While we’re patiently waiting for a few plausible roster fluctuations to be ironed out before we publish our intermediate round of 2017 roster projections, we thought we’d take a look at another area of the Dodgers‘ organization that will certainly have a huge impact on the success of the club this year — the outfield.
The 2016 season was nothing short of a crazy roller coaster ride as far as the player personnel went for the outfield crew. At the beginning of Cactus League play, it appeared as if the primary group set to contribute during the regular season would consist of Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Joc Pederson and Yasiel Puig. Yet after a myriad of injuries, a few demotions and several roster transactions, the main production would eventually be boosted by a number of improbable players, including Howie Kendrick, Andrew Toles, Trayce Thompson and Josh Reddick. But if there was any growth and consistency the whole way across the board, it was definitely Pederson, who arguably was one of the National League’s top producing outfielders by season’s end.
With what was seemingly a heavy left-handed batting crew for most of 2016, the Dodgers will head into this season with what promises to be an equal mix — at least when Thompson finally gets up to speed. The lefty options should be strong at the beginning of the year with Toles, Pederson and Ethier, while being balanced out by Puig and Scott Van Slyke on the right side, with perhaps potential contributions from Rob Segedin, depending on how the club decides to structure its utility roles.
“Oh, man. He’s a 40-plus homer guy driving in 110 to 125 a year,” Ward told Osborne. “I’ve been around plenty of players like him in my career. From a power standpoint, there are not as many guys around who have that pure raw power like he has. Now it’s just he has to be able to harness it a little more and have a better idea of who he is as a hitter and what he needs to do to maintain it.”
Ward also briefly spoke about the speedy attitude evolution of Puig from the perspective of being a better teammate.
“He has been so great to work with,” Ward said. “We could honestly speak what was on our minds. He had no problem doing that, so he challenged me as a coach, and I definitely challenged him. I always look forward to helping guys any way I can, but he is such a talent, great-hearted, giving. I really felt like how he learned to be a better teammate last year. I watched him become a better teammate.”
While we know that the management crew of the Dodgers is quite big on creating mathematical data surrounding hitting/pitching matchups, it should be interesting to see if some type of platoon is created between Puig and a healthy Ethier at the beginning of the season in right field. With a hot bat and steady defensive play, Toles could see a significant amount of playing time in left, while Pederson promises to get the lion’s share of reps in center field. And as we saw in previous years when he was healthy, Van Slyke should be available to pose as a potent weapon at the dish against southpaw pitching, one of the club’s primary weaknesses last year.
As the 2017 campaign progresses, the players with options on their contracts could favor heavily into management’s roster decisions in terms of structure. And while it’s always impossible to project any type of significant injury, we all hope the club’s luck with the disabled list is much better next year compared to a few years in the recent past.
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