How Can the Dodgers Replace Mookie Betts?

Mookie Betts is going to be out "for some time" after fracturing his hand on a hit by pitch. How do the Dodgers stay afloat without him?

LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA - JUNE 16: Mookie Betts #50 of the Los Angeles Dodgers reacts after getting hit by a pitch during the seventh inning against the Kansas City Royals at Dodger Stadium on June 16, 2024 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Katelyn Mulcahy/Getty Images)

Baseball fans everywhere were left holding their collective breaths after Los Angeles Dodgers superstar Mookie Betts exited Sunday night’s contest. Betts took a Dan Altavilla fastball to the hand and instantly fell to the ground in pain.

Dodgers manager Dave Roberts told reporters after the game that the 31-year-old Betts has a fractured hand. Roberts said that Betts won’t require surgery, but he’ll be out “for some time.”

This is a massive blow not only to the Dodgers, but to the game of baseball. Betts is one of the faces of the league and having him out of action is significant.

On the season, the seven-time All-Star has 10 home runs, 40 RBI and a smooth .892 OPS. He’s walked (47) more than he’s struck out (34) and got his wRC+ up to 159 before the hit by pitch.

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The Dodgers have a fairly comfortable eight-game lead over the second-place Padres in the NL West. However, playing the upcoming games without one of the faces of their franchise could potentially see that gap become thinner and thinner in a hurry.

Not to mention the fact that this is the second superstar they’ve lost in the past few days, as Yoshinobu Yamamoto also hit the injured list with a strained rotator cuff.

It certainly helps that the club has Shohei Ohtani, Teoscar Hernandez, Freddie Freeman and Will Smith on hand to soften the blow. But the immediate internal candidates to replace Betts sure leave plenty to be desired.

What’s Next for the Dodgers Without Mookie Betts?

The Dodgers have a few shortstop-capable players on the big league roster already.

Roberts told reporters that Rojas is first in line to pick up reps at shortstop. After having the worst offensive season of his career last year, the veteran has turned things around at the plate in 2024.

So far, Rojas has 12 extra-base hits and 14 runs driven. In limited playing time, he’s managed a .772 OPS and 122 wRC+. Rojas is the superior defender between him and Betts, but his bat isn’t even close. The former has 4 OAA this year at short while the latter has -6.

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Putting Rojas at shortstop is going to cause a trickle-down effect for the rest of the Dodgers infield. While most of the group is extremely versatile, there isn’t enough offensive firepower to properly replace Betts.

With Rojas at shortstop, Hernandez will back him up. The super-utilityman isn’t swinging much of a stick this year, but he can play every infield and outfield position. Not to mention, he’s also one of the more popular and well-liked figures in the Dodgers clubhouse.

This will keep both Rojas and Hernandez off of second and third base, leaving at-bats open elsewhere. Gavin Lux is the club’s second baseman and showed in spring training that he can’t play a competent shortstop. This leaves Cavan Biggio, who is sure to see his role expand.

This leaves Taylor, who is in danger of losing his job. The 33-year-old has provided value with his glove and his offense has historically been a bonus, but he’s got a 9 wRC+ this year with an OAA of 0 or lower at three of four positions he’s lined up at. He also hasn’t played an inning at shortstop. Count him out.

Is There Any Help in the Minor Leagues?

Not really. The Dodgers have a fairly stacked farm system, but not many middle infield options. Miguel Vargas is going to be recalled from Triple-A, according to Roberts, and he’ll provide depth at non-shortstop positions around the infield, but the cupboards are pretty bare elsewhere.

The only shortstop-capable options down in Triple-A Oklahoma City are journeymen Chris Owings and Jonathan Arauz, as well as prospect Trey Sweeney. Owings has six home runs and 21 RBI in 52 games with a .280 average and .834 OPS, but these are likely outliers, as he’s never produced like this throughout his career.

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This leaves the Dodgers in a bit of a pickle. The trade market is not exactly flush with names. Willy Adames and Bo Bichette represent two of the more attractive options, but neither are expected to be moved barring something dramatic changing with the Brewers or Blue Jays.

They’re going to have to hope that Rojas, historically a weak hitter, can continue to produce at the plate. Even if he can’t, he’s going to have to keep playing above-average defense at the position, or Betts is going to leave an even bigger black hole than we thought.

Again, the Dodgers have one of the deepest big league rosters in recent memory. One-through-nine in the lineup is capable of doing damage, but it remains to be seen just how solid they will remain without Betts in the middle of all the action.