More Thoughts About Left Field

kiké-hernandez-joc-pederson-a.j.-pollock
(Richard Mackson/USA TODAY Sports)

While most of the team progress surrounding the Dodgers so far this spring has been optimistically steady, one of the most frequent topics of conversation has been the nagging side injury of Joc Pederson and how it may affect the dynamics of the Opening Day roster.

According to most reports, Pederson will make his spring debut on Sunday in a minor league game. The plan is to have him play five full innings.

Whether Joc is healthy enough to compete in the regular season opener is really not the biggest issue at hand. If his current progress is any indication, he’ll be ready sooner than later, and he’ll likely slide into the role as the primary left fielder upon doing so.

Most people believe that a straight platoon between Pederson and A.J. Pollock will account for most of the reps in left field. Last year, though, left field was one of those filler spots that saw a whopping nine players see action there.

Obviously, gone are Alex Verdugo, Kristopher Negron and Kyle Garlick, but players like Matt Beaty, Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor will very much be part of the outfield conversation when discussing the active roster.

Beaty saw action in 34 games in left field last year, which accounted for most of his playing time defensively. He can also play first base, but he hasn’t quite established the trust of management yet to provide cover at third base. Taylor played 56 games in left field while Hernandez played 10.

Although it seems like the Dodgers are steering away from the “revolving door” type of platooning with Mookie Betts in right every day, Cody Bellinger in center and Corey Seager at short, there is enough flexibility at other positions (even to provide Justin Turner ample rest at third) for Taylor and Hernandez to see adequate playing time. If Beaty does indeed make the Opening Day roster, it should be interesting to see how his playing time is handled.

Nevertheless, the overlying concept is the fact that Pederson will be garnering most of the playing time in left based on the ratio that nearly two-thirds of MLB pitchers are right-handed. Using a hypothetical number of 648 overall PA for left fielders this year, that leaves Joc with 428 PA and Pollock with 220, assuming they’re both fully healthy for the entire season.

The idea that Pollock is earning $15 million this season—$12 million Luxury Tax salary and another $3 million bonus payment—makes it tough to keep him on the bench regularly from the standpoint of player value. He’ll be able to be utilized as a pinch hitter and moved around a bit when Bellinger and Betts need the occasional day off, but those scenarios probably won’t hugely boost his use by any standard.

Some folks have suggested giving Pollock reasonable opportunity against right-handed pitching—in essence, taking away a few AB from Pederson—but as long as Joc’s healthy, he should absolutely be seeing all the righty pitching possible.

Pederson OPS’d an impressive .876 last year, which happened to be the fourth highest total on the Dodgers behind Bellinger’s 1.035, Max Muncy‘s .889 and Turner’s .881. Conceivably, Pederson’s figure could have led probably quite a few rival clubs around the league—that’s just how potent the Los Angeles offense is. Some believe that an average OPS for a single player in the majors is somewhere around the .760 mark.

Anyway, Pollock hasn’t OPS’d above .850 since his signature season in 2015 when he hit .315/.367/.498 in 157 games for the Diamondbacks. He hovered right around .800 in 2017 and 2018, but Pederson posted a .843 mark in 2018, suggesting his numbers are trending upwards.

I’m fine with giving Pollock approximately 300 PA for the upcoming campaign, as it will provide him with enough opportunities to warrant his spot on the active roster. His career splits have been nearly equal against righty and lefty pitching, so it shouldn’t put him at a disadvantage if he sees mostly lefties.

With the addition of Betts, it will allow Joc to be bumped out of the everyday leadoff spot, which is a relief to some fans, especially myself. Pederson’s career-high 36 bombs represented a huge influence on his OPS last year. While moving him down in the batting order won’t necessarily affect his primary statistics, it could theoretically improve the team’s run production—especially with runners in scoring position.

Whichever way you look at it, the Dodgers are indeed the deepest team in the majors when it comes to talent, assuming the bulk of the active roster is healthy.

Left field gives plenty of credence towards that claim.

 

13 thoughts on “More Thoughts About Left Field

  1. Good point Gary. Although Joc could get 2/3 of the starts, both he and AJ could appear in lots of games as the left fielder with AJ coming in later in the game. Since, as Dennis pointed out, his splits are fairly even, bringing in Pollock later in the game does not cause a disadvantage against multiple relievers. If Beaty has a strong first half I could still see Joc traded at the deadline unless AF wants to avoid two unhappy left fielders and still tries to move Joc once he shows he ready to play, possibly even within the next 2-3 weeks.
    I’d still like to see Beaty get a bunch of reps at third in the next couple of weeks to see if he makes sense as JT’s primary third base backup. Third base is definitely not Kike or CT3’s best position defensively, so maybe Beaty is a good way to go while resting Turner against some righties.

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  2. Price had a great outing today. 7 K’s in 3 innings. Only Rockies run came on a homer by Arenado. Muncy hit one for LA. Betts out until at least Wednesday with a stomach problem. Sounds like food poisoning. I think Pollock will play in at least as many games as he did last year. Especially if he is not injured at all. The best thing that has happened to him this spring is the fact that he is healthy. Joc cleared to play baseball. He will most likely play in multiple minor league games before playing in an A game. Ruiz continues to be ofer spring. Barnes is hitting over .300.

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    1. Hey Bear, you promised we wouldn’t see much of you here this weekend. Well, maybe it wasn’t exactly a promise. 🙂
      Hope this means you’re doing better.
      Last statement from Doc was that Mookie will probably play Monday. He wanted to play tomorrow.
      Wouldn’t it be fun if Price, whom the Sox couldn’t wait to get rid of, was our most effective starter this year and Graterol became our closer.

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      1. Yep that would be cool. I took some cold medicine, put some vicks on my chest crawled under the covers and in about an hour I was soaking wet from sweating. Cold medicine stopped the cough, which was really aggravating, and the lozenges helped the sore throat. So I am up making some soup for dinner, then I am going to finish watching my DVD of The Sacketts. Catching up on baseball news. The Cardinals released infielder Yario Munoz. He was not happy with his playing time and left camp without telling anyone. Giants pitcher Beede has a flexor sprain.

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  3. Seems to me we discussed this already.

    “That’s one of the issues with so much depth, there are x number of plate appearances for every spot in the order. Batting 5-6 in the order is roughly 680 plate appearances over 162 games. On good teams that get on a lot maybe we can stretch that to 700. Right handers are 60% of the league, so that’s 420 to Joc/Reks/Raley and 380 to Pollock/Thomas/ whoever. Pinch hitting now and then Bellinger/Betts a few innings off now and then, Pollock should get close to his projections of 370-400. That’s plenty of opportunity to earn his $15 million. He will need to get back his positive dWAR though. A -1.0 last year really hurt.”

    Left field, no matter who is there, is going to get around 680 plate appearances. We currently have a half dozen guys who can play out there. If Joc is 100% he gets the bulk of those at bats. The other guys split the rest up. If Pollock gets it together he will be given enough work to get close to 2 WAR. Maybe Joc is moved. No matter where he is, he will contribute. We don’t need him as much as a couple other teams might.

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  4. I started watching today in the second inning, pitchers all looked good. Graterol looked real good today, the Red Sox are going to regret backing out of the original trade in the not to distant future, that kid can throw a baseball. I’m glad to see AF was sharp enough to get Graterol in the trade.

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      1. He’s smaller than Colon, and he had a long career. Today is the birthday of The Reading Rifle, Carl Furillo. From up around Dennis’s territory. Old Skoonj…short for skoonjilli. An Italian pasta…

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  5. BR has him at 6’1” 265.

    Graterol. Bartolo. Similar name. Similar build?

    I still have a visual memory of Furillo standing out in right field at the Coliseum at night. It was strange there because it was like the lights ended right in front of the fence. That wasn’t true of course but it looked like it as it was really dark on the other side. Strange. It was an enormous right field. The right fielder looked like he had to cover twice the amount of field the center fielder did. It was maybe an optical illusion. 300’ to the right field foul pole then it swung out to 445’ in right center. I remember asking my grandpa why they did that and he said “I have no idea but I’ll bet Snider ain’t happy about it”.

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  6. Colon also won a Cy Young if memory serves. I would take the well over 200 wins. Calhoun hit in the face by Urias with a 95 MPH heater. Taken to the hospital. Thomas crushes HR # 5. Jansen K’s 3, and gives up a HR and a double.

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