The 2017 Los Angeles Dodgers are once again one of the favorites in the National League. With a rotation led by Clayton Kershaw, a bullpen anchored by Kenley Jansen, and an infield featuring some of the top players at their positions, it is easy to see why the Dodgers are projected to be great once again. With the season a few weeks away, the starting spots in the infield for the Dodgers are set. Logan Forsythe was brought it via trade to solidify second base and the other spots are manned by Corey Seager at shortstop, Justin Turner at third, Adrian Gonzalez at first, and Yasmani Grandal at catcher. There are no decisions to be made in the infield. The outfield, on the other hand, has little clarity. The Los Angeles Dodgers 2017 outfield is a unit to watch in 2017.
Los Angeles Dodgers 2017 Outfield
Manager Dave Roberts has made it clear that Joc Pederson is the team’s center fielder. Pederson has averaged 25.5 home runs in his first two years and was an All-Star as a rookie. On the other hand, Pederson struggles to put the ball in play, striking out 28.3 percent of his at-bats. However, Pederson’s ability to hit the homerun, get on base (career .349 OBP.), and field his position well, make his spot in center a lock.
According to the New York Post, Roberts also tipped his hand that Yasiel Puig is his preferred everyday right fielder. “My message to him was clear: If he is not performing or he loses his focus, he is going to create opportunities for others, but that is the way it is for everyone,” Roberts said. Puig, due to poor play and other issues was sent down to the minors last year. Since his meteoric rise in 2013, Puig has failed to be anywhere close to as productive as he was early in his career. Puig’s OPS. and slugging percentage has dropped every season since his debut.
On the bright side, Puig performed much better once he returned from his demotion. Puig had a slash line of .256/.319/.386 in 270 plate appearances in the first half of the season. In 98 plate appearances in the second half of the season he hit .284/.337/.500. His potential and defense are what gives him an edge.
According to rotochamp.com after Puig and Pederson, second year-player Andrew Toles is projected to be the Dodgers third outfielder. Last season, Toles hit .314 in 105 at bats and posted a .870 OPS. Toles performed even better in the postseason hitting .364 with an .878 OPS. Major injuries to Trayce Thompson and Andre Ethier opened the door for Toles to start and the 24-year-old took advantage.
The Dodgers have several options if one or more of the aforementioned players struggle. Trayce Thompson, Scott Van Slyke, Andre Ethier, Enrique Hernandez and Franklin Gutierrez could all see some action this season.
After hitting nearly .300 and reaching base at a .366 clip in 2015, veteran Andre Ethier missed almost all of 2016 due to injury. Ethier got only 24 at-bats last season before going on the shelf. Ethier might get more opportunities than anyone else on the bench. His history and versatility stand out among his competitors. Thompson also missed significant time in 2016 dealing with injuries. He appeared in 80 games and hit 13 home runs before getting hurt. The younger brother of Klay Thompson is a supreme athlete with good power and will get some time in left and center.
After appearing in nearly 100 games in the previous two seasons, Van Slyke got only 113 at-bats last season, hitting only one homerun. Van Slyke posted a negative WAR and can really only play one of the three outfield spots, left field. With his poor performance last season along with the depth in the outfield, Van Slyke will see more time at first than in the outfield.
Gutierrez, the former Mariner, will be hard-tasked to crack the rotation. Gutierrez doesn’t make the top four in the depth chart in left field or center field and according to MLB.com is the fourth option in right field. Lastly, Hernandez, a utility player, is more likely to see time at second base than the outfield. Hernandez did appear in over 100 games last season but hit under .200. With the returns of Thompson and Ethier, Hernandez doesn’t have much hope of playing significant time in the outfield.
There is still time for trades to be made and players to be optioned or released. However, it is likely the Dodgers enter the season with this abundance of outfield options. Depth is a positive but deciding who gets at-bats in what situations could cause headaches for coach Roberts. Managing multiple personalities is tough in general and even tougher when one of them is Yasiel Puig. Regardless of the decision on who starts in the outfield for the Dodgers it will be an intriguing story to follow throughout the season.