Although the Los Angeles Dodgers traded Matt Kemp to the San Diego Padres, the outfield picture remains a muddied and crowded situation.
Outside of Yasiel Puig likely returning to right field, what the future holds for the glut of outfielders is largely unknown. The uncertainty is more specifically tied to Andre Ethier and what role, if any, he’ll have with the Dodgers in 2015.
Manager Don Mattingly met with members of the media Monday and said he expects Ethier to be with the team for Spring Training and added the outfielder will have the opportunity to win a starting job, according to Bill Plunkett of the OC Register:
#Dodgers Mattingly says he expects Andre Ethier to be in spring camp and compete for job. "If you put up numbers, you're going to play."
— Bill Plunkett (@billplunkettocr) January 14, 2015
With Kemp no longer on the team and Puig’s expected return to right field, Ethier conceivably could start in either center or right field; when Mattingly made the decision to bench Kemp and remove him from center field last season, Ethier was the first player he turned to as a stopgap at the position.
Although Mattingly offered his confidence that Ethier would be with the Dodgers for Spring Training, it shouldn’t now be considered a certainty. The Dodgers reportedly were near a deal to send the 32 year old to the Arizona Diamondbacks and the Baltimore Orioles are believed to have held trade talks for Ethier.
In December, Ethier expressed his desire to remain in Los Angeles as a starter, which wouldn’t appear to be in his favor given how last season unfolded. After settling on an outfield alignment of Carl Crawford in left field, Puig in center and Kemp in right, Ethier rarely saw the field and primarily served as a pinch-hitter.
Assuming Crawford and Puig anchor the corner outfield positions, Ethier would need to beat out Joc Pederson, among others, to start in center field. Recently released ZiPS projections predict .239/.337/.420 with 22 home runs and 20 stolen bases from Pederson in 573 plate appearances next season.
As for Ethier, he’s projected at .259/.335/.392 with nine home runs and two stolen bases in 472 plate appearances.