Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and we are five days away from opening day for the Dodgers.
Comparing the teams
Continuing each weekday until conclusion, I will take a look at all five NL West teams, comparing them at each position, the rotation and the bullpen. Every team will be ranked at each position, so we can get a better idea of where the Dodgers stand as they try to win their first World Series since the Reagan administration. If you see a stat you don't recognize, such as WAR or FRAA, just click on it and you will be taken to the explainer. All stats are courtesy of baseball-reference.com.
Today we move on to center field.
1. Charlie Blackmon, Colorado
Last three seasons: .299 AVG/.354 OB%/.480 SLG%/9.9 Offensive War/-0.9 Defensive WAR
Blackmon just keeps getting better, and you can't say it's because he plays in Denver: He has more homers on the road than at home last season. The only real negative to his game is he grades out slightly below average defensively, but his bat makes up for that in a big way. Blackmon is one of the best center fielders in the game.
2. A.J. Pollock, Arizona
Last three seasons: .308 AVG/.361 OB%/.493 SLG%/8.9 Offensive WAR/3.4 Defensive WAR
Last season was a waste, with Pollock getting only 46 plate appearances because of a strained groin and broken elbow. When Pollock is healthy, he is a dynamic player who combines power and speed; in 2015, he had 65 extra-base hits and 39 steals. He should bounce back to be the player he was in 2015. But he still will be only the second-best center fielder in baseball with a fish as his last name.
3. Joc Pederson, Dodgers
Last three seasons: .224/.349/.443/5.9/0.2
Like we warned with Yasmani Grandal, don't make the mistake of looking only at Pederson's batting average to judge his worth. Pederson is a guy who is probably going to either walk, strike out or get an extra-base hit in each at-bat. He hit .246/.352/.495 last season, and was even better in the second half, hitting .260/.380/.520. He still can't hit left-handers, but he is a much better player than many Dodgers fans give him credit for.
4. Denard Span, San Francisco
Last three seasons: .287/.347/.405/7.7/-1.6
Span signed a three-year, $31-million deal before the 2016 season then had one of the worst seasons of his career. He is getting worse defensively too, if you believe all the numbers. He should bounce back a little, but not enough to be better than the three guys ahead of him on this list.
5. Manuel Margot, San Diego
Last season: .243/.243/.405/0.2/0.4
The Padres' outfield is in flux thanks to injuries, and Margot could get some playing time in right field too. Manager Andy Green has discussed juggling his outfielders based on the configuration of the ballpark where they are playing, but here's guessing Margot will get most of his playing time in center. He has played in 10 major league games in his career. He is a Gold Glove-caliber defender, but the big question is his offense. Grading him fifth may be too low, or he may crash and burn like many prospects do.
This concludes the look at center field. If we assign points based on where a player ranks at each position, giving seven points for first place, five for second, three for third, two for fourth and one for fifth, then the NL West stacks up like this so far:
Colorado, 7 points
Arizona, 5 points
Dodgers, 3 points
San Francisco, 2 points
San Diego, 1 point
That brings the grand total after seven positions to:
Dodgers, 33 points
Colorado, 29 points
Arizona, 27 points
San Francisco, 26 points
San Diego, 11 points
Bullpen is set?
The Dodgers sent relievers Adam Liberatore and Josh Fields to the minors Tuesday, meaning their bullpen will probably be: Kenley Jansen, Sergio Romo, Grant Dayton, Luis Avilan, Ross Stripling, Chris Hatcher and either Brandon McCarthy or Alex Wood. I'll have more to say on this in the next newsletter.
Ask Ross Porter
Once again, former Dodgers announcer Ross Porter will be answering select reader questions. Email me a question for Ross, and I will pass it on. The answers will begin once the season starts, but send the questions in now!
Here's a look at all 189 regular-season home runs the Dodgers hit last season.