Tag Archives: Scott Van Slyke

Decisions in the Dodgers Outfield

Dodger Stadium Centerfield

CENTERFIELD

Heading into the season the big story regarding the Dodgers outfield was their depth and whether or not they’d be able to find playing time for five outfielders, all talented enough to be everyday players in other places. Two months into the season and the talent is still there, unfortunately the production hasn’t been. While Yasiel Puig has continued his assault on the National League, the rest of the Dodgers outfield, particularly Matt Kemp has struggled, both offensively and defensively. Kemp’s defensive struggles in center field initiated a recent-three game benching of the former superstar.

With Matt Kemp no longer the everyday option in centerfield, the question now turns to who is the best option in center. From a sheer athletic ability standpoint the obvious answer is Yasiel Puig, who can cover the most ground. Unfortunately the talented young Cuban is still extremely raw and prone to errors. The best option on the current roster is Andre Ethier, who’s a sure handed option, but lacking in speed and range. While Ethier is dependable, he’s a far cry from the former gold glove defense that Kemp used to provide prior to his ankle injury.

LA Dodgers Outfielders

DODGERS LINEUP

So what is the ideal Dodgers outfield? Depth is a good thing to have, especially with injury. The problem is when too much depth equals too many options. For a team with postseason aspirations the Dodgers are eventually going to want to determine what their ideal outfield is. Right now, from a production standpoint that ideal outfield begins with Yasiel Puig and a whole bunch of question marks. Matt Kemp has shown flashes of his former self but is struggling offensively. Carl Crawford was an igniter in the postseason last year, but has an on base percentage under three this season. Andre Ethier is what he is, a dependable bat and reliable fielder, but not a difference-maker offensively.

The X-factor in all of this is the presence of Joc Pederson, still tearing up Triple AAA. Up until now the speculation around Pederson has been as a potential part of a blockbuster trade or as a late season call-up. Right now the Dodgers would be crazy to even consider a Pederson trade and should be pondering whether or not they should immediately call up the phenom. Pederson is dominating the Pacific Coast League as the fifth youngest position player in the league, with a .351/.454/.638 batting line. Pederson has 15 home runs and 14 steals. Since an impressive spring he hasn’t cool down at all, impressive everyone with his approach to the game and professionalism. He’s likely big league ready.

Dodger Yaseil Puig

PUIG

The Dodgers ideal outfield, right now, should start with Puig and Joc Pederson. The big question is whether or not one of them can play center field. They both have the speed to play center, but are both also a bit raw defensively with a corner outfield slot being their best position. With the remainder of the outfielders plodding along with pedestrian numbers, there’s no reason not to call up Joc Pederson. The Dodgers took off last season in early June when they called up Yasiel Puig. Pederson, if he continues the form he’s shown in AAA, could have a Puig-like impact on the Dodgers. Like Puig, his energy will make him an instant fan favorite. Like Ethier, he has the advantage of being a left-handed batter, adding additional balance to the Dodgers lineup.

LA Dodgers Outfielders

DODGERS

Of course if they call up Pederson they need to make a decision on a veteran player. Scott Van Slyke will have a role due to his right-handed power, while Kemp and his massive contract aren’t going anywhere. Ethier is a potential trade option, but it’s questionable how much value the veteran will have. Carl Crawford, due to his large contract, has no trade value. All Pederson can do it continue to force the Dodgers hand, with his play. He’d already be in the big leagues with most other organizations. The Dodgers shouldn’t allow their limited options with Crawford and Kemp to affect their decision-making. If the best option for the Dodgers is to replace Carl Crawford with Joc Pederson, the team needs to strongly consider the move, massive contract aside.

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What to do with six outfielders?

LA Dodgers Tickets

THINK BLUE

Heading into the offseason many national experts questioned how the Dodgers, when Matt Kemp returns, would manage having four starting caliber outfielders for five positions. With Kemp healthy and showing signs of his past self, as well as the evolution of Scott Van Slyke as a difference-maker versus left-handed starters and the AAA dominance of Joc Pederson, the Dodgers now have six potential outfield choices.

Ordinarily such extreme depth is a huge positive, but is five too many? Or, with Joc Pederson is six too many?

The Dodgers have a solid balance of right-handed and left-handed hitters, ideal for such a situation. There’s also a good mix of young and old, speed and power. On paper it’s an ideal situation. Unfortunately an ideal situation doesn’t always necessarily translate to a good balance on the field. Like any professional sport, baseball is a game of feel and tempo. Players who can play every other day and still perform can be unique. So who what is the Dodgers ideal starting lineup? By most accounts the preferred starting three-some is Carl Crawford, Matt Kemp and Yasiel Puig. It’s a solid mix of speed and power, the Dodgers ideal defensive arrangement. Thus far the Dodgers have done an excellent job of getting everyone playing time, with a couple of early season injuries (Puig) and a paternity leave thrown in (Crawford).

Dodgers Joc Pederson

PEDERSON

Even with a deep payroll the Dodgers will have choices to make in the near future. After a strong spring training Joc Pederson is dominating in Triple AAA will soon be ready to be an everyday major league player. Like Puig, Pederson is an all around talent who the Dodgers will want to play every day. After his big performance in the Cactus League Pederson is off to a tremendous start in Albuquerque, with a .442/.564/.884 batting line. In twelve games he has four doubles, five homers, four steals and 12 walks. Pederson, who turns 22 on Tuesday, is a local favorite having played his college baseball at USC. He’s a potential all-star, but also a major potential trade piece for a team looking to make a World Series run.

Would the Dodgers trade Pederson? A team like the Tampa Bay Rays would likely be willing to listen to a potential trade offer for David Price if it includes a player like Pederson. Price is arguably the second best left-hander in baseball (behind Clayton Kershaw) and he’d give the Dodgers an incredible starting rotation with three elite lefthanders and Zack Greinke. The Dodgers have the ability to sing a long-term deal with a player like Price, but the cost of dealing Pederson may be too much for a player like Price, especially when they could simply just sign Price in the offseason.

Yasiel Puig

PUIG

With Pederson on fire in AAA and the Dodgers batting lineup struggling of late the Dodgers may want to take a look at calling Pederson up. With the continued off-the-field distractions that Yasiel Puig provides, a spurt back in the minors could be good for Puig. This move would also give the Dodgers a real barometer of what they have in Pederson. Another potential move would be to call up Pederson as an alternative to Carl Crawford. With a massive contract the Dodgers have little flexibility with Crawford, but they also have the financial means to stash a player like Crawford on the bench. After a solid playoff season last year Crawford has struggled early on. The re-emergence of Dee Gordon has also given the Dodgers an alternative at the lead-off position. If Gordon can continue his solid play the Dodgers could very well be tempted to insert a player like Pederson in the lineup on an everyday basis.

The best move for the Dodgers may be to just hold tight and see how the season evolves. Matt Kemp has shown flashes of brilliance but his overall numbers have been inconsistent. If Pederson continues his assault on AAA pitching the Dodgers will find a spot for him in the lineup, somewhere. The ideal future lineup should consist of Puig, Pederson and a healthy Matt Kemp, but after the last couple of seasons Kemp will need to prove his ability to stay healthy.

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213 749 0057

BY: Chris M.