The Los Angeles Dodgers have a problem that most teams would love to have; however, if not monitored properly, it could become a problem that most teams would hate to have.
In the outfielder, the Dodgers have four, possibly five, capable outfielders for just three outfield spots. Carl Crawford, Andre Ethier, Matt Kemp, Yasiel Puig and Scott Van Slyke all wait patiently for manager Don Mattingly’s lineup each and every day.
Today, we offer our suggestion to Mattingly for how to handle the outfield. So far he has mixed and switched based on matchups, and it is hard to argue against it because the team currently sits in first place. However, that may be more of a product of the starting pitching and other position players rather than Mattingly’s matchups.
Before missing significant time with injuries the last two seasons, Kemp was the 2011 National League MVP runner-up after hitting 39 home runs and stealing 40 bases. He was signed to an eight-year extension to essentially be the face of the Dodgers and is finally healthy this season.
Puig was called up to the big leagues last June and immediately infused the Dodgers with energy to help turn their season around. He brings a big bat, strong arm and youthful exuberance needed to deal with a grueling schedule.
Knowing this, Mattingly needs to cement their names into the everyday starting lineup and play matchups with the left field spot. While Crawford, Ethier and Van Slyke have each done well enough in their chances, none stand out enough to warrant an everyday spot. In Kemp and Puig, the Dodgers have two talents that can only reach their full potential being in the lineup every single day.
Puig brings too many different elements to have him take days off simply because of a matchup on paper, while Kemp is still recovering from being out most of the last two years and needs playing time to get back to where he once was. Sitting Kemp a couple times a week disrupts his rhythm and doesn’t allow him to get into full game mode.
What Mattingly chooses to do in left field will be based on matchups, streaks and overall energy. Whoever the manager chooses to start, leaves the other two for late-inning pinch-hit opportunities. Having Crawford, Ethier or Van Slyke off the bench late in the game is a huge advantage for the team.
Also, a sense of routine is necessary in a game like baseball and knowing they will be in the lineup daily would add confidence to the Dodgers bigger stars. While the Dodgers could trade one of the left-handers to ease the burden on Mattingly, it is unlikely given the track record for injuries the past few seasons. This leaves the manager with a daily dilemma that can be easily avoided.
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