The Dodgers continue to struggle as a team, but there is also a struggle going on in left field. Nobody is distancing themselves from the pack and creating a controversy as to whom should start in left field?
The Dodgers offense has been underwhelming in September, and perhaps no position has been a bigger hole offensively than left field. The Dodgers initial plan was to play Adrian Gonzalez at first base and Cody Bellinger in left field but now that Gonzalez is seemingly out for the season the Dodgers need to play Bellinger at first base.
The Dodgers acquired Curtis Granderson from the Mets in August but ever since his first week with the Dodgers he has hit a slump. Granderson has four home runs with the Dodgers but he is only batting .114 with a .262 on base percentage in 21 games with the Dodgers. While he continues to put up tough at-bats, the results are just not coming.
The Dodgers have been trying Joc Pederson in left field lately now that Chris Taylor has taken over the everyday center field role but he too as struggled since his promotion from Triple-A. In September Joc is hitting exactly .100 in his ten at bats. While that is a small sample size, he has not shown much promise since his demotion to Triple-A. It appears Joc has worn out his welcome as a starter on the Dodgers.
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The only other two starter options for left field are Andre Ethier, Kike Hernandez, and Alex Verdugo. Kike is a legit option to be part of a platoon in left field, but he should not be the everyday starter there due to his struggles against right-handed pitching. Kike only hits .167 against righties but against left-handers it is a different story. Versus southpaws, Kike has ten home runs with a respectable .265 average and .359 on base percentage. There is no doubt he can hold his own against lefties but that still doesn’t solve the riddle as to who starts in left field against right-handed starting pitchers.
The two best left-field options against right-handed pitchers are Andre Ethier and Alex Verdugo. Andre Ethier made a return last week and although he has only had 13 at-bats, he looks like he is healthy. Ethier smashed a home run on Saturday and is hitting .308 in his 13 at bats so far. The only question about Ethier is if he can still handle playing left field after numerous injuries over the past two years. If he can handle the field, there is no doubt that Ethier can hit right-handed pitching. He is a career .303 hitter against righties and has been an offensive force whenever he’s been healthy.
Verdugo is on the opposite end of the spectrum in terms of his career compared to Ethier. Ethier could be in the final season of his career while Verdugo is going through his first taste of the big leagues in what figures to be a long career if all goes well. Like Ethier, Verdugo has a very small sample size of at-bats for the Dodgers to judge him off. In 15 at bats he is hitting .200 with one home run that came on Sunday. Verdugo is an outstanding fielder that can handle left field but there is still questions as to what kind of hitter he will be in the big leagues.
Between Ethier and Verdugo, the Dodgers should pick one of them to be the every day left fielder against right-handed starting pitchers. Ethier has warranted enough promise the past few days that I would give him the first shot at winning the job. Play him and find out if he can handle the field. If he can then he would solidify left field offensively and perhaps spark a sluggish offense. If he cannot handle playing the field they should roll the dice with Verdugo and hope he provides the kind of spark that Bellinger did when he came up. Rather than go with a washed up veteran like Granderson, they should give the youngster a chance to shine.
Regardless of what the Dodgers choose to do the clock is definitely ticking. We are now approaching the middle of September and the Dodgers have no clear starter in left field. They need to use these last few weeks to find out who the starter is or whom the primary platoon will be. Otherwise the Dodgers will enter the dangerous predicament of entering the playoffs with no clear starter in left field.