Dodgers 2013 NLCS roster projection: The return of Andre Ethier?

2013NLCS

The Dodgers head into the 2013 NLCS against the Cardinals looking to be a much better team than they were earlier in the week during the NLDS. While the squad’s NLCS roster should look almost identical to the NLDS roster, there should be a couple tweaks, as the club hopes to get Andre Ethier back healthy and perhaps will add more depth to their battered pen.

Hobbled Hanley Ramirez was kept indoors, but healing Andre Ethier was running down fly balls in the gap Wednesday as the Dodgers worked out at Dodger Stadium in preparation for Friday’s start of the National League Championship Series.

As he did throughout the NL Division Series, Ramirez is expected to be in the starting lineup at shortstop for Game 1 in St. Louis. And Ethier is a good bet to be in center field if he feels as well Friday as he looked Wednesday, turning and sprinting full speed to chase fly balls while the Cardinals-Pirates game was being shown on the video boards.

“It feels good,” Ethier said. “We’ll see where I am tomorrow.”

Pitching single innings in the simulated game were Brandon League, Carlos Marmol, Edinson Volquez and Chris Withrow. Only Withrow was on the NLDS roster.

League, Marmol, Volquez, Jerry Hairston, Peter Moylan, Nick Buss and Drew Butera continue to work with the club. They were not on the NLDS roster. Mattingly wouldn’t reveal if there would be any changes to the roster for the NLCS.

So factoring that information into my choices, here’s what I came up with:

Rotation

Clayton Kershaw
Zack Greinke
Hyun Jin Ryu
Ricky Nolasco

No changes from the NLDS here. Some concern about Hyun Jin Ryu‘s health and Ricky Nolasco‘s efficacy, but I’m honestly not fretting over either at this point. Just cautious.

Bullpen

Kenley Jansen
Brian Wilson
J.P. Howell
Chris Withrow
Paco Rodriguez
Ronald Belisario
Chris Capuano
Edinson Volquez

I add Edinson Volquez here. Only Michael Young and Ethier pinch-hit in the NLDS, and if Don Mattingly is going to use his bench that way, they might as well add another arm. This is especially true with the slightly increased risk of short outings from Ryu and Nolasco, in addition to now potentially needing Chris Capuano as a shutdown LOOGY out of the pen with Paco Rodriguez scuffling.

Right now the order of reliever confidence has to be: Kenley Jansen -> Brian Wilson -> J.P. Howell -> Chris Withrow -> Everybody Else.

That’s … a concern.

Lineup

Carl Crawford – LF
Yasiel Puig – RF
Adrian Gonzalez – 1B
Hanley Ramirez – SS
Andre Ethier – CF
Juan Uribe – 3B
A.J. Ellis – C
Mark Ellis – 2B

I think Ethier will be back in center to start over Skip Schumaker. Reasons to be skeptical? Yes, but I think they played it right in the NLDS and at the end of the season, as they were patient in waiting for him to get healthy when there was every temptation to rush him back.

Given that, I think you move Yasiel Puig to the top and flip-flop Adrian Gonzalez and Hanley Ramirez. Besides the handedness advantage to that batting order, Mark Ellis finally gets to hit where he should be hitting, especially against the Cardinals’ all right-handed rotation. Speaking of which, that means there’s no need to platoon Ethier in the starting lineup, so Scott Van Slyke can be saved for a pinch. Will Mattingly use him when Ethier is facing Randy Choate with the bases loaded? That’s the question.

Bench

Skip Schumaker – 2B/OF
Michael Young – 3B/1B
Nick Punto – IF
Scott Van Slyke – OF
Tim Federowicz – C

It’s a shallow bench now, but Mattingly only used Young and Ethier extensively anyway, so it’s clear he has little intention of removing regulars during the postseason. The Dodgers have cover at every position, the platoon of Young and Schumaker likely first off the bench to pinch-hit, and Van Slyke saved for power opportunities (I hope).

Missing Dee Gordon is a risk if Ethier or whoever else isn’t 100% to run, but if that were to happen there are bigger problems than can be fixed by using a roster spot on a pinch-runner. There’s an argument to be made for Dee, but he has little-to-no utility outside of his speed at the moment, so I see more use in having an extra pitcher, particularly with the potential of playing seven games in nine days.

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Overall, not much changed here, but swapping Schumaker for Ethier in the starting lineup and helping out the pen by swapping Dee and Volquez are two upgrades. One’s significant and one’s minor, but they’re upgrades nonetheless, and heading into a series with the impossible-to-kill Cardinals, I’d prefer all the advantages the Dodgers can get.

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