As the Dodgers head toward the first workout of spring training on Feb. 14, we are providing a breakdown of how they stand with their roster. So far, we’ve done the rotation, the bullpen and the infield. This week, the outfield:
The Dodgers’ World Series outfield featured two stories of rebirth – right fielder Yasiel Puig and center fielder Chris Taylor. The once-dynamic Puig regressed and was demoted to Triple-A and nearly traded by the Dodgers in 2016. He made adjustments – perhaps for the first time in his career – and rebounded with career-highs in home runs (28) and RBIs (74) last year, reversed a three-year slide in his OPS and played Gold Glove-caliber defense. Taylor, meanwhile, was a fringe major-leaguer with a future as a backup infielder at best until he made drastic swing changes last winter and learned to play the outfield, emerging as a catalyst at the top of the Dodgers’ lineup.
HOW IT LOOKS RIGHT NOW
Taylor’s versatility makes the Dodgers’ outfield a collection of moving parts. He could play center field again this season or return to left field where he played most often until mid-August – or second base against right-handed pitching, allowing the Dodgers to bench Logan Forsythe (.190 vs. right-handers last season) and play two left-handed bats in the outfield (some combination of Andrew Toles, Joc Pederson and Alex Verdugo). Left field became a void after Taylor moved to center field – one that Curtis Granderson couldn’t fill. The Dodgers expect Toles’ return from a knee injury to change that.
THE NEXT LAYER
Pederson is a candidate to make a Puig-esque revival in 2018. He has already done the two-year regression part of that process, including a demotion to Triple-A last season. He re-emerged (surprisingly) by going 6 for 18 with three home runs and two doubles in the World Series against the Houston Astros. Now he will have to fight his way back into the mix by outplaying Toles and Verdugo. The top position player prospect in their system, the 21-year-old Verdugo got his big-league baptism as a September call-up last fall. Verdugo proved to be immature – both on the field and off. He will have to take big strides in that respect to play his way into a prominent role with the Dodgers this season.
MOVE THEY COULD MAKE
Same as it ever was – Puig’s resurgence (including a strong postseason) was not enough to end the constant rumors that the Dodgers will trade him. Reportedly, the Dodgers floated the idea of sending him to Boston for Jackie Bradley Jr. this winter. Puig is in the final year of his contract – and was dreadful against left-handed pitching last season – guaranteeing that the rumors will continue in 2018.