By: Noah Wright
This off season, The LA Dodgers will have to face a decision on what their starting 3 outfielders look like. They have 3 spots for 6 outfield eligible players, with all of them turning in above average seasons. The definite locks for the outfield is Yasiel Puig, and Joc Pederson. Looking at Puig first, The Cuban right fielder turned in another quality season, batting .267/.327/.494. Not only did he show power, with 23 home runs with a .227 ISO, but he showed off decent speed with 15 stolen bases. And while his defensive numbers were a bit down from career norms, he still was worth .1 dWAR, and continued to show off his powerful arm with 10 OF assists. In the other outfield corner, Joc Pederson, after struggling very much last year, had a nice bounceback season in 2018. In 443 plate appearances, Pederson batted .248/.321/.522, with his slugging % being a career high. He also stepped up his defense after being moved from center field to left field. As mainly a LF this season, Pederson had 1 DRS, .2 UZR and a -.4 dWAR.
However that’s already 2/3 spots, and we still have 3 other players that could take that last spot, and not all of them can play center field. Matt Kemp, even though he had a good season at the plate, and better overall defensive numbers than he has had the past few years, probably isn’t an option for center field. Plus with Kemp’s age and contract, it’ll be hard to move him. Two other options for center field could be Enrique Hernandez and Chris Taylor. Hernandez had the best season of his career last year with a .256/.336/.470 with 21 home runs, 52 RBI’s, and had a 118 wRC+ and played every position at least once except for catcher. Meanwhile, Chris Taylor turned in a .254/.331/.444 batting line with 17 home runs, and a 113 wRC+. That is a step down from his 2017 production, but still solid overall. Maybe the best option for CF is moving Cody Bellinger to a full time CF role, with Muncy being the primary first baseman, and Taylor and Hernandez sharing second. This would not only keep Bellinger’s bat in the line-up, but he also has positive metrics in center field. Throughout his career, Bellinger has had 7 DRS in CF, and 1.3 UZR. But even with an outfield alignment of Pederson/Bellinger/Puig, a second base duo of Hernandez/Taylor, and utilizing Muncy at first leaves Matt Kemp with a 4th outfielder role, and a very expensive 4th outfielder at that.
The best solution I see without trading anyone is leaving Pederson and Kemp in a platoon share in left field. However even though Pederson is much better against right handers than left handers, Kemp does damage to both. The other option is to trade one of the players that they have, but I do not see them trading Pederson, Puig, Muncy, Taylor, Hernandez, and especially Bellinger. Kemp is the most likely to move, but The Dodgers would have to eat part of the contract (again), package a prospect with Kemp and receive a lesser return, or send him to a team, straight up bad contract for bad contract. And that would be just to get rid of Kemp for the last year of his contract.
Even after going over all these options, it doesn’t end there. The Dodgers still have to factor in younger guys like Andrew Toles and Alex Verdugo. However they could go down multiple routes when it comes time to structure their lineup and roster for 2019. They could trade the veteran Matt Kemp, or have a platoon share in the OF. Regardless of what their final decision will be, they should still be one of the better teams in The National League.