A Tale of Two Spots in the Dodgers’ Outfield

When the season began, one of the major issues that the empty uniform non-manager Don Mattingly had to deal with was the fact that the Dodgers had four regular outfielders, not to mention another solid one further down on the bench, and that the team’s top prospect, also an outfielder, was getting close to being ready for the majors.

It was my feeling that as none of the four regulars had been injury free for much of the recent past, that things would pretty well work themselves out, with not that many games beginning with even three being healthy, let alone all four. And that was the story early in the season, with Matt Kemp missing the early games, Yasiel Puig running into fences and

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jamming thumbs on bases, and the like, and with Carl Crawford having his usual nagging pains and sprains.

But now, they have all been pretty healthy for awhile, and Puig's outstanding hitting has demanded that he be in right field every day. Timely hitting from that fifth guy, Scott Van Slyke, has also earned him an occasional start in left field, and that has meant, and will continue to mean, bigger problems with playing time for
Kemp, Crawford, and Andre Ethier.

While Kemp has shown flashes of his old self, the non-manager has criticized his defense, and his offensive numbers speak for themselves (264, 5 HRs, 13 RBI) and he has not started the last two games, with Ethier getting the call in center, despite his numbers being no better (.271, 2 HRs, 21 RBI).

Meanwhile, down at Albuquerque, Joc Pederson is hitting .346 with 15 home runs, 32 RBI, 13 stolen bases, and a 1.095 OPS. Those numbers are similar to Puig’s of a year ago when he got the call to come up (.313, 8 HRs, 37 RBI, .982 OPS). The 22-year-old left handed

hitter (also the same as as Puig was a year ago) seems destined to be the next regular Dodgers' center fielder, and the only area where he seems to need improvement before heading west to LA is in cutting down on his strikeouts.

The best team money can buy is floundering in third place, behind the surprising (but not for too much longer) Rockies, and the solid Giants. They have been in a funk for
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much of the early season, and now have won only nine their last 21 games. What is even more revealing is that their schedule so far this season has been really easy, playing only 15 games against legitimate contenders, and in those games going 6-9 including 3-7 against the Giants, losing two of three verses Washington, and splitting two with Detroit. The rest of the season has been played against sub-.500 teams such as Philadelphia, Arizona, San Diego, and the like, and a couple of teams that have surprised by doing relatively well, so far, such as Minnesota and Miami.

So, as May comes to a close, and as summer approaches, 1/3 of the season is almost in the books, and it looks like the Dodgers need a shakeup that getting the starters healthy and getting A.J. Ellis back did not provide. Maybe last year’s Puig magic can be repeated, with Joc Pederson in center field.

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