Who would you prefer as the left-handed option in LF right now, Ethier or Toles?
Brandon: Unless his performance completely craters, I think Andre Ethier takes the starting job out of spring training. His contract, significantly longer performance track record and lack of options makes him the easy choice for Friedhan and Co. However, if he sputters or doesn’t have performance that matches his contract, I think he could be cut by May or June. Toles is likely the left fielder of the future, but I still think Andre is owed the opportunity.
Brian: I know I’m probably the minority here, but I actually prefer Toles. I know it was a brief appearance last season, but he showed me some very promising potential. Ethier is currently the longest tenured Dodger, and he has been a fan favorite for awhile now. I get that. Still, at this point in their respective careers I just think Toles brings more to the table, and has a far greater upside. With that said, I’ll all for letting them battle it out this spring. Andre is hitting the ball well so far, although there is still a lot of spring training left before the season starts.
Also, if the Dodgers really feel that Ethier is the better option, fine… whatever. But I hope they don’t send Toles down simply because he has options. I believe they should field the best team period, regardless of who has options and who doesn’t. And it’s hard to believe that Toles makes the Dodgers any better down at OKC.
Brandon: It’s also very important to remember the season is 162 games. Pushing players down in April or May can be good for the overall health of the franchise. It’s hard to fathom, but “too many <insert position here>” has quickly turned into “We need more of <insert same position>” for the Dodgers. Using an option to send Toles down for a black-hole-esque Andre Ethier would be bad. Losing Andre Ethier in hopes that Toles can create his magic from 2016 would be equally bad. Manipulating the roster has been a strength of this front office and I don’t see them drastically changing that strategy.
Brian: Fair enough. I will concede that roster manipulation is a pillar of this Dodgers front office. So yes, using an option when a player has one makes sense to a certain point. But at what point does it become counter-productive? Let’s say Toles turns it around this spring training and out-plays Ethier. Should the Dodgers still send him down because he has options? I’m not so sure. Again, I’m all for letting them compete this spring for the starting position, but regardless who wins the spot, sending Toles to OKC after what he showed last season just seems odd to me.
Is it time for the Dodgers to part ways with Chris Hatcher?
Brandon: So clear and concise, Brian. Hatcher is so hard to watch right now. He has the stuff. His repertoire can be overwhelming for batters, when he’s right. But it’s now to the point with him that waiting for the time to be right might be living on a prayer. And with the Dodgers possessing so many different options for relief, Hatcher’s grace period that seems to have been indefinitely extended to him may be rapidly coming to a close.
It’ll be very painful to see him go to Pittsburgh or San Francisco and find his happy zone.
Brian: He can go to Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Ontario Canada, or Bangladesh for all I care. I’m not sure he’ll ever find that “happy zone.” His stuff does seem good at times, but it’s been impossible for him to find any consistency. Being out of options, I have a gross feeling in my stomach that the Dodgers may still decide to keep him on board for now, although the way he’s pitching may not help matters. The fact that the Dodgers seem to have other viable options in the bullpen should make it an interesting call.
Brandon: Realistic trajectory for Hatcher 2017? He starts with the Dodgers, implodes a few times, and gets designated for assignment. He proceeds to sign with Pittsburgh where Ray Searage works some kind of pitching voodoo and turns him into a stud that the Pirates hold onto for 2 years before flipping back to the Dodgers for some kind of astronomical package that makes us all sick to our stomachs.
Join me in the vomit line, because it’s almost more predictable than Vin Scully saying “deuces wild” at least once in a game.
Who has a bigger year for the Dodgers in 2017, Joc Pederson of Yasiel Puig?
Brian: Hopefully both. But I wouldn’t bet the farm either way because I really think it could be either one. Also, I don’t own a farm anyhow. I think both guys have the potential to break out, but if I had to side with one right now, I’d say Puig. We all saw the kind of player he’s capable of being back when he made his debut in 2013. I don’t think that player disappeared altogether, but just needs to be brought out somehow. There’s no doubt that the version of Puig we’ve seen over the last couple of years hasn’t been the version Dodgers fans were expecting. But if he can put all the off-field shenanigans behind him this season, hopefully he can get back to that player we all saw glimpses of before, which would be a huge boost to the offense.
As far as Pederson goes, he also has room for improvement. We saw him make some significant strides last year in only his 2nd full season, and I suspect some additional improvements this year as well. However, I do think that Joc has some flaws that will probably always remain. I don’t think he’ll ever be a great hitter for Avg, and he’ll likely continue to strike out at a good rate. But you take the good with the bad, and Pederson certainly has many good traits as well. The big thing for Joc will be how he performs vs LHP. He can’t continue to hit .125 against them, and I’m a little skeptical that he can drastically improve in that area.
Brandon: Every Dodger fan in existence has been wishing for 2013 Puig, and I’m ready to safely say that he isn’t coming back. However, I actually would bet on this being Pederson for 2017. Joc made massive strides between his rookie and sophomore campaigns, as someone may or may not have outlined previously. If he can maintain even a few of those changes, he could remain in the 3-4 WAR range every year and I think any fan would be happy with that. Brian is right that he likely never becomes a high average guy, but he doesn’t have to in order to be a high value guy. High OBP, high power and league average defense has tremendous value.
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 6, 2017
I’d bet that Pederson improves upon his performance every day of the week and twice on Sundays before I bet Puig even sniffs his performance from 2013 again.
Brian: Perhaps the 2013 version on Puig is a longshot, but it’s hard not to improve on his last two years, where his slash line averaged around .260/.322/.425 and he barely cracked double digits in homeruns. Don’t get me wrong, I’m highly skeptical of Puig’s ability to bounce back to a high level, but he has so much room for improvement, I can’t possibly see him regressing any further (knock on wood.) Also, you didn’t address the elephant in the room when it comes to Pederson… his inability to hit left-handed pitching. Do you see him improving in the regard? And when I say “improving” I don’t mean by a little. When you’re getting platooned against lefties for a right handed hitter who himself is hitting below .200 overall, you know it’s bad. And that was the case with Joc last year.
Brandon: I’m not saying Puig can’t still be Puig. I’m just sick of the constant “maybe this will be the year” with him. I want him to do good. I love the guy. But I can only go back to the poisoned water hole so many times before I accept that it has been poisoned and I move on. Pederson has made tanigble progress and I see that going forward. If Puig could maintain some of the stuff he did in OKC when he was sent down last August, he could be an interesting player. As it stands, he’s a complete wild card. If he plays anywhere near “well,” this Dodgers offense could be significantly more potent than last years. As it stands now, I won’t hold my breath.
Is MLB’s new rule regarding the intentional walk good or does it go too far with changing the game?
Brian: I hate change. And I especially hate it when it comes to baseball. So, 99% of the time when MLB decides to change one of these rules, I’m against it. However, when it comes to this particular issue, I’m actually indifferent. I don’t mind it all that much, and can actually see some tangible benefits.
I’m perfectly content with the pace at which baseball is played, and speeding up the game is not a priority for me at all. However, if you can find a way to do it without taking away from the integrity of the game, I’d be all for it. Again, this is coming from someone who usually hates changes, and would probably be called a “purist” by many. I’m not a fan of the DH, can’t stand the new “protective” rules regarding slides at second base, and still don’t like the 2nd wild card team in the playoffs. With all that said, I don’t think taking away the meaningless act of throwing four intentional balls takes too much away from the game.
Brandon: This seems like change for the sake of change. The IBB very rarely provided any sort of game-changing opportunity, and even when it did, it was more infrequent than winning the lottery. So, in order for MLB to appeal more to younger viewers, they are going to get rid of this thing that might collectively save about 2 minutes per game, and that is a big might.
Who cares about the bogus blackout restrictions, the banning of GIFs, the Pedro Baezs of the world who take 45 seconds to throw a single pitch, the ridiculous amount of warm up pitches that pitchers get, or any of the other boring things that young people actually dislike. Lets get rid of the 4 useless pitches it takes to intentionally walk a guy. This seems like trying to kill a fly with a sledgehammer.
Brian: Sadly, it’s all about catering to more people, and in turn, growing MLB’s audience. It’s always about money, and as a true baseball fan, I absolutely hate that reasoning. However, I will pick my battles when it comes to changes to the game. I’m sure there will be plenty more ideas that come down the pipe in the coming years that I’ll dislike even more. I really wish they’d leave the game alone for a while, but again, when it comes to doing away with intentional walks… eh, whatever.
Brandon: I totally understand the desire to cater to mass groups of people. The bulk of the population doesn’t consume baseball like me, and I completely understand that. But if MLB really wants to make sweep changes, I don’t think the intentional walk is the place to start.
Should teams be more encouraging for their players to participate in the WBC? Or, should players do their best to avoid it and any possible injuries before the MLB season starts?
Brandon: The World Baseball Classic is such a great idea, and other nations embrace it so much more than the US does. I’d love to see our best players included in the competition, but I don’t foresee that ever happening if the competition continues to be held in March. There is simply too much risk and obviously too much money on the line for most MLB teams to allow their players to take part. Moving the competition to the summer could help get buy-in, as most players are already in shape by then, but I doubt MLB would be happy about the lost revenue.
Brian: In my opinion, it really should be left up to each individual player, with little team interference or pressure. Personally, I’d like to see more players participate in the WBC to truly get the best players of all the nations competing against one another. Currently, that doesn’t happen, for whatever reason. Maybe some players really are disinterested, but I know many teams are concerned with the injury risk involved, which is understandable. I would like to see the WBC expand its roster size so more players could be included, and no one would be forced to play too much in any particular game. Pitchers especially would have to be monitored and limited. This would at least mitigate the injury risk.
Most every other sport that’s played worldwide has some sort of completion that’s taken serious by each nation (Olympics, the World Cup, ect.) It would be cool to have a legitimate competition on the same type of scale for baseball.
Brandon: I agree that players should inevitably make the choice and not be forced. I do think the WBC is the start of something similar to the World Cup, but the best players always play in the World Cup. It sucks to see the US lose when the two best domestic players don’t even step on the field. It’s a bad experience for casual and die hard fans alike, and without fixing it, the WBC will never truly be embraced on a domestic scale.
I’ve got ideas on how to fix it, but I’d like MLB to pay me for them prior to disclosing them publicly.
Brian: I’d love to hear your plan, and I have $5 cash right now. I mean, at the end of the day the players get paid to play for their major league team, not the WBC, and I get that. Still though, it would be nice to get more buy-in from both teams and players when it comes to participation. If we actually had a U.S team with all the best U.S players on it, I’m sure it would peak fan interest that much more. The current system doesn’t peak anything.