One of the deeper units across baseball is the Dodgers’ outfield group, which boasts four big league caliber starting players and a top ten outfield prospect (per MLB.com’s 2014 rankings) who is nearly ready to ascend upon Chavez Ravine as well.
The Dodgers outfield on the whole hit .271/.339/.408 last year, and that’s with just half a season of Puig and Kemp each, as well as considerable amounts of playing time given to also-rans like Scott Van Slyke (.353 wOBA but limited track record), Skip Schumaker (.301 wOBA), and Jerry Hairston Jr (.244 wOBA).
Puig may indeed see regression, but as a whole this should still compete to be one of the best offensive outfields in the game. Defensively is a different story, as only Crawford and Puig are particularly good in their corners, while either centerfield option is a borderline disaster. That shouldn’t concern the fantasy owner a whole lot, however.
Yasiel Puig – RF (.398 ‘13 wOBA | .370 Steamer | .376 Oliver):
It’s virtually impossible for Puig to sustain his awe-inspiring 2013 debut, but both projection systems have him likely finishing among the top 20 or so hitters (loosely compared to 2013 wOBA leaders). As long as Puig stays out of Don Mattingly’s doghouse, he could just as well change his address to right field at Dodger stadium.
Matt Kemp – CF (.316 ‘13 wOBA | .346 Steamer | .331 Oliver):
It almost feels like a folly to call Kemp a ‘full-timer’ based on his health woes and reports he may not rush back for opening day, but when healthy it’s clear he’s in this boat. Kemp had a terrible 2013 season (.270/.328/.395, .316 wOBA) which was marred by him playing just 73 games due to shoulder and ankle woes which may linger into the early parts of the 2014 season. Kemp is under contract for two more years at $21 million and four more after that at $21.5.
Carl Crawford – LF (.322 ‘13 wOBA | .322 Steamer | .327 Oliver):
In some ways Crawford experienced a rebound (games played, batting average, OBP) to career norms, but for the second year in the past three the outfielder’s power completely flatlined to the tune of a slugging percentage in the low-.400s. With declining stolen base totals (now in the high teens, previously averaged around 50) no real power to speak of, and a possible platoon situation with Ethier looming longish-term, it’s going to be hard to justify using a pick on Crawford in shallow redrafts.
Andre Ethier – LF/CF/RF (.340 ‘13 wOBA | .338 Steamer | .328 Oliver):
Kemp’s health issues make it easy to see a situation in which Ethier could get quite a bit of playing time in center early on even before figuring him into the mix as a handsomely paid fourth outfielder. The Dodgers depth might actually be beneficial for Ethier, whom could now be shielded versus lefties. He’s only hit .235/.294/.351 against them in his career, versus a .309/.388/.518 mark against righties. Ethier is clearly a better hitter than Crawford, and should be the preferred fantasy option even with his position up in the air in my view.
The bench options
Scott Van Slyke (.353 ‘13 wOBA | .327 Steamer | .324 Oliver):
Van Slyke got considerable playing time last year, and did well to capitalize on it by hitting seven home runs in just over 150 plate appearances. That’d extrapolate out to nearly 30 over a full season, giving one a pretty good glimpse into the sort of power that the son of Andy Van Slyke possesses. The troubles for Van Slyke long term include that he doesn’t play centerfield, and that he’s had some trouble making contact (.219 average, 24.4% K rate) in his limited big league experience (just over 200 PA). Still, that’s enough of a sample size to derive worry how he’d handle himself in the big leagues long-term. Van Slyke can also fill in at first, but isn’t much more than a ‘break-in-case-of-emergency’ option over there. You know, like if Adrian Gonzalez were swallowed whole or something.
Nick Buss (.123 ‘13 wOBA | .286 Steamer | .296 Oliver):
Buss has drawn some comparisons to Chris Denorfia — via Baseball America — as a decent regular player, but he’ll likely have to beat out Van Slyke, who played well in the big leagues last year just for a chance to crack the team as a fifth outfielder. In another organization Buss might have a shot to be a fourth outfielder or second division starter. If Buss has a leg up on Van Slyke anywhere, it’s in his ability to play centerfield.
Mike Baxter (.262 ‘13 wOBA | .314 Steamer | .308 Oliver):
Baxter has some on-base skills (11.3% BB rate, .106 iso OBP), but can’t hack centerfield and that makes him a poor choice to latch onto to the back-end of this 25-man roster.
Dee Gordon (.273 ‘13 wOBA | .278 Steamer | .280 Oliver):
Gordon’s played infield exclusively as a pro, but according to Pedro Moura of the Orange County Register, he could be a dark horse backup centerfield option. A former top-30 prospect, Gordon’s future is looking pretty dim in Los Angeles. A trade might be best.
Joc Pederson (.398 ‘13 wOBA (AA) | .311 Steamer | .321 Oliver):
Pederson ranked seventh among outfielders in MLB.com’s recently released prospect ratings, and after a solid season at Double-A Chattanooga — where he was teammates with Puig for a spell last year — seems nearly ready to make the jump. In fact, both projection systems put him right in the mix as one of the better options to fill out the Dodgers outfield depth next season. That won’t happen, of course, but Pederson has the tools and ability to play any spot in the outfield. That could come in handy if a number of plausible dominoes topple, such as Kemp’s or Crawford’s injuries, Puig’s uneven behavior, or Ethier’s trade market developing. All-told it’s unlikely Pederson holds any value at all in redraft leagues, but he’s an intriguing prospect chip regardless of if the Dodgers hold him long-term, or move him.
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