Dodgers

Dodgers could very well need that supposed surplus of outfielders

Did you hear? The Dodgers have a surplus of outfielders. Bodies everywhere. Experienced, talented players, starting caliber guys trying to shoehorn themselves into the lineup.

A budding problem, unless … the opposite turns out to be true.

How, you ask? How could a team with Andre Ethier, Yasiel Puig, Carl Crawford, Joc Pederson, Enrique Hernandez, Scott Van Slyke and Trayce Thompson possibly find themselves actually in need of an outfielder?

You know, like last season.

Every single one of those outfielders comes with some sort of question attached, the biggest being the ability of Puig and Crawford to remain healthy. Lots of options, little certainty.

Puig appeared in only 79 games last season, twice going on the disabled list with hamstring issues. The Dodgers asked him to report to camp slimmed down in an attempt to ward off future leg injuries, which sounds like a swell theory.

And let’s face it, with that humongous, broad back, he has an unusual body for a baseball player. He carried a reported 255 pounds last season. No one can be certain how that unique frame will hold up through the daily rigors of continued baseball seasons.

The Dodgers need Puig to play like a superstar, not just the decent player he was when healthy last season. The unknown remains a formidable part of his game.

Crawford will be 35 in June and hasn’t had a completely healthy season since 2010. Last season, he was felled by an oblique injury that took months to heal. Can the Dodgers truly count on him?

Ethier, used almost exclusively against right-handers last year, had a turn-around season in 2015. Right now, he’s the closest thing to a lock in the outfield, which is probably why he won’t be traded before his 10-and-five rights kick in at the end of April. In a month, he will turn 34.

Pederson turns 24 the same month and is coming off a season that was the tale of two rookies. He was an All-Star the first half (.230/.364/.487 and 20 homers) and all-bust the second half (.178/.317/.300 and six homers).

Van Slyke’s production dropped off in almost every category last season. He battled back and wrist injuries, the latter keeping him off the playoff roster. He turns 30 in July, and the Dodgers have to wonder if his star remains on the rise.

Hernandez became the utility player the Dodgers hoped they had acquired from Miami, playing every position but first and catcher. Most of his time was spent in the outfield, and with Howie Kendrick and Chase Utley both back and sharing second, that figures to be his main home in 2016 too. But he appeared in only 76 games last season.

Thompson, 25 in March, made his major-league debut for the White Sox last August, hitting .295/.363/.533, but only .203/.286/.391 in his last 20 games. He remains green and unproven.

Any combination of these seven could receive plenty of playing time, depending on the health and production of the others. Ethier, Crawford and Pederson bat left-handed; the others hit from the right side. There could be platoons galore, impacting the lineup on a daily basis.

A surplus of outfielders, but on a team unable to be certain what it will receive from any of them.

Copyright © 2016, Los Angeles Times
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