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).
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.
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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BY: Chris M.