Dodgers: Early Season Questions are Starting to be Answered

GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 03: Joc Pederson
GLENDALE, AZ - MARCH 03: Joc Pederson /

Spring training is coming to a close, and the Dodgers will have to make final decisions on a roster to start the season. Some of them, you may not like.

The biggest questions remaining for the Dodgers are how will the outfield be configured, who makes the bench, and how will the bullpen be constructed. Regarding the outfield, it is specifically left field that we are looking at. Matt Kemp is looking more and more like the opening day starter for LA. But it is the guy who he will be splitting time with there, that we are most interested in.

Joc Pederson and Andrew Toles are the two most obvious choices to select from. One of their successes will lead to the other being sent to Oklahoma City. And currently, it is looking as if Joc Pederson will come out as the victor in that battle.

Whether you think it is right or not remains to be seen. But there is no doubt that Toles has outplayed Pederson this spring. Toles owns a .829 OPS compared to Joc’s .548. You should never put much stock into spring training stats, but this is an exception.

The left field battle opened this spring with open competition. While Kemp may have won a part-time role, the other part of the left field platoon was completely wide open. When you do not have any clue as to who to choose, spring training stats should be taken into some consideration because they are some of the only numbers you have.

Not only that, but Pederson’s spring struggles are not one of those that you brush off and say “Oh it’s just spring training.” Save for 20 plate appearances in the World Series; he has been horrific the past year. He struggled in the majors, was even worse at triple-A, and now during the preseason. The struggles are a pattern more than they are an aberration.

Joc is a career .222/.345/.435 hitter while Toles, albeit in around 15% of the plate appearances, is a .294/.341/.483 hitter. But this sample size and their spring training performances show that Toles is no doubt the better hitter.

And Pederson’s defense has started to slip, so the Dodgers can no longer keep him on the roster because of his defensive value. He just does not have any. Speculation is that a significant reason Toles will most likely start off in the minors is that he is coming off a torn ACL and the franchise wants to ease him back in. And that is justified, if true.

He will not get many at-bats with the major league squad, but he will get as many reps needed in Oklahoma City. That, and there is a lack of pressure to succumb to when stashed away in the minors.

The next question is who fills out the bench. If the Dodgers stick with the eight-man bullpen as anticipated, they would have spots for only four players on the bench. Justin Turner’s injury shakes up a lot. A fair assumption is the first three spots will be Enrique Hernandez, Chase Utley, and the loser of the Yasmani Grandal and Austin Barnes battle.

As Ken Gurnick mentioned, the last spot might be between Trayce Thompson and Kyle Farmer. With how the team has handled Thompson, even through his struggles, you can bet that he will get the last spot. Throw in the fact that Thompson is out of option and Farmer isn’t, and the picture starts to get more explicit.

But Farmer should get the call instead of Thompson. Thompson does not have a future with Los Angeles, so they should cut bait with him while they can, instead of him occupying a roster spot of someone more deserving.

And the last question being sorted out is the bullpen. We are starting to get more clarity about who will make up the relief corps.

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It is interesting because heading into spring training, Yimi Garcia figured to be a substantial internal addition to help ease the loss of Brandon Morrow. However, it seems as if one of J.T. Chargois and Wilmer Font will be taking his spot.

Chargois is intriguing because he has only had one year of major league ball that spanned 23 innings. He allowed 12 earned runs (4.70 ERA) and a 1.61 WHIP. However, the ability is there. He has a 1.91 ERA in 113.1 minor league innings along with quality stuff. And his 4.70 ERA is accompanied by a 3.36 FIP and .357 BABIP, meaning he was the victim of bad luck and bad defense.

He throws hard and can become another Josh Fields, if not better. The Dodgers’ acquisition of Fields was viewed as nothing significant because his surface numbers were not good. But, like Chargois, his peripherals were great and threw heat. And he has become a mainstay in the Dodger pen.

Wilmer Font’s addition may raise question marks. He has been bad this spring, did not impress last September, and has been a solid (at best) minor league pitcher. The Dodgers see something in him to give him a shot, so we will have to wait.

But, like Toles, Garcia is coming off a significant injury, so the team may want to ease him back in by letting him face minor league competition.

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Whatever the case is, the question marks are starting to be answered slowly. Whether the solutions are temporary or not remains to be seen. Temporary would be best with Pederson and Thompson; Font is an unknown, so we do not know what to expect. But this is baseball, and anything can happen.