Heading into the 2017 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers find themselves with a bottleneck in the outfield. Noticeably, this has been an issue for the last couple seasons; in fact, last season, distributing at-bats in the outfield was an issue for first-year manager Dave Roberts. Some of the problems’ roots grew during the “McCourt Era”, when Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp were signed to long term deals. Another major factor is the development of Dodger outfielders in the farm system, which has paid dividends in the form of Major League-quality players.
2017 Dodgers Face Impasse in the Outfield
In particular, Ethier’s contract has made him unmovable (like Carl Crawford before him). Though money isn’t an issue for current Dodgers ownership, there’s no doubt he would’ve been moved by now after having been plagued with injuries and declining numbers. On the other hand, in the last few years there’s been a number of young players that have developed into starters quite nicely, including Yasiel Puig, Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, and Trayce Thompson.
Uncertainty Surrounding Puig and Pederson
The biggest wild card in this mess continues to be Puig, who has become such a polarizing figure in Los Angeles. Fans either love Yasiel or hate him, but what cannot be argued is that every time he stands at the plate one can feel the electricity at Dodger Stadium; either he strikes out or delivers in a big way. It can be surreal. From a team standpoint, he’s yet to put together a full season worthy of the hype and praise; in fact, he was almost dealt late last season, though for now he remains in blue.
Pederson, who is a product of the Dodgers farm system, was seen as trade bait for a couple seasons, but remained with the organization despite rumors that many teams expressed interest. Since 2015, when he began getting starter at-bats, he has delivered a total of 51 home runs and 122 RBI, displaying legitimate power at the plate and excellent defense as well. At age 24, he’s still very young, but it will be interesting to see if Roberts has the necessary faith to stick with him as an everyday outfielder moving forward.
The Unknown Youth
The lesser known youngsters, Toles and Thompson, showed flashes of Major League talent last season. With only 105 at bats to his name, Toles hit three home runs and drove in 16 runs. Meanwhile, Thompson saw little more than twice as much action, with 236 at-bats, and had a decent showing of 13 home runs and 32 runs batted in. That’s not bad, but the limited action affects not only their numbers, but their ability to improve. It will be interesting how these two shape up going into this season.
Getting these players at-bats has been quite a conundrum, which begs a question: what exactly will management do? For now, these players will battle it out come Spring Training; don’t forget, the Dodgers pipeline still holds players for the future, such as Cody Bellinger and Alex Verdugo. That only intensifies the spotlight on the Dodgers outfield in the coming seasons.