Kota Ibushi when Triple H came out and embraced him as the crowd chanted “Please sign Cedric.” It’s the little things. It reminds me why I fell in love with wrestling in the first place.

I expected Ibushi to beat Zack Sabre Jr. in the finals, so I was pleasantly surprised to see T.J. Perkins win. I was unfamiliar with Perkins’ work, because I never watch TNA, but I thought he was great. He won the tournament, I assume, because WWE couldn’t sign Ibushi or Sabre, but who cares? He can work. Ibushi is fantastic, and I hope he can work things out with WWE. Sabre just doesn’t do it for me. His offense looks too goofy, and he can’t really sell.

As much as I enjoy A.J. Styles as the linear championship descendant of Bret Hart, Steve Austin and Shawn Michaels, I believe WWE did the belt a disservice by putting it on the B-show and strapping it on an lackluster champion like Dean Ambrose.

Do you bleed blue?

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