The 7th annual Winter Development Program began Sunday at Dodger Stadium where 15 Dodgers prospects were invited to a multi-day itinerary. The players selected to participate by the Dodgers gives us a glimpse into management’s thought process on when they forecast these prospects will be Major League ready. Most of the time, the players chosen for the winter program will be making their Dodger debut sometime within the upcoming season. Six of the eleven players who were part of the Winter Development Program last year played for the Dodgers at some point in 2013.
With Alexander Guerrero only playing twelve games this offseason in the Dominican Winter League due to an injured left hamstring, the Dodgers will have to look at options for second base beyond Guerrero as Spring Training approaches. One of the prospective choices could be infielder Miguel Rojas who is one of the players who was invited to the Winter Development Program. The Dodgers will likely use this time with him in Los Angeles to watch and gauge his workouts. We will keep an eye out for Rojas being worked out at second base or other infield positions during the camp.
Alexander Guerrero’s four-year $28 million contract wasn’t inked so that the Cuban infielder could play in the Dodgers minor league system. As the Dodgers parted ways with Mark Ellis, it was pretty set and understood that Guerrero was profiled to be the Dodgers Opening Day second baseman. Many think that Guerrero would begin in the minors anyhow, but I disagree and think he has the skills to jump right into the Majors. We saw Hyun-jin Ryu shake off those naysayers who thought he couldn’t transition from Korean baseball to the MLB, and Yasiel Puig‘s 63 minor league games with Rancho Cucamonga and Chattanooga were certainly not needed other than waiting out some time in order to keep the Wild Horse under Dodger Blue control longer. Guerrero, if healthy, should start second base for the Dodgers in 2014.
If Guerrero is hurt or not ready by Opening Day in Australia, then who will play second base for the Dodgers? Second base is a very technically important position, and the loss of Mark Ellis will no doubt be felt this upcoming season. Mark Ellis, one of the best defensive second base men of all time made every play look so easy. His quick hands and veteran experience really shored up the middle infield for the Dodgers during his two seasons in Los Angeles, and we will revisit his greatness at his position later in the season when Guerrero or Gordon is flailing a throw into the stands.
Dee Gordon is another choice for second base, albeit a very wrong choice. Dee Gordon may be on his last attempt at creating a career as a Dodger. After the Dodgers traded for Hanley Ramirez, it was abundantly clear that Dee’s role on the team couldn’t be that of a starting shortstop. Not only did Hanley integrate himself back to his natural position at shortstop, but Juan Uribe made a triumphant return at third base. It also didn’t help Dee’s cause when he made 18 errors in 79 games played at short in 2012 and 7 errors in 27 games for 2013. Although Gordon did appear in three games last season at second base, and he did not commit an error at the second base position.
If the speedy Gordon cannot get on base, then his speed is quite useless. Gordon has been a part-time player in three seasons, yet he hasn’t impressed enough in order for the Dodgers to find him a permanent spot on the team. Gordon has been playing well in the winter league for the Indios de Mayaguez in the Puerto Rican Liga de Beisbol Profesional Roberto Clemente as well as in the Dominican League prior. He has been playing outfield and second base this winter in hopes of reinventing himself and showing that he can add value somewhere to this team. Gordon had a great game with two triples on Friday in PR:
Mayaguez 4, Caguas 3 (11 innings)
Dee Gordon’s 11th-inning triple plated Daniel Ortiz and was the difference Friday, as Mayaguez downed Caguas in the first game of the round-robin playoffs. Gordon, the Dodgers shortstop who has spent time playing both second base and center field in winter ball, also led off the game with a triple and went 4-for-5. Ortiz had three hits, while Miguel Abreu and Aaron Bates had two hits apiece for Caguas.
I’m completely for Gordon to continue his career with the Dodgers, I’m just not so sure that he can be consistent with either the bat or the glove at the Major League level. His speed is definitely a game-changer, but Don Mattingly doesn’t use his speedy talents correctly anyways. Can Gordon prove that he is more than just a pinch-runner and will this be his last chance to break through with the Dodgers?
Miguel Rojas has been a minor leaguer for eight seasons, and he has yet to play in a Major League game. Last season with the AA-Chattanooga Lookouts, Rojas batted .233 with 5 homeruns in 478 at-bats. He played mostly shortstop for the Lookouts and made 16 errors at the position. He has played second base in 31 games between the last two seasons, with 28 of those appearances playing in the Cincinnati Reds minor league system in 2012.
Or the Dodger could go out and sign another infielder. Right now they have a full 40-man roster, but adding another veteran bench piece who can play second base seems imperative this winter. The Dodgers can’t possibly rely on Dee Gordon or Miguel Rojas to man second if Guerrero isn’t ready. Last season it was Hanley who was injured, and then we had Justin Sellers breaking camp as the starting shortstop for 2013. Are the Dodgers faced with a similar scenario for second base? Oh, Mark Ellis please come back…