Hi, and welcome to another edition of Dodgers Dugout. My name is Houston Mitchell, and it’s only three days until the season starts.
Who’s going to make the team?
There are only three days until the season starts, and four Dodgers vying for the final two roster spots. Let’s take a look at the contestants.
Roster spot No. 1
Andrew Toles: He is battling for the backup job in left field, since it appears Matt Kemp will get most of the starts there. Toles is hitting .280 this spring, with four doubles and two homers. The drawback: He has drawn only one walk and struck out 13 times.
Joc Pederson: He is hitting .163 this spring with three doubles, one homer and two RBIs. The hope for Pederson was that after hitting three homers in the World Series he had finally turned a corner. But spring suggests otherwise.
Who will get the spot? Pederson. He has been getting the majority of starts this spring while Toles has been coming off the bench. Any rational person’s first reaction to this is “Why, when Toles is playing better?” The reason is that Kemp will get most of the at-bats, and with Toles coming off a severe knee injury, the Dodgers would rather have him playing every day and strengthening the knee in Oklahoma City than playing just twice a week in L.A.
Roster spot No. 2
Kyle Farmer: Farmer has had an amazing spring, hitting .351 with five doubles and three RBIs. He can play catcher and third base, which gives the team extra depth in the wake of Justin Turner’s injury. He also would allow the Dodgers to use Austin Barnes or Yasmani Grandal as a pinch-hitter late in games, since Farmer gives them three catchers.
Trayce Thompson: He is hitting .273 with two doubles and a homer this spring. A back injury pretty much ruined his last two seasons, and he is a career .233 hitter. He’s also hitting .150 in his last 100 major league at-bats.
Who will get the spot? Thompson. He is out of options, which means if the Dodgers try to send him to the minors, another major league team could pick him up without giving the Dodgers anything. Most teams don’t like doing that, so the best guess is that the Dodgers will keep Thompson and send Farmer down. I’d keep Farmer.
If Toles and Farmer are the ones sent down, I wouldn’t expect them to stay down too long. They are better players than Pederson and Thompson, and at some point, quality wins out.
Bad news for the Giants
The San Francisco Giants, who many predict will finish second behind the Dodgers this season, got some bad news last week. They lost two of their starting pitchers, staff ace Madison Bumgarner and Jeff Samardzija, to injury. Samardzija has a strained chest muscle and will be out about a month; Bumgarner has a broken pinkie on his left hand and is out 6-8 weeks.
With Bumgarner out, it looks like Johnny Cueto will get the opening day start against Clayton Kershaw.
Now the Dodgers and Giants open the season on an even playing field, with both teams missing key people. I’m wondering how those Giants fans who emailed to gloat about Turner’s injury are feeling right about now.
NL West rankings: the left fielders
Continuing the NL West rankings at each position:
A word on stats before we begin. OPS+ takes a player’s on-base plus slugging percentage and compares it with the league average. It also takes into account the player’s home field, so a hitter that plays in a pitcher’s park gets a slight boost, and vice versa. An OPS+ of 100 means he was an average hitter. 110 means he is 10% better than average, 90 means 10% worse.
WAR takes all of a player’s contributions on offense and defense and tells you how many wins that player is worth to the team as opposed to “what if that player was injured and the team had to replace him with a minor leaguer.”
As always, keep in mind that there is no one stat that gives you a full picture of a player and because I don’t want to bore you by just listing a ton of numbers, I pick five or six that give you a general idea of what kind of player each person was last season.
1. David Peralta, Arizona Diamondbacks (.293/.352/.444/99 OPS+/2.5 WAR). Peralta bats leadoff, gets on base a lot and plays Gold Glove-level defense. And most people have never heard of him. But he’s a good player and deserves to be noticed.
2. Jose Pirela, San Diego Padres (.288/.347/.490/122 OPS+/2.0 WAR). Pirela was called up from the minors in early June and quickly became one of the Padres’ best and most popular players. They went from a team with a bad record to going 36-39 in the first 75 games he played, which Padres manager Andy Green credits to Pirela, saying: “He plays the way you want everyone to play. I absolutely love it.”
3. Hunter Pence, San Francisco Giants (.260/.315/.385/86 OPS+/0.2 WAR). After almost 1,400 games in right field, Pence moves to left field this season. You look at last season’s batting numbers, which feature a decline in most categories, and you think the end is near, but he hit .289/.361/.457 after July 31, so don’t write him off just yet.
4. Matt Kemp, Dodgers (.276/.318/.463/103 OPS+/-1.3 WAR). Ever since leaving the Dodgers after the 2014 season, Kemp has done two things, and only two things, well: Hit homers and ground into double plays. So, when the Dodgers acquired him, and he was the opposite of what Andrew Friedman and Farhan Zaidi look for in a player, it was expected he would be traded or released. Then Kemp showed up in camp 40 pounds lighter and played like the Kemp that Dodgers fans remember. The question now is, can he keep it up? If he does, he would quickly move to No. 1 on this list.
5. Ian Desmond, Colorado Rockies (.274/.326/.475/73 OPS+/-1.1 WAR). If you are Rockies fan and you find yourself feeling blue because you are watching Desmond stumble through another below-average season, wondering why he is continually in the lineup, console yourself with this one thought: After this season, he only has three years and $52 million left on his contract.
Ask Ross Porter
Former Dodgers announcer Ross Porter will be back this season to answer select reader questions. To send a question to Ross, email me and I will pass it on to him. Please include “Ask Ross Porter” in the subject line.
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