What position do the Dodgers play Chris Taylor after a stellar 2017 season? When to play Joc Pederson after a miserable regular season, yet solid postseason effort? And what is to be expected from Alex Verdugo and other outfielders?
The Dodgers have some questions to address regarding their outfield. Despite showing a sharp regression in the season’s second half last year, Joc Pederson recently reached a one-year $2.6 million agreement with the Dodgers to avoid an arbitration hearing. So, while the Dodgers are willing to give Joc another chance, it may be his last.
Pederson burst onto the Major League scene as one of the best defensive center fielders. With a big bat that popped 51 home runs in his first two seasons, his average was low and his strikeouts were high the way several of the Dodgers hitters are. However, Pederson visibly lost speed and quickness; and his hitting mechanics were all out of whack. He only managed to hit 11 homers and scraped together a .211 average. His range factor also decreased along with his defensive runs saved.
Joc’s regression is a concern, but his inspired performance in previous postseasons may have bought him another year in L.A. Pederson came up big in big moments during the 2016 NLDS and 2017 World Series.
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That being said, figuring out Chris Taylor’s position directly affects Joc Pederson. Taylor took over as the full-time center fielder after Pederson was sent down. Having a full-time center fielder with production is a priority so Taylor, despite lack of experience, was the logical choice. He first transitioned into the outfield by playing center because it was the most similar to playing the middle infield, which is Taylor’s natural position. However, he was moved to left where he really settled into the outfield. When Taylor was moved back to center for the postseason, he had but one glaring error which was saved by the bill of his cap.
Taylor should remain in center despite his lack of experience. His speed goes to waste playing left field. It may surprise many that Taylor’s defensive stats are not too far away from Pederson’s. His arm strength is not an issue, and his speed makes up for lack of outfield intuition. Solidifying Taylor as the full-time center fielder also focuses the competition for an outfield spot to just left field. It allows Joc Pederson to regain his range factor and provides a cushion for the new or returning outfielders the Dodgers might see this season.
Alex Verdugo is the number one position player in the Dodgers farm system. He is a speedy outfielder that can put the bat on the ball. He had a few appearances as a September call-up last season and wasn’t as impressive aside from a home run. However, with more opportunities, he can turn into a solid outfield choice for the Dodgers.
Verdugo can play all three outfield positions, and easing him into the Majors by not having him patrol center may be beneficial for both him and the Dodgers. Let’s not forget Andrew Toles is also due back after missing almost the entire 2017 season. Toles was projected to play the majority of the innings in left before his injury so he’ll be competing for that spot again. There is also the super-athlete, Kike Hernandez, who can play both left and center and provide a right-handed bat if his October bat finds its way into the 2018 regular season.