Better 25-Man Roster Option: Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo or Andrew Toles?

Sometimes I think fans get tired of hearing the phrase, “It’s still very early in the season.” Yet as annoying as it may sound, it does have plenty of validity. The MLB schedule is certainly a long one, and the main strategy of a management crew is to have the best possible squad on the field peaking as one unit at the precise moment the playoffs roll around.

And while there’s plenty of time to experiment with different roster and lineup combinations over the course of the journey, there’s still the main premise of putting the best possible team on the field on any given day. And although we are still in April, there may be some roster changes coming soon, if only for the sake of seeing what may click for the club over the long haul.

Change works. Consider the promotions of Cody Bellinger and Chris Taylor last April, while recalling the contract selection of Brandon Morrow last June. Not much thought was given to these moves at those times, but the entire trio ended up making huge impacts before the dust settled at the end of the year.

There’s plenty of enhancing to be done to the current 25-man roster, and one of the not-so-obvious areas of the big league squad that could see some fluctuations is the outfield. The spring training battle between Joc Pederson and Andrew Toles seemingly went down to the wire, and while many of the Toles supporters believe he was on the short end of the stick, it’s not hard to figure out why Pederson was ultimately chosen. While Tolesy may indeed have the better set of tools, at this point of their respective careers, Pederson is still the superior defender, which is probably what facilitated the decision for management. Besides, Toles was still considered in recovery from an ACL tear in 2017, and daily reps were believed to have been the best medicine to get him back to normalcy.

Regardless, despite setting the Pacific Coast League on fire for the first few weeks of the season, Toles is on the shelf with a hamstring injury that he suffered on April 14 against New Orleans, and he’ll likely not be taking part in any baseball activities for another week. Even when he feels comfortable running, it may take some time to get back to full speed and re-establish his timing. There’s no rush in the least, as Pederson, despite his lethargic .176/.300/.235 slash line, is capable enough to provide cover in the interim from a defensive standpoint.

Nevertheless, if defensive ability is a huge factor in all the decision making, 21-year-old Alex Verdugo may have the best tools in the whole organization, aside from Yasiel Puig. And the reason I bring this up is that during Puig’s off days, Matt Kemp has been providing cover in right field, obviously because of Pederson’s unfamiliarity with the spot. I’m about the biggest Kemp supporter out there, but while I do believe he’s adequate in either corner spot, there’s no question more runs could be saved defensively with Verdugo in the game.

While most fans already know that Verdugo can capably handle all three outfield spots, there aren’t many who realize the strength of his arm. In impressive fashion, he was tabbed as having the best outfield arm in the PCL by Baseball America for the 2017 season, which I think speaks volumes considering the amount of talent in Triple-A. While Joc may have more savvy and have a better understanding of the potential caroms and ricochets in the Dodger Stadium outfield, I think Verdugo makes up for it with better range and overall quickness.

In 273 AB during his 2017 campaign, Pederson hit .212/.331/.407, which is a few ticks below his career slash line of .222/.345/.435. Heading into spring training each year, there are discussions about how Joc has made new adjustments in his swing mechanics which would conceivably elevate his production. And although 2018 will be only his fourth full year, the final numbers are eerily similar by the end of each campaign. He was demoted at one point last year, and during his minor league stint slashed .167/.247/.306 in 81 plate appearances. He may even have been destined to start the 2018 season at OKC, but his offensive heroics during last year’s postseason, coupled with the strength of his glove, afforded him the benefit of the doubt.

As far as Verdugo goes, he hit an impressive .314/.389/.436 over 433 AB last year at OKC. In comparative conversations alongside Chris Taylor, many pundits view Verdugo as the Dodgers’ center fielder of the future, even though he doesn’t have much of an MLB track record aside from 15 games after rosters expanded last year. But while he doesn’t compare to Joc in the power department, Verdugo almost never strikes out, and has become known as an on-base machine—something that Los Angeles could certainly utilize in their sluggish lineup at the present juncture. He’s capable of stealing bases in the double-digits, and despite his lack of long balls, Verdugo has the strength to muscle a ball to the deep part of the yard, as made evident by his 27 doubles, four triples and six home runs for OKC last year. As far as his ascension goes, he’s accomplished about all there is at Triple-A, and although the daily reps don’t hurt, there’s by no means mandatory.

So, if the entire left-handed hitting trio is healthy, who’s the logical choice? All three have plenty of options on their contracts, so there’s really no issue there. If you ask me, Toles is clearly the top choice from an offensive standpoint, but his defense may be just a little too suspect to consider him as a legitimate, secondary platoon candidate with Taylor, Puig or Kemp. But if the management crew of the Dodgers is indeed weighing defense as it’s top priority—which is what many believe after seeing the many Pederson-for-Kemp late-game substitutions—I think I’d go with Verdugo over Pederson almost any day of the week.

As it stands right now, with a bench that’s already playing short because of an eight-man bullpen, it is really worth having Pederson occupying a valuable 25-man roster spot just to supplant Kemp as a late-inning defensive replacement?

(Follow Dennis on Twitter: @thinkbluepc)

 

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Dodgers Place Rich Hill on Disabled List, Recall Adam Liberatore

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(Mandatory Credit: Robert Gauthier/Los Angeles Times)

The Dodgers on Wednesday afternoon recalled left-handed reliever Adam Liberatore from Triple-A Oklahoma City and placed left-hander Rich Hill on the 10-day disabled list, retroactive to April 15. The team is describing the injury as finger inflammation; however, Hill himself says the cause is a cracked nail on his middle finger.

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Dodgers Place Logan Forsythe on Disabled List, Recall Breyvic Valera

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(Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports)

The Dodgers on Sunday morning placed infielder Logan Forsythe on the 10-day disabled list with right shoulder inflammation and recalled infielder Breyvic Valera from Triple-A Oklahoma City. Valera will wear uniform No. 33.

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At What Point Will the Roster Shuffling Begin?

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(Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA TODAY Sports)

If you missed Saturday’s column, we took a quick moment to look at five players on the Dodgers‘ farm who may be likely to get a call at some point during the 2018 season. By no means was I trying to imply an impending roster move, but after another marathon game when an already taxed bullpen was stretched to the max, coupled with a struggling offense still unable to find a groove, several changes could be coming sooner rather than later.

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Dodgers 25-Man Roster: 5 Minor Leaguers Who Could Contribute in 2018

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(Mandatory Credit: Jon SooHoo/Los Angeles Dodgers)

There’s no question that the Dodgers‘ big league, 25-man roster is structured to handle a short-term absence from just about any player on the squad. The team has relief pitchers who can start, starters who can relieve, outfielders who can play the infield, and even a utility man who can handle the catching duties. However, if another type of unfortunate, long-term injury occurs at any point during the season, the club may find themselves forced to dip into the minor league depths for added cover.

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Dodgers Roster: Just How Good Are the Los Angeles Bench Players?

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Now that the Dodgers have their first win of the 2018 season under their belts, everyone can breathe a sigh of relief. Before the squad took the field on Saturday evening, many of those who follow the club were racking their respective brains for the likely cause(s) of the early slumber; however, everything was quickly forgotten when the team was able to put a five-spot up on the Giants and earn the victory.

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Dodgers Set Opening Day 25-Man Roster, Unofficially

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The 2018 Opening Day 25-man roster for the Dodgers is unofficially set.

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Kiké Hernandez Looking to Build on Stellar Cactus League Play

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(USA TODAY Sports photo)

With all the depth that the Dodgers have on their roster and in their farm system, it’s fitting that they have a player that encompasses all of that himself—self-described super-utility player Enrique Hernandez.

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Dodgers Roster: Let’s Talk a Little More About the Depth at Catcher

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(Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez/USA TODAY Sports)

If you missed Friday’s column, I took a few moments to quickly layout the names which will conceivably make up the majority of the Oklahoma City Dodgers 25-man roster when they open the season early next month at Iowa. In my haste, I foolishly grouped Rocky Gale and Shawn Zarraga together at Triple-A, while paring Will Smith and Keibert Ruiz together at Double-A Tulsa.

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A Few Ideas About the Oklahoma City Dodgers 25-Man Roster

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(Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth/USA TODAY Sports)

With all the recent emphasis on the prospective Dodgers big league roster, I thought it would be worth investing a few minutes to start laying out some names to get an idea of what the Opening Day Triple-A squad might look like at Oklahoma City.

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