The off-season was filled with all sorts of rumors about the outfielders for the Dodgers. With the trade of Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp it was originally thought that they’d have an outfield of Joc Pederson/Enrique Hernandez in LF, Cody Bellinger in CF and Alex Verdugo in RF. There were also rumors that Bryce Harper might be signed. In January they signed A.J. Pollock to play CF and said that Bellinger would mostly play RF. Some have suggested trading either Pederson or Verdugo and I was originally in favor of trading Joc. I have changed my mind.
Keeping The Depth
When it was discovered that Andrew Toles was not going to be reporting to camp on time the depth didn’t look so deep any more. The current players on the 40 man roster who are major league capable in the outfield are Pederson, Verdugo, Chris Taylor, Pollock, Kiké and Bellinger. That is a good set of outfielders but subtracting one with a trade or by injury makes the team much thinner as either Taylor or Kiké will be playing 2B. The best free agent outfielder is probably Adam Jones but I don’t think the Dodgers offer what he would want; a full time job. Any other free agent outfielder either isn’t very good or offers the versatility the Dodgers desire.
Joc’s Terrible Spring
Joc Pederson is taking extra at-bats in today’s “B” game. He has 1 hit in 21 Cactus League plate appearances.
— J.P. Hoornstra (@jphoornstra) March 7, 2019
As of this writing he’s hitting only .059 with an on-base percentage of .190 while slugging .235. Last year in Spring Training he slashed .148/.246/.259 and had fans clamoring for him to start the season in AAA. The Dodgers kept him on the Opening Day roster in 2018 but he started with a slash line of .190/.306/.310 by April 24. He soon got on track and had a pretty good season, finishing with a slash of .248/.321/.522. I have confidence that Joc will end up with similar numbers in 2019 as he faces mostly right-handed pitching. It will depend on if the Dodgers show the same faith in him that they had in 2018. If they do then he will end up starting on Opening Day.
Verdugo Is Ready
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) March 3, 2019
As Brook Smith wrote, Verdugo is ready to break out in 2019. He’s had more than enough time in the minor leagues and has had a pretty decent spring so far, slashing .300/.286/.686. I’ve also seen some good at bats against left-handers and some two-strike hits that drove in runs. He can play all outfield positions pretty well and has 3 years of low salaries and 6 years before he can become a free agent. He should provide good value to the Dodgers for a long time and I expect him to be a very good player.
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The Trade Market
Although Joc is an accomplished major league hitter and Verdugo is a highly regarded prospect the trade market isn’t very hot for them. The market for mostly corner outfielders is not very good. For a player like Joc who only plays LF and hits just right-handers there isn’t a great need for other teams. He is most valuable to the Dodgers and, with his slow start, they’d be selling low on Joc. That is not a good idea considering the lack of depth in the outfield. For Verdugo he would have a higher value with his lower salary and team control. He also is more versatile and can hit all types of pitching. However, the easiest talent to acquire is corner outfielders so I doubt they can get full value for him. If either were to be traded I would expect the Indians or White Sox to be likely destinations.
Playing Time Distribution
We can probably guess the following:
- The Dodgers will platoon Joc
- Pollock will get nicked up a bit and will probably make at least on trip to the Injured List
- Bellinger will play some first base especially if Max Muncy plays some second base
- CT3 will play some shortstop at the beginning of the season due to Corey Seager not being rushed
- Kiké will play a lot of second base, especially with CT3 playing some shortstop
Just by looking at the above list there will be plenty of playing time available to all those who can play outfield. Given the depth of the Dodgers and the fact that every player on the roster is capable of being a full-time player, the Dodgers need to get everyone enough at bats. This should not be a problem as circumstances seem to always work out the at-bats issues.
As currently constructed, the Dodgers have just enough players that can give the outfield a quality player in every inning. Trading Verdugo or Pederson would create an unneeded weakness. Some might say that D.J. Peters would be an option but he needs to prove himself in AAA first. There are some other non-roster options like Cameron Perkins, Ezequiel Carrera and Paulo Orlando. I see them as AAA depth, not Major League depth but one could turn out to be the next out-of-nowhere candidate for 2019. For now, let’s keep the outfielders we have as it is a strength of the team. In terms of playing time, Verdugo can and will earn it.
I also hope that Andrew Toles is going to be well and I wish him the best. I’m sure he is missed a lot by his teammates and coaches. Any consideration of baseball is secondary to his health and well being.