Is Outfield Depth a Problem for Dodgers?

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At the beginning of the season, hardly anyone imagined that the organizational outfield depth of the Los Angeles Dodgers would be under such high scrutiny.

After all, the trio of Mookie Betts, Cody Bellinger, and AJ Pollock stacked up alongside the best outfield units across the majors. To boot, Chris Taylor and Zach McKinstry were more than capable of providing cover, in addition to playing the infield when needed. Matt Beaty, Edwin Rios, and Luke Raley even supplied a third level of cover.

However, a perfect storm of injuries has hit the team that has made the outfield especially vulnerable, as some feel that the club’s lack of “quality” depth is one of the reasons the squad has lost four of its last five games.

Bellinger has been on the injured list since since April 9 with a hairline fracture in his lower leg, and McKinstry went on the shelf Friday with oblique problems. Betts has missed several games due to an assortment of minor issues, as has Pollock and Taylor.

Regardless, correlated along with outfield depth is bench depth, specifically when it comes to pinch hitting. Entering Saturday’s game against the Padres, the Dodgers have gone 0-for-19 in pinch-hit opportunities this year, including the ABs by Sheldon Neuse and the freshly recalled DJ Peters in Friday evening’s defeat.

Obviously, injuries hitting the outfield this hard are not going to be prevalent over the course of the entire regular season. Still, for as much as front office boss Andrew Friedman and his troops like to stock up on quality player depth, this is one of those situations where the team seems to be handcuffed.

During the winter, we did a series featuring some of the best young outfield prospects in the system that included Andy Pages, Luis Rodriguez, and Jake Vogel. But anyone familiar with the Los Angeles farm knows that all three of these players are multiple years away from making their respective MLB debuts.

Conversely, we also discussed several times the depth of the fringe players and how weak it was when compared to the major league crew and the talented group on the lower levels. The names we threw out at the time were Peters, Beaty, Raley, Matt Davidson, Zach Reks, and Cody Thomas, even before Thomas was traded to Oakland in the deal that brought Neuse to Los Angeles.

Right now, the problem is not bodies, as there are definitely enough players to fill out the roster. Rather, the dilemma is quality players who can produce, particularly when the rest of the team is struggling offensively.

If it gets any worse, one option might be Steven Souza Jr., an outfielder the Dodgers signed a few weeks ago after the Astros cut him towards the end of 2021 spring training. The 31-year-old Souza is trying to re-emerge after a 2019 knee injury nearly put an end to his MLB career. In Grapefruit League play this spring, though, he went just 2-for-21 with 13 punchouts in 27 plate appearances, suggesting that his road back might be a long one, if there even is a road.

Nevertheless, with Taylor listed as day to day with back stiffness, the Dodgers had just three available pinch hitters on Friday night—Neuse, Peters, and catcher Will Smith, who has coincidentally been lingering around the Mendoza Line this year after hitting .289/.401/.579 during 2021’s shortened season. Consequently, Beaty was hitting .091 before he was optioned last week. Rios is currently batting .111.

At the moment, according to MLB Pipeline, the Dodgers have a whopping 13 pitchers on the organizational Top 30 Prospects List, alongside three catchers. On the contrary, there are just five outfielders on the same list, including Pages, Rodriguez, Vogel, Peters, and McKinstry, who is probably considered more of a utility player.

14 thoughts on “Is Outfield Depth a Problem for Dodgers?

  1. Some of the drafted guys did not pan out an example is Kendall. The young guys coming up Pages, Rodriguez, and Vogel look like they might be very good but as you report they are several years away.
    I like Peters he is hard-working and a good guy by all reports but ya gotta hit the ball…Same goes for Raley, Beaty, Reks, Rios, Neuse, and the rest. Throw Lux in there too! Ya gotta hit the ball!!
    The Dodgers have lots of young arms and a young catcher they could trade. I am sure Friedman is thinking about solutions. He always does…
    We shall see!

  2. I think they are extremely thin in the outfield as far as MLB caliber outfielders. Raley, Beaty, Peters have not shown the hitting skill level yet to be considered everyday guys. I have myself always considered Taylor an infielder even though he is very competent in the outfield. To me only Pollock, Betts and Bellinger are everyday type players. Sousa, who they signed at the end of spring could be that if he was fully healthy and playing like he did a few years ago. They miss McKinstry a lot right now. Kemp is available! LOL

    1. Pollock, Betts, Bellinger, McKinstry and Taylor sounds pretty not too bad to me. We just need them all healthy, which doesn’t seem like a huge ask.

      1. Obliques take a while. It may be quite some time until we see ZMac again.

        I was a big Pollock fan when he was with the D’backs so was very happy when we signed him. For whatever reason, my Pollock fandom has diminished since he put on a Dodger uni. That said, those five if all healthy, are a strong group.

      2. Not too bad if healthy. But I have never considered Taylor an outfielder. He does well out there. But he will always be an infielder to me.

      3. There just has to be somebody better than Peters. He’s got a hole in his swing that I could push a fastball through.

  3. Reportedly Dodger coaching staff and Peters worked on that all last year at the alternative site. Looks like he is not fixable. Too bad reportedly he is a great hard working guy. But that doesn’t help you hit the ball!
    Unfortunately Peter’s, Raley, Reks do not grade out as MLB ready maybe ever.
    Dodgers definitely miss McKinstry & Bellinger.

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