The Los Angeles Dodgers held their second annual Fan Fest at Dodger Stadium over the weekend and star players Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig, Brian Wilson and others were in attendance for fans to interact with. With the start of the regular season pushed up, the Dodgers will embark upon Camelback Ranch in just five days and will hold their first full squad workout on February 14.
Kemp’s health will be a major storyline all season long, but Dodgers manager Don Mattingly also has some decisions to make atop the lineup. Talking to Ken Gurnick of Dodgers.com, it sounds like there might be a switch atop the lineup:
Yasiel Puig could be the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter this year, manager Don Mattingly indicated this weekend.
Mattingly said by switching Puig and last year’s leadoff hitter, lefty-swinging Carl Crawford, in the order, it would provide better righty-lefty balance, with right-handed hitter Hanley Ramirez batting third and left-handed hitter Adrian Gonzalez batting fourth.
Not a leadoff hitter by any means, Carl Crawford led off 86 times last season, hitting .304, but only attempted 19 stolen bases. The 32-year-old was hampered by back and hamstring injuries in 2013 and a switch atop the lineup could preserve his legs during the season.
Meanwhile, Puig finished second on the team in OBP (.391) and made 51 starts from this spot in the order. In the 28 games he led off, he had a slash of .333/.409/.618 with eight home runs. Even with his speed, the 23-year-old stole just 11 bases and was caught a team high 8 times as he’s still learning the art of stealing a base.
How the Dodgers construct their lineup with Kemp healthy remains to be seen and depending on the progress that Alex Guerrero makes in Spring Training, the bottom of the order remains in flux. Flipping Puig and Crawford in the lineup makes sense as Mattingly will likely tinker throughout the coming weeks in hopes of settling on a more consistent lineup for 2014.
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