Four star outfielders and only three outfield positions, yet it still feels as though the Dodgers are constantly juggling at least one disabled outfielder. Andre Ethier has now become your starting center fielder. Joc Pederson is waiting in the wings. Carl Crawford has already one injury under the belt after the first Spring Game in Arizona. Matt Kemp has barely got the green-light to run again, and it is beginning to look like he has a long way to go. The Dodgers, who have four top billed outfielders on the roster, may have to play Scott Van Slyke and Joc Pederson during this Spring and into the regular season.
Joc Pederson has appeared in all four Dodger Spring Training games so far, and he is hitting .250 with 2 hits, a run, 3 RBIs, and 2 strikeouts. Pederson, who is waiting for his opportunity to make his Dodger debut, may not make the Opening Day roster but has all the tools to impact this Dodger team in 2014.
On Friday, Joc hit a two-run homerun in the seventh inning, and the Dodgers went on to win the game versus the Chicago White Sox 5-0. A glimpse of the future, perhaps?
Joc Pederson is fifth in line for an outfield position on the Dodgers. Photo: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
Matt Kemp felt good running again after getting the okay to do so by Dr. Robert Anderson who read the MRI on his ankle. Kemp, who has no timetable to return, is taking it slow in his rehab from the disastrous ankle injury he suffered last season. Kemp’s ankle injury is so serious that any subsequent injury to his ankle could spell doom for his career. Matt Kemp has a long road ahead of him, and even when he is ready to return the Dodgers will need to be extra careful with his playing time. Kemp is no longer the everyday, day in and day out, center fielder.
I know Kemp insists that he is nothing less than a starting center fielder. Of course when he’s healthy he sure is our starting center fielder. I just don’t see that happening, at least not this season. Kemp will likely begin the season on the disabled list, so the Dodgers are essentially down to three outfielders going into the 2014 season which begins in Australia in just 21 days. This will be Matt Kemp’s sixth DL stint since May 2012.
So the Dodgers are left with Yasiel Puig, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford. A respectably solid outfield, but if we take a look closer there are still weaknesses and potential pitfalls in that group of players. First of all, Carl Crawford is no longer an everyday player either. The 32-year old Crawford played in 116 games for the Dodgers last season. It definitely was an improvement from his previous season with Boston in 2012 when he only played in 31 games. He’s not going to be able to play in 150+ games like he once did in Tampa Bay. He’s already started the Spring with an injury to his quad and hamstring after running the base paths in game one.
Crawford had one at-bat for the Dodgers as the designated hitter on Saturday versus the Brewers, and he walked.
Carl Crawford won’t be able to play 162 games this season. Photo: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports
Yasiel Puig is receiving therapy for his shoulder inflammation, and I hope this won’t affect him too much during the season. The Dodgers have high expectations for Puig’s sophomore season, but they shouldn’t overplay Puig either. He’s going to need days off too. Puig has 2 hits in 3 games so far this Spring.
Andre Ethier hasn’t played in anything less than 126 games over his eight-year career, and 126 games was his rookie season with the Dodgers in ’06. Ethier is consistent and reliably well-rounded. He filled in admirably in center field last season where he played for 74 games. Ethier’s dream was to play center field, and last season he really showed up all the naysayers who insisted he would be horrible out there in center. While I don’t oppose the idea of playing Yasiel Puig in center field, I think Andre Ethier is perfectly acceptable for now until…
…Joc Pederson gets a chance. Considering all the injuries which the outfielders are battling whether they are minor like a strain or major like surgery on one’s weight-bearing talus bone in the ankle, the Dodgers will likely be sorting out different outfield scenarios and combinations throughout the Spring and the regular season. Joc Pederson, a future Major League outfielder (even perhaps a Major League center fielder) is ready to make his mark in Blue.
The Dodgers have Scott Van Slyke who will be getting some time in the outfield and at first base, but it is inevitable that they will need another outfielder at some point in the season. Depending on Matt Kemp’s rehab progress, Joc Pederson might be able to carve a niche for himself on the roster. Although Joc should be playing every day, I wouldn’t mind seeing Joc get some Major League at-bats and playing time this upcoming season. The roadblocks are there, but with all the injuries there is definitely room to break through.