Dodgers’ Spring Training: The Outfield

Once again, seemingly as always, the Dodgers have a potential log jam in the outfield, though not as bad as in recent seasons. The primary culprit is the continued presence of Carl Crawford in a Dodgers’ uniform, but the hope is, as seemingly it is every spring, that he will be gone by the start of the season. If so, a course of action for manager Dave Roberts would be clear – a lefty-righty platoon of Andre Ethier and Scott Van Slyke. Both
players are coming off good 2015 seasons and both have been playing very well this spring. The same cannot be said for Crawford, who will be paid in excess of $21 M for the 2016 season. Whether he plays or not. The vote here is NOT.

The usually injured Crawford has managed
19 at bats this spring, getting three hits for a .158 average. He didn’t come close to earning his millions and millions last season, missing almost 100 games due to injury and hitting a robust .265. There is little question that he is untradable, and it is time to cut your losses and release him, turning over undisputed ownership of left field to the Ethier-Van Slyke duo.

Right flied belongs hook, line and sinker, to the seemingly healthy are better-adjusted Yasiel Puig, and more than one commentator says that as goes Puig, so go the Dodgers. I would not go that far, but a big comeback, and 155 or so games played, from Puig would be a major help towards the team’s unquestioned aim of a World Series berth. Given the current state of the Dodgers’ questionable pitching staff, they need not just a redoux of Puig’s power and .300 hitting in the batting order, but also a repeat of those 15 outfield assists he collected in 2014.

And that leaves center field, the UNQUESTIONED domain of Joc Pederson. It really burns

Joc Pederson LA Dodgers Majestic Authentic Collection Jersey
me up to hear local commentators say how Trayce Thompson “should be” or “needs to be” the center fielder, based SOLELY on their outspoken prejudice for the son of their friend and colleague, former Laker and current sportscaster Mychal Thompson. In no way, shape or form can Thompson's talent or ability compare to that of Pederson.

Pederson is no less than an “A”, maybe an “A+” prospect, while Thompson is a “C” to “C+”
prospect. Take for example their 2014 seasons, their last full minor league seasons. Thompson played in Double-A and in 595 at bats hit 16 home runs with 59 RBI and 20 stolen bases, while hitting .237. His CAREER minor league bating average, over seven minor league seasons, is .241. Conversely, Pederson spent 2014 in Triple-AAA, and in a comparable 553 at bats hit 33 home runs, drove in 78, stole 30 bases, and hit .303. Over five minor league seasons, Pederson’s lifetime average is .302.

At 23, Pederson is two years younger than Thompson, 25. and he has one full major league season behind him. During that season he showed that he already is one of the game’s premier defensive center fielders, and that he has major league power, clubbing 26 home runs. People seem to forget his spot on the National League All-Star team. His second half batting slump should not be viewed as nothing more than a pebble on the road to stardom, as his excellent start to spring training, including his .321 batting average as of today, demonstrates.

Thompson, on the other hand, had a couple of great weeks late last season with his former team, the Chicago White Sox, who saw so much in him that he was promptly traded during the off season. After Thompson’s great start at the plate, he then had his own slump, dropping over 100 points in his batting average by hitting .230 over the final couple of weeks of the season, and driving in one run total over his final nine games. As of this moment, following today’s spring game, Thompson is hitting .216 for the spring. Thompson is a fringe talent who, contrary to the musings of his supporters in the local media, is fighting for a roster spot as the last reserve, and likely he would only make the roster if Crawford is let go.

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