For the Dodgers, yet again, a key injury happened on Tuesday night as Andrew Toles tore his ACL. This leaves many holes on the team, so who will fill these spots following his injury?
In every single sport there is a risk of injury, but when it comes to the Dodgers, it seems as if anything that can happen, will happen. Everything from blisters to fractured bones and now a torn ACL have haunted this Dodger team. But as the past has shown, this group is as resilient as they come. The next man up mentality that this team has is something special.
Even with an injury to the ace Clayton Kershaw, this team managed to not only keep pace with the Giants but pass them last season. But when Kershaw was injured he left one hole on the team. Yes, it was a big gaping hole, but it was only one. With Toles tearing his ACL, he leaves a multitude of holes for this team to attempt to fill. Who will be the “next man up” to try and take the place of Toles for the remainder of the season?
First, let’s talk about who will attempt to take Toles’ spot in the left field platoon. In fact, with this injury, will manager Dave Roberts even continue to platoon in left or will we have an everyday left fielder against both right and left-handed pitching? Well, that’s for us to speculate about and for Roberts to decide.
There are many different ways for the skipper to approach left field. Perhaps heartthrob and fan favorite Enrique Hernandez could solidify himself as an everyday player rather than a platoon and utility player. Or will it be the scalding hot Chris Taylor who will take over in left? Maybe it is rookie sensation Cody Bellinger who will take the reins instead.
Enrique Hernandez would’ve been the obvious choice if this had happened earlier in the season. But with the emergence of Taylor and Bellinger, this raises an argument.
Defensively, Hernandez is the best option despite what you might have seen Tuesday night when he entered for the injured Toles. He is the only one of the three with an outfield arm, as Bellinger has a first baseman’s arm and Taylor’s ball tends to tail like most infielders’ throws do. If defense is what Roberts wants, Hernandez will be the new everyday left fielder.
Now we have Chris Taylor, who was acquired from the Mariners for Zach Lee last year; a move that was under the radar. This season has been his coming out party as he is hitting .333 with six extra-base hits in just 19 games. The problem with Taylor is, although he got some reps during the spring, he is not a natural outfielder. He is a very athletic player who will make up for his lack of instincts in the outfield spot. If Roberts wants to have an athletic contact hitter on the team to get on base for the thumpers later in the lineup, Taylor will be the way to go.
This brings us to Cody Bellinger, the rookie phenom. The way he has come out of the gates swinging has captivated many fans. He is a sight to see when he comes up to bat. But with first baseman Adrian Gonzalez also on the shelf, Bellinger will be getting the majority of his reps at first which could give one of the other two players the opportunity to win the spot before he even gets a shot.
Ultimately, Roberts seems like he is willing to continue platooning in left by giving reps to all three of the players mentioned alongside veterans Franklin Gutierrez and Scott Van Slyke. We will be seeing a plethora of different left fielders for weeks to come.
Another hole that Toles leaves behind is the leadoff spot against right-handed pitching. Again, Roberts could go in many different directions, but it seems as though he has already made up his mind. It looks like it will be All-Star center fielder Joc Pederson’s job to lose. Other than Pederson, there is veteran Chase Utley, and once again Chris Taylor.
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Pederson has the job until he shows that he can’t handle it. If he can’t, look for Utley to step up and have an opportunity at the role he had last season. Utley has been struggling all season long, but he has shown improvement recently. He only has 11 hits on the season but six of them have come in the last three games.
Taylor’s name seems to be a hot topic recently. Considering how well he has been playing, it is no surprise that this is the case. The leadoff role is one that Taylor could thrive in. The 26-year-old right-hander is made for this role. He has the speed to steal bags and get into scoring position for Seager and company. Taylor, if given the opportunity, may very well be your leadoff hitter.
With Toles down, we know that a roster spot opens up. So who would we like to see? If it were up to me, I would bring up anybody but Scott Van Slyke. He has had a miserable year, to say the least. But with injuries to Segedin and Ethier, he is the guy for the moment. Unless Trayce Thompson can work his way through his post-injury slump, Van Slyke will be up for the long haul. But with our savvy front office, never count out the possibility of some sort of trade to acquire a solid role player.
Toles leaves the Dodgers with many question marks, but the team always seems to rise to these kinds of occasions. The depth that President of Baseball Operations Andrew Friedman has created eases the loss of one of the underappreciated parts of this Dodger team.