The Los Angeles Dodgers take the field for their first Spring Training game in less than a month. Much like the infield, the outfield will continue to be an ever changing cast depending on the day’s matchup – apart from Mr. Bellinger of course.
Let’s take a look at the Dodgers 2020 outfield.
What should be expected?
A more disciplined Cody Bellinger
Cody Bellinger accomplished something in 2019 that not even Mike Trout has done in his illustrious career – winning Silver Slugger, Gold Glove, and MVP trophies in the same year. Bellinger’s out-of-this-world 2019 will be difficult to duplicate, but another year older and wiser should positively impact Bellinger’s plate discipline.
Cody Bellinger Walks/Strikeouts/Walk Rate (Baseball-Reference.com)
- 2017: 64 BB/146 SO/11.7 BB%
- 2018: 69 BB/151 SO/10.9 BB%
- 2019: 95 BB/108 SO/14.4 BB%
Much improved pitch selection fueled Bellinger’s prolific offensive performance this past season. After recording at least 20 or more strikeouts every month in 2018, Bellinger had three months with fewer than 20 punch outs in 2019. The Dodgers lineup offers plenty of protection, Bellinger just can’t get too swing happy.
Expect the best all-around player in the National League to continue to improve his walk rate.
Alex Verdugo could finish 2020 as the second-best outfielder on the roster. Reverse split contact left-handed hitters with plus gloves who can play all three outfield positions are difficult to find. After spot starting in April and May last year, Verdugo made the first pitch lineup card 89% of the time May through July and hit .283. Not too shabby for a 23-year-old.
Back issues derailed the second half of his season, but if he can stay healthy, the future looks bright for the versatile Verdugo.
ALEX. VERDUGO. pic.twitter.com/PWr9xAwE2Z
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) April 25, 2019
Expect at least 100 games started for Verdugo and plenty of “Volver, Volver “.
A better AJ Pollock
AJ Pollock punctuated his lackluster first season with Los Angeles by striking out 11 times in 13 postseason at-bats. During the series, Pollock never looked comfortable in the box and continued to flail at poor pitches outside the zone.
After struggling through a horrid April where he hit .186, Pollock admitted to feeling the pressure of the Dodgers championship aspirations as well as living up to his contract.
Pollock played on competitive teams in Arizona, but had never experienced the stress of having to produce on a bonafide title contender. The added stress, combined with missing the entirety of May and June with an elbow infection, severely affected Pollock’s offense and defense.
Expect a more relaxed, significantly more productive, heavily scrutinized, veteran outfielder to have a bounce back year.
A.J. Pollock, so hot right now. pic.twitter.com/yoWrimilNZ
— Los Angeles Dodgers (@Dodgers) March 30, 2019
Ceteris paribus Pederson-us
The beauty of Joc Pederson lies in simplicity. Most position players for the Dodgers are shuffled between multiple defensive and batting positions throughout the season. These challenges simply do not apply to Pederson. He’ll only hit against righties, bat leadoff, and play either corner outfield spot.
— Stats By STATS (@StatsBySTATS) May 30, 2019
Pederson 2019 Stats:
- 89% of at-bats were against RHP
- 85% of at-bats were in the leadoff sport
- 77% of his defensive appearances were in left or right field
- 0% of his brief time at first base needs to be discussed…ever
In a game whose stats are difficult to project year to year, Pederson’s consistency in hitting .250 with 25-35 homer runs while striking out too much is oddly refreshing.
All other things being equal, you already know what to expect with Joc Pederson with awkward interviews to boot.
Plenty of backup
When your regular season is sixth months, injuries are going to happen. Year after year, the Dodgers seem to have the answers when players go down or growth plates get infected. 2020 should be no different in the outfield.
Between Chris Taylor, Kike Hernandez, Matt Beaty, Kyle Garlick, and apparently Gavin Lux per Dave Roberts, the Dodgers have a host of outfielders with big league experience who can produce in spots if called upon. Throw in intriguing prospect DJ Peters and the Dodgers might have the deepest outfield in the National League.
Expect the Dodgers trademark versatility and depth to be on full display in the outfield.