Opening day is nearly one week away and the Dodgers were dealt a significant blow on Monday night. All-Star third baseman Justin Turner . We don't yet know exactly how long Turner will be out, but common sense tells us this is generally a four-to-six weeks injury and he'll need a minor-league rehab assignment before working back. My hunch is we can forget about April and he'll also miss a big chunk of May.
Regardless, the Dodgers have to find a way to work without Turner for the time being. They'll tap into their depth.
A team obviously never wants to lose a player the caliber of Turner for any stretch. He hit .322/.415/.530 (149 OPS+) with more walks than strikeouts last season. He was a one-man wrecking crew in the NLDS and NLCS, winning the MVP in the latter. As noted, losing him is a big blow.
The Dodgers are suited to handle the loss, though. Hell, he only played in 130 regular-season games last season and the Dodgers still won an MLB-best 104 games.
They again have the depth to absorb the blow. In fact, SportsLine's projection model had them winning an average of 102.2 games in simulated seasons before the injury and it only falls back to 101.6 per simulated season after the injury. Their 98.3 percent chance to make the playoffs became 97.7 percent.
Let's run through the musical chairs here to see how the Dodgers replace Turner.
Logan Forsythe seems likely to move to the hot corner from second base with Turner down. He started there 31 times last season.
There's a trickle-down effect, too, depending upon who is playing third in Turner's place.
If Forsythe starts at third, second base needs to be filled. The name that quickly comes to mind is wily veteran Chase Utley. He'll be in his age-39 season and hit just .236/.324/.405 last season. The lefty-swinging Utley could be a decent option against right-handed pitchers, but he hit .167/.286/.375 against southpaws last season.
If Taylor vacates center to play either second or third, there's now a hole to be filled. Joc Pederson appeared ticketed for a platoon role in left field, but the Turner injury could open up extra playing time in center. Hernandez again is an option.
Further, Andrew Toles looked like he might possibly be left without a roster spot, but now he'll likely make the team out of camp and with an extra outfield job possibly open, he could well get some starts in center field.
One also can't help but wonder if top prospect Alex Verdugo gets a chance early in the season -- especially if there's another injury -- and we saw what Cody Bellinger did with such an opportunity last season.
Again, you never want to lose a player like Turner. If it's going to happen, though, a team with the Dodgers' depth is the one who can deal with it. The "who replaces him" question is some combination of shuffling with extra at-bats for the likes of Utley, Hernandez, Pederson, Barnes, Grandal, Toles, Kemp and/or Thompson.