The Dodgers have managed to retain most of their team without adding any significant position players. With the return of key players from injury, left field appears to be up for grabs.
The Dodgers were probably one of the most strange teams in all of baseball last year. They had a first baseman playing outfield, a second baseman playing outfield, and a catcher playing second base. It might sound strange, but the results speak for themselves. For a team that was on fire essentially the whole season, let field had a lot of question marks. The 2017 season saw 14 different Dodgers play there, though Kike Hernandez did receive the bulk of the load.
When it comes down to competition, Alex Verdugo and Trayce Thompson can mostly be counted out in the competition to start. Thompson hasn’t been able to stay healthy and has never really produced at the big league level, while Verdugo lacks experience. With those guys out, that leaves the job up to four guys, assuming that Matt Kemp isn’t traded or released. This is also assuming of course that the front office doesn’t surprise everyone and land a new outfielder.
Looking at possible starters, Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Kike Hernandez and Andrew Toles all are considered in the running. Toles is returning from a knee injury sustained trying to preserve Julio Urias’ no-hitter, and that’s not easy to bounce back from. Toles was hitting .294 in 2017 before he was injured, and he hit .314 in a small sample size in 2016. Most importantly, Toles hit .364 across 6 games in the 2016 playoff run. He’s a bit inexperienced in the major leagues but has a ton of upside. He’s currently projected to be healthy for the start of the season.
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Matt Kemp is sort of the complete opposite of Toles. He costs a TON annually and really doesn’t have much to show for it. Kemp is a career .276 hitter, bu his best days are long behind him at this point. He had an on-base percentage of just .318 in 2017 and grounded into a career-worst 25 double plays. Not exactly the kind of guy you want in the lineup every day. However, if Kemp can somehow produce again, it will be quite the spectacle. He did .303 with 23 home runs as recently as 2012 for Los Angeles.
Kike Hernandez will forever go down in Dodgers’ history as the man who hit three home runs in the Championship Series. Those home runs helped to knock the defending world champion Cubs out of the playoffs. Hernandez did have a very strange year in 2017, hitting just .215 overall. The strangest part is that over 50% of his few hits were for extra bases. Kike has eleven home runs that seemed to always come at just the right times in 2017. Those long balls could really come in handy off of the bench late in games.
Joc Pederson is one guy who all Dodger fans would love to see turn his career around. After a fairly decent 2016 campaign, Pederson had a huge dip in both power and average. He hit just .212 with 11 home runs of his own. If Pederson can turn it back on this year, there is a good chance he’ll see more of an everyday role in 2018. My prediction is that he starts the season backing up all of the outfield spots.
Of all possibilities, Toles has my confidence more than anyone. He is a young guy with a lot of speed and a lot of upsides, not to mention a very strong arm. Look for Toles to bounce back in 2018.