Dodgers’ 2015 Outfield: Is There a Plan or Is It Just a Mess?

2014 saw constant change in the LA Dodgers’ outfield, some of it due to injuries, some of it due to slumps, some of it due to immaturity, and a lot of it due to the fact that the empty uniform non-manager Don Mattingly has no clue as to how to manage a major league baseball team. Yea, they won their division, a division with one other good team and three deadweights, and they skated to a division title, but then were blown out and and thoroughly embarrassed, yet again, in the post season. And as of now, managing the outfield in 2015 looks like it may be an even bigger problem for Mattingly than it was this past year.

It is astounding that rumors are rampant the the team is now trying to trade Matt Kemp. After two injury-plagued season, his 2014 second half was the old Matt Kemp at the plate,

though certainly not in the field. But, a power-hitting .300 hitter who drives in key runs is still worth his weight in gold, even if he can only play left field or right field, and no longer in center field. So what, they have two center fielders in Yasiel Puig, who played there almost everyday the second half of last season, and Joc Pederson, Pacific Coast League
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MVP who figures to be the everyday, or close to everyday, starter in center next year.

But, while rational thought says the Dodgers must trade one or two members of their overloaded outfield, those one or two guys HAVE to be, at what ever cost, Andre Ethier and Carl Crawford. Ethier had a bad year and has a big contract, and figures to do significantly more sitting than playing were he to still be a member of the Dodgers in 2015. The grossly overpaid Crawford had a decent year, when he was able to play, but the injury-prone left fielder is guaranteed to miss at lease 1/3 of every season, and his overall game has declined significantly from what he once could be counted on to produce. Even if the team has to practically give them away and pay parts of their salaries, that is what they need to do. Period.

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Without Either and Crawford, the Dodgers' starting outfield of Kemp in left, Puig in right, and Pederson in Center, will be solid. Back-up Scott Van Slyke is a solid number four outfielder, and can play any of the three outfield spots. Also, yesterday the team acquired veteran outfielder Chris Heisey from the Cincinnati Reds, for right-hander Matt Magill, who once was considered a top prospect for a rotation spot, but he failed badly in a brief stint with the team in 2013, and
he followed that with a bad, bad 2014 in triple-A (7-6. 5.21).

Heisey and Van Slyke backing up Kemp, Puig and Pederson would make for a solid if not exceptional defensive outfield, and while solid production should be expected from Kemp and Puig, the hope would be that Pederson is also ready to provide good production in the majors.

Trading Kemp screws that all up, likely causing the team to again have to rely on Crawford, which has seldom panned out since the 33-year-old outfielder’s acquisition in 2012. Don’t remember him playing for the Dodgers in 2012? That’s because he didn’t. He was injured at the time of the August trade, and did not appear in a Dodgers’ uniform until 2013. Over 2013 and 2014, he then missed 103 more games of the team’s 324 over those two seasons, right at that 1/3 mark.

Something else to keep in mind regarding the future of the Dodgers' outfield: Last week, 24-year-old lefty-hitting outfielder Scott Schebler was added to the 40-man-roster. Schebler is a top-10 rated team prospect, coming off two fine minor league seasons. In 2013, he hit 27 home runs, drove in 91, and betted .296 for A+ Rancho Cucamonga, and this past season, he hit 28 out of the park, drove in 73, and batted .280 in Double-A Chattanooga. He also has good
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speed, sealing bases in double-figures in each season. Another good season in Triple-A and he could be yet another everyday possibility in the Dodgers’ outfield.

So, is there a plan? If so, it’s pretty well hidden, other than hoping that in two or three years, a home-grown trio of Puig, Pederson and Schebler might just be the team’s everyday outfield. But, we are not quite yet even into 2015, and that poses the more immediate problem. And if there is a plan, it needs to include Matt Kemp.

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