The Dodgers are both cursed with injuries and blessed with tremendous depth. When a player goes down or is under performing, another player steps up. This is the case with Chris Taylor and Joc Pederson. Taylor is swinging a hot bat which leads to the question, what will Dave Roberts do with the soon-returning Joc Pederson?
It’s been said before, but I will say it again, Chris Taylor is showing everyone who snubbed him before the start of the season why he belongs on the big league squad. He’s hitting .328 with seven home runs, and 23 RBI. He also has two grand slams, the latest one capping the 15th comeback win for the Dodgers against the Milwaukee Brewers on Saturday. Taylor has demonstrated his base running abilities, swiping two bases in the same game, more than Joc has all season.
Taylor’s stats don’t come from a limited sample size either, despite a delay to the start of his season. He is fifth on the team in at-bats, yet leads the team in OPS. Taylor is also tearing the cover off the ball against left-handed pitching, hitting a mild .400. He’s also holding his own against righties.
Taylor also presents an interesting statistic that may serve well for the Dodgers. Dave Roberts has moved Taylor up and down the lineup as he does with most players. However, Taylor is hitting above .400 when hitting lead-off and when leading off an inning. Logan Forsythe has been struggling all season. Though his at-bats have been getting better, he’s been slowed by a hip-flexor strain.
Taylor has a hot bat, can hit lead-off, and can play multiple positions, but why is his status as a starter still in question? It’s because his defense isn’t the most reliable, especially in center field. Taylor is a natural second baseman who can play third, but there are too many valuable names occupying those positions. That means the only logical place to put him is in center.
However, his lack of experience has already cost the Dodgers, particularly when he misjudged a hard hit line drive which led to a run in a tight 2-1 loss to the St. Louis Cardinals. This leaves a little breathing room for Joc Pederson. The sure-handed Pederson has been out with concussion for the last few days, but the production from his position has dramatically increased since Taylor took over.
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Pederson was having a miserable first two months of the season. A pair of injuries and his inability to make solid contact has left him with a .200 average. Though he was never known to hit for a high average, his power numbers are also down. He has a pair of homers, 11 RBI, and a slugging percentage below both Hyun-Jin Ryu and Kenley Jansen.
Still, Joc is one of the best defensive outfielders in the game. He’s saved more games with his glove than he or Taylor have with their bats. Pederson is also somewhat of a one-half player. In his rookie season, he hit all but four of his 26 homers in the first half. In his next year, he hit .298 in the month of September and .278 in July.
So Joc is struggling but has a history of heating up. If he is a one-half player, then it’s good the bad one is the first half. He is also the more experienced, and more talented center fielder. Then, there is Chris Taylor who deserves a starting spot but is defensively a sub-par center fielder. How does Dave Roberts go about solving this?
Here is the current situation. Joc Pederson has resumed baseball activities and is ready for a rehab assignment. In the meantime, Taylor is patrolling center. Logan Forsythe is day-to-day with his injury which should give Kike Hernandez and a red-hot Chase Utley more time between second and third until Justin Turner comes back. The red-bearded third baseman will be a shoe-in to occupy his normal position upon his return sometime later this week.
The ideal situation, once everyone is healthy (if that’s even possible with the Dodgers) is to have Pederson hit against righties and Taylor against lefties. If Utley keeps his hitting up, he and Forsythe can split second the same way. Otherwise, Forsythe will play the majority. Luckily for the Dodgers, Taylor can play multiple infield positions at par which gives them a solid fifth infielder bat.
Chris Taylor’s bat and versatility have created more competition on the Dodgers’ depth chart. Ideally, the Dodgers could slot him into center field for a struggling Joc Pederson, but his defense is not nearly as good as Joc’s to take over the spot for good. Pederson has promise for a better second-half. However, if Taylor improves defensively with more experience, it would serve the Dodgers well if he became the starting center fielder with Pederson serving as a defensive substitute.