The recent jettison by the Dodgers of fan favorites Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp (and the assumption that the front office has no interest in signing Bryce Harper) means that the outfield pictures is a bit more clear.
The starting outfield figures to be Cody Bellinger in center, and Joc Pederson in left, at least against right-handed pitching. Who is going to take over Puig’s spot remains to be seen, although Alex Verdugo is the most likely choice for right field. He played 16 games at that position last year, along with some games in center and left. Still, he has to continue to prove himself through spring training to solidify that position. These players will be spelled by Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez, and maybe? possibly? Andrew Toles.
Pederson is entering his sixth season with the Dodgers since he was a September call-up in 2014. Joc had 25 homers in 2016 and 26 in 2015, his rookie season, when he went to the Home Run Derby and lost to Todd Frazier. In 2017, he spent 20 games in the minors to work on his swing mechanics. His overall numbers that season were abysmal, batting only .212/.331/407/.322 with 11 homers. He did bounce back in the playoffs, and might have been named the World Series MVP had the Dodgers won. 2018 saw his best season to date, when he played in 132 games, slashing .248/.321/.522/.843 with 25 homers and 27 doubles.
Despite the homers, those are not great numbers for an everyday player, especially for one’s best season to date. The Dodgers’s previous hitting coach, Turner Ward, has moved on to the same position with the Cincinnati Reds. He was replaced with Robert Van Scoyoc, along with Brant Brown in the hitting strategist role, and Aaron Bates at assistant hitting coach.
Joc has been tinkering with his swing his whole career. A quick peruse through Twitter brings up any number of articles about how he has revamped his swing through the year. It’s a violent swing, and he tends not to shorten up with two strikes. Van Scoyoc has been credited with helping Taylor and J.D. Martinez better their at bats, and hopefully he and his new team can do the same for Joc.
The Dodgers and Pederson avoided arbitration last week, with Joc agreeing to a one-year, $5 million contract. Steamer projects a 2019 season similar to last year, with a slash line of .250/.348/.495/.359 and 26 home runs. If Pederson, Bellinger and Verdugo can all get their bats right, the Dodgers’ outfield will be a force to be reckoned with in 2019.