Thursday, June 6, 2013

So... what happens when the outfield is fully healthy?

The emergence of young Yasiel Puig this week has been amazing to watch, and a jolt the Dodgers oh-so-desperately needed.  He's already thrown a runner out at first to end a game, hit two homers, and even mixed in his first 0-for-4 night.  A little bit everything in three short days.

Of course, had Matt Kemp and Carl Crawford not been DL'd, this would have never happened.  But they are, and it did.  And that leads to a question that will soon need to be answered...

How will the Dodgers juggle five healthy outfielders?

Right now there's Puig, Andre Ethier, and Scott Van Slyke getting the playing time, with Skip Schumaker and Jerry Hairston also available.  Kemp and Crawford have big time numbers in their careers... and big time contracts, so they're not going anywhere.  Let's break it all down.

Yasiel Puig
.417 AVG, 1.000 SLG, 1 2B, 2 HR, 5 RBI
He's got the power, the arm, and a name value that is only getting bigger and bigger with each hit.  He knocked on the door with a huge Spring Training, put up great numbers in Double-A, and is getting LA as excited as Manny Ramirez's run in 2008.  Yes, his impact can be that big.

He's only played three games, so everything he does good or bad will get blown up.  If he continues to play well, and he certainly has all the tools to do so, there's just no way the Dodgers can send him back down.  In fact, they HAVE to keep him with the big club starting in the outfield.  They can't possibly send him down, can they?  Well, they shouldn't.

Scott Van Slyke
.255 AVG, .673 SLG, 5 2B, 6 HR, 11 RBI
He got a taste of the bigs last year, and he's really putting it all together this time around.  Of his 14 hits, 11 have been for extra-bases.  You don't think the Dodgers welcome that with open arms?  Of course they do!  He should be given a 10-year extension with those numbers.

Another part of his game that shouldn't go unnoticed is how hard to attacks the ball on defense.  Whether he's in right or left, he's not afraid to give up his body to make a diving/sliding catch.  For a big dude like him, that's great to see.

Andre Ethier
.230 AVG, .351 SLG, 9 2B, 1 3B, 4 HR, 15 RBI
Ugh.  That's the best way I can sum up his performance this season.  Mr. Ground Ball is another way.  He still plays well on defense, and that needs to be pointed out.  But that's the only thing that's gone right this year.

Simply put, he just isn't an impact hitter anymore.  It's getting pretty sad watching him fail over and over to make anything happen.  The worst part is that he's more than likely killing his own trade value with each at-bat.  I don't see any reason why teams would want to get him, other than the age old "change of scenery" excuse.  That's about it.

Matt Kemp
.251 AVG, .335 SLG, 10 2B, 2 HR, 17 RBI, 7 SB
Speaking of struggling, there's this guy.  He's currently on the 15-day DL with a sore hamstring, so at least he was smart enough to let the injury heal this time.  It's obvious, though, that he's not even close to fully recovered from his offseason shoulder surgery, zapping him of his power.  It looks like another lost year for him.

We've seen the best and worst of Kemp, and we should all know that he's bounced back from bad numbers in the past to put up MVP-like ones.  I don't see that happening this year, but hopefully rest will make him a pretty good one for the stretch run.  Then the power can return in 2014.

Carl Crawford
.301 AVG, .470 SLG, 12 2B, 2 3B, 5 HR, 13 RBI, 9 SB
He started off the year red hot, and has since fallen back some mostly due to an injury here or there.  He's on the 15-day DL with a hamstring injury as well, which obviously is scary for a leadoff hitter and stolen base threat.  He absolutely needs to be 100% before he comes back, as someone who plays a running style needs strong legs.

The good thing about Crawford is that he's not fully established as an everyday player at this point.  So, that will help Don Mattingly in getting him in and out of the lineup.  His body can't handle starting every game, which creates less headaches when filling out a lineup card.

Bottom Line:
If I'm Ethier, I'm very worried.  He clearly looks like the bottom of the list, even with Kemp struggling so mightily as well.  Kemp you can excuse for injuries, but not Ethier.  He's been just awful, plain and simple.  I have to think Ned Colletti is exploring more trade options for him. 

That leaves Crawford, Kemp, Van Slyke, and Puig as the top four.  As I said before, Crawford can play a lot, but can't start every game at this point.  I think Kemp should also be given that treatment when he first makes his return.  He's probably received too many starts based on his past numbers.  Now that he's banged up again, and with Puig and Van Slyke playing so well, it's not against the rules to let Kemp rest a little more often.  When Kemp becomes Kemp again, then you can write his name in permanent marker and move on.

I think Puig has to keep starting in right, if for no other reason that he's so exciting to watch.  I'm a little worried that Van Slyke could be the odd man out again, and it would be a travesty if he got shipped back to Triple-A again.  His average isn't high, but he gets powerful hits and plays great D.  Don't send him down!  Hopefully this isn't being considered, but I worry anyway.

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