Dodgers Will Have to Move an Outfielder Eventually
By Sunit Bhakta
The Dodgers are starting to find it difficult to make space for every player now that the team is starting to return to health. This means that the surplus of outfielders may have to be altered.
Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, Andrew Toles, Kike Hernandez, Andre Ethier, Cody Bellinger, Scott Van Slyke, Franklin Gutierrez, Rob Segedin, and Trayce Thompson. These 10 have suited up and patrolled the outfield for the Dodgers at some point during the last two seasons. In fact, all but Ethier and Segedin have played in the outfield this season alone.
As of right now, Pederson, Puig, Hernandez, Toles, and Gutierrez are on the 25-man squad. Toles left last night’s game due to injury, but we don’t know how severe the injury was. Still, that is a surplus of major league-ready outfielders to deal with for manager Dave Roberts when you add in the others on the 40-man roster.
Now it’s a good problem when you have more “solid to good options” than positions available. However, it is also hard to keep everyone happy. Puig is a lock in right field and Joc Pederson should be getting the majority of the at-bats in center while getting spelled by Hernandez when there’s a left-hander on the mound. However, if the Dodgers are serious about Joc’s development, they need to let him face lefties more often and rely less on platoons.
In left, Andrew Toles gets the starts vs. a right-hander, while Gutierrez comes in against a lefty. Everything seems to be set right?
Well not necessarily. What happens when Andre Ethier comes back from injury? Platooning him with Puig would be disastrous because, for one, Puig hits righties better than he does lefties and two, platooning is a terrible thing for the development of a player. Puig has the potential to be the right-fielder of the future so why mess that up?
Then you have the eventual return of first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. Once that happens, a decision will have to be made about Cody Bellinger. He can play all over the outfield, but if you have too many mouths to feed, how can you satisfy everyone fairly?
And you cannot forget about the Oklahoma City trio of Van Slyke, Segedin, and Thompson. If they can find their stroke down in Triple-A, they’d serve as valuable right-handed bats off the bench. Again that’s nine current options for three positions. Ethier will make that ten.
Ideally, four outfielders would be suitable, especially when you have Kike or Segedin who can serve as the fifth outfielder while splitting duties between the outfield and infield.
Don’t forget that Chase Utley does make this all a bit harder as well. If not for him, then it would be a slight bit easier to organize everything. Sadly, that’s not the case.
Plus if we look towards the future, highly-rated prospect Alex Verdugo is supposed to arrive this September and fight for a starting job in 2018.
All these points to a simple fact:
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I can’t tell you who should or needs to be moved, but it needs to happen. I’d like to see at least Puig, Pederson, and Verdugo stay, but then again, no one from the entire group has shown to be untouchable.
It’s tough to say this because we’ve grown accustomed to all these players and everything is starting to run smoothly. But everyone knows good things don’t last forever. Eventually, players will get healthy and want regular playing time or at least defined roles. Plus, if you want to develop Puig, Pederson, Toles, and Verdugo properly, you have to give them a consistent role and playing time. You cannot keep platooning them and killing their mental makeup. As a leader, it’s not smart to keep telling your subordinates that he or she can’t do something.
Next: Offense is Showing its Potential
To me, the easiest business to complete is taking a surplus of something and exchanging it for a need. If they can turn a package including one or two of these players into starting pitching that can go six-plus innings consistently, then it should be done. Needs are more essential than wants.