Just as it was at the start of 2017, the Los Angeles Dodgers will once again be faced with many decisions centered around their outfield, come Spring Training.
There were many things that the Dodger organization and their fans did not expect to see happen in the outfield this year, but that is not to say there were many bad situations. Whether there were injuries, poor performance, or holes to fill elsewhere, many of the Dodger outfielders were still able to show up and play quality baseball, day-in and day-out. The 2018 season could look very different in many ways, however, and this offseason could play into a slightly modified active roster, come Opening Day.
Current Dodger outfielders on the Active Roster:
* Andrew Toles
* Trayce Thompson
* Alex Verdugo
* Andrew Toles was activated from the 60-day DL
* Trayce Thompson and Alex Verdugo were both healthy and activated after the postseason.
How do these candidates stack up in regards to competing for the Opening Day roster? Well, there will be substantial discussions this offseason regarding acquiring a right-handed bat, which may come in the form of trading an outfield asset. As the Dodgers’ payroll seems to have handled in the past, they might set out to trade for a high-power slugger, in which they would be forced to give up valuable players in return.
Questionable seasons from platoon-role players such as Joc Pederson and Enrique Hernandez could potentially affect their place in the organization or uniform, as soon as Spring Training. Both of these outfielders were able to pull through and drive themselves into impressive postseason performances. With the departures of both Andre Ethier and Curtis Granderson, the board looks to be shaping up for a young outfield, any way you slice it.
Some thoughts on what could happen to these Active Roster outfielders at some point during the offseason:
Young Joc came through big during the postseason, when everyone felt as though he needed to. He was able to shine brightly on the big stage in the World Series, as he hit three home runs, and drove in five runs. Even though the World Series loss is tough to deal with, it will forever be important to him, but his performance in the series could also become his saving grace. The Dodgers knew that he was struggling to find himself at the plate, all season long – and somehow, when the chips were all down, they had the confidence in him to keep his roster spot for the World Series. That move was a potential shot in the dark, but it did pay off. That step might also keep him in a Dodger uniform come Spring Training, OR, the spectacle that was put on in the World Series might have raised Joc’s player value to make a big move involving him this offseason.
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When the Dodgers were struggling to recreate a high-functioning outfield after Andrew Toles went down with injury, and Joc’s performance at the plate declined; they somehow managed to find an in-house guy to take over in Centre Field. As one of the brightest trade turnarounds in recent memory, Chris Taylor became a staple in the Dodger lineup. Sitting at the top of the order, Taylor got in done in the field – better than anyone had anticipated – and did more than what was expected at the plate. You can pretty much guarantee that he will be a Dodger on Opening Day, but his levels of exceeding expectations will make for very tough conversations throughout Winter Meetings among the Dodgers’ Front Office. It is anticipated that Andrew Toles will be ready for Opening Day, and in Joc Pederson’s case, he probably expects to be in the position to be the starting center fielder as well. It will be interesting to see what the Dodgers decide to do with these three very impressive candidates to man the outfield.
Underrated Dodgers typically do not come around often, but when they do, people still seem to grab notice. Andrew Toles is one of them. It almost hurts to imagine what the 2017 season would have shaped into, had Andrew Toles been healthy for the entire season; but then again, it was his injury that also opened the door for other guys, such as Chris Taylor and even Cody Bellinger. Toles only saw 31 games in 2017, and when batting first in the order, the center fielder hit five home runs. Yes, that is a small sample, given the amount of games; but Andrew Toles gives the Dodger organization and their fan’s reason to believe that this guy is going to come back on a mission. The only good thing that may have occurred with Andrew’s torn ACL is that we were able to see Chris Taylor’s potential, which should only set up the Dodgers for an outfield that should pack a heavy punch next season.
Some postseason heroics have helped Hernandez, in the ways that they helped Joc Pederson. The late success could either make this platoon player into an everyday outfielder, or it might be the outlet to a trade, if the Dodgers are willing to part ways with Hernandez’s young talent. He and Chris Taylor are both blessed with defensive versatility – with the luxury of being able to put them anywhere on the diamond with confidence, Hernandez shines as a valuable asset for a team who is looking to work on his approach against right-handed pitchers. Hopefully, that team will remain as the Los Angeles Dodgers, but with space filling up, he might be the odd man out.
The bad luck of Trayce has remained as the key factor to his lack of success with LA. After being acquired only a couple of years ago, Trayce Thompson has battled his way through nagging injuries and has seen very little time in the big leagues with the Dodgers. For the interest of the Dodgers, the 26-year-old still holds some trade value, due to his young age and pursuit of showing a major league team once again, what he is all about. Trayce and Enrique Hernandez are both decent right-handed bats to have as outfield platoons, but the lack of experience that Trayce has had in the big leagues may set him back and could make him the odd man out.
After being called up, there really was not much opportunity for the young prospect. In 23 at-bats, Verdugo hit under .200 and only had one home run (which was also his lone RBI). This can go by the wayside now though. As the Dodgers get deeper into the offseason, Alex Verdugo will likely be in their plans, whether that will consist of minor league development, major league development, or parting ways via trade, for a big name veteran. If the Dodgers could have a do-over with Verdugo’s call-up in 2017, they would have likely gave him the field more than they did Curtis Granderson – because not only did Verdugo have minimal opportunity; he also was assigned to be ‘hot’, if needed as an injury replacement during the postseason. Someone needs to explain how you can expect a rookie, who has not seen much action in the MLB at all, to stay ready just in-case he is called upon to show up and shine during what turned out to be the longest postseason run since 1988, in Los Angeles. Alex Verdugo should work his way onto the roster for Opening Day, but it seems very unlikely, as the Dodgers seem to be in no rush with him whatsoever.
Finally, what was likely the brightest spot in the Dodgers’ outfield this year, Yasiel Puig. There should not be a single Dodger fan who does not want Puig to be back next year, and he should. However, if any rumors of the Dodgers’ interest in acquiring Giancarlo Stanton are correct, it is likely that they would have to give up the Cuban outfielder, along with two or more highly-touted prospects. Other names on the Active Roster such as, Joc Pederson, and Alex Verdugo, could be possible candidates to be sent in a package to trade for a big slugger, but it is uncertain that there is much reward with giving up Yasiel, and others, especially after the year that he had. The Wild Horse that we were introduced to, and led to know, was back – and his numbers were great, but more importantly, he put the excitement back in Dodger baseball this year. Puig holds tremendous value, after coming off of the season that he just had, and rightfully so. The downside is that if there is one player that Dodger fans would hate to leave, it is Yasiel Puig.
After running down the players that may or may not fill out the outfield for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2018, there are many points to look at. Some of these guys have more value than others, and in different ways as well; while few could be labeled more as ‘untouchable’ this offseason, and for years to come. We do know that the Dodgers’ Front Office will likely be active in acquiring a big name this offseason, but it will be interesting to see if any of their outfielders will have to play in to trade for a new piece. From now until Opening Day 2018, the Dodger outfield will probably shape up different than what it currently is, so until then, it will just be a waiting game – with some insight provided as to who might be on the list to move or keep.