One week into the season, and fans of the Dodgers are already getting restless. The narratives from last year have carried into this one — the injuries, the inability to hit with runners in scoring position, and the troubles facing left-handed pitching. Other teams are changing their rotations to have as many left-handers as possible face the Dodgers. Rich Hill is the first starter to be placed on the DL, and Justin Turner left the game early last night with a quad strain.
Dodgers fans want to see this team play strongly out of the gate and stay that way all season. The Dodgers have such a magnificent payroll, they should have players that are performing at peak level at all times. Fans see guys in the minor leagues raking it, and wonder why they are not up with the big league club instead players who are not producing currently.
The utility guy is there to give a starter a rest, or to be a better option in a certain pitching matchup. Right now, the players that are being used to spell those regulars are not producing. Currently, Enrique Hernandez is batting .143, and Scott Van Slyke .200. Now we all know that batting average isn’t everything, and not the only way to gauge production, especially so early in the season. Their OPS figures are .619 and .633, respectively. Hernandez has committed one error, Van Slyke has none. WAR for Kiké is -0.1, and 0.0 for Van Slyke. A random twitter search tells you fans are not happy with either of these players right now.
So who are the options to replace them, should their production continue to falter? Chris Taylor had a fantastic spring, but Dave Roberts said that Hernandez’s ability to play center was the deciding factor. This seems to be the crux of the issue — management wants a utility player that can spot in both the infield and outfield, and right now the players that are killing in it Triple-A Okahoma City are pure outfielders, like Brett Eibner and O’Koyea Dickson. These guys would be most likely called up to replace a floundering Andrew Toles, should that need arise. However, Chris Taylor did start a game for OKC in center field over the weekend, so it could be the Dodgers are looking at that as an option. Rob Segedin can play first base and both corner outfield spots, so he would be a likely candidate to replace Van Slyke. Currently in Oklahoma City, Segedin’s slash line is .250/.294/.500/.794.
As a side note, Joc Pederson is often the one sent to the bench to avoid facing left-handers. Last night’s inability to get a run home with a 3-0 count and bases loaded aside, Pederson is doing pretty well against southpaws having gone 3-for-7 so far, and he often appears to be a better option than anybody else available on the bench. That’s enough for me to think that he should be able to face more left-handed pitching.
The season starts out with such a sense of excitement, making fans think that this year is going to be different. Even though it’s only been eight games, it’s very easy to fall back into the fears of last season. But with a team as deep as this one, these issues always seem to work themselves out. Management is smart enough to know when to move players up or down, and Roberts is a very good manager and motivator. Even though this is not a super hot start as some Dodger fans are expecting, I have confidence this team will be fine, and the best team possible will be playing in October.