He was arguably the most productive outfielder last season, but Dodgers outfielder Andre Ethier will be forced to play another role coming into the 2016 season.
For the past few seasons, the Dodgers have had a surplus of outfielders. Come opening day it has always been discussed who will make the roster or be sent down the past few seasons due to an overcrowded outfield. However, with injuries in the past, and in Andre Ethier’s case again, having “too many” outfielders will again not be too big of a problem.
Due to injuries to Carl Crawford and Yasiel Puig right off the bat, Ethier stepped up and was in the starting line up almost every day. He was forced to produce with two of the starting outfielders on the bench. It looked like for the first half of the season the “too many” outfielders problem solved itself for Don Mattingly. That being said, Ethier started in 106 of the 142 games he played in during the 2015 season.
In 142 games Ethier had 445 plate appearances and in those hit .294/.366/.486. Ethier hit 14 homeruns and drove in 53 RBI’s. Not only did he step up when the Dodgers needed him, but he also proved he was still an asset to the team. Ethier’s numbers during the 2015 season were the best numbers in his career since his 2008 season.
In fact, on August 2, he hit two-go-ahead homeruns against the Angels. One of which was a walk-off homerun in the bottom of the 10th inning. That hit marked the seventh walk-off homerun and 14th walk-off hit for Ethier in his career, which places him second all-time in walk-off hits in Dodgers franchise history, only behind Dusty Baker who had 16 in his career.
2016 Role and Steamer Projections
As reported by the Dodgers earlier this week, Andre Ethier suffered a fracture to his right tibia after fouling a ball off of his shin last Friday. If you would like a more in-depth look at the injury, Alex wrote an article on it here. Ethier is expected to be out for 10 to 14 weeks. So, for 2016 Dodger fans will have to hold their breath until June in order to see what his role is going to be with the team. Until then, Ethier’s main role is recovery.
With all of that being said, there are still Steamer projections available for Ethier. Steamer projects that Ethier will play in 71 games and hit seven homeruns and drive in 34 RBI’s. They also project that he will hit .266/.336/.417.
I think the projections are fair. They are all lower than the numbers Ethier posted last season, but coming into a new season with a major injury always makes me less confident about a player’s potential. The only thing the Dodgers can hope for is he recovers quickly and has energy and power down the stretch of the remainder of the season. Last season injuries to Crawford and Puig opened the door for Ethier to shine, hopefully with an injury to Ethier this season that Crawford and Puig will get the same memo and have the same drive Ethier did last season in their place.
What Could Go Wrong?
Answering this question about a player who is already injured is such a struggle. Hopefully nothing else! Finding out that a star outfielder is out essentially until June because he fouled a ball of of his own shin is “wrong” enough in my opinion. Ethier’s numbers from 2015 speak for themselves so to have that person be sitting on the bench of half the season is a hard pill to swallow. I am aware that he has not always been the most productive player, but whatever Ethier did last year worked and Dodger fans were hoping to have that continue into the 2016 season.
What Could Go Right?
Similar to the last question, if you are starting the season on the disabled list, it can only get better from there. Ethier could have a speedy recovery and somehow come back to the Dodgers in June with the same offense and defense of 2015. Maybe being hurt at the beginning will help him to maintain some power down the stretch. For the past few seasons it seems that certain Dodgers lose their power and stamina towards the end of the season. Joc Pederson lost his starting role and stopped producing at the plate all together in the second half. I can only hope that spending the beginning of the 2016 season on the bench will only light a fire in Ethier to work hard, recover quickly and stay healthy down the stretch.