Dodgers Left Field Competition: Who’s Your Starting Left Fielder?

The Dodgers don’t have a lot of open positions coming into the 2018 season. Of the starting eight positions only one is up for grabs as spring training approaches. As of right now Left field will be a battle between three players. The three men competing for the spot are Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, and rookie Alex Verdugo. You can make a case for all three, but all three players come with strengths and weaknesses. Joc and Verdugo may have a leg up on Toles because of health.

Joc had a rough year in 2017. Injuries and poor conditioning derailed him. The left handed hitting outfielder appeared in only 102 games and garnered 323 plate appearances. He posted a .212/.331/.407 batting line with 11 home runs and 35 runs batted in.

Joc’s plate discipline fell off quite a bit from his 2016 campaign to his 2017 season. His swinging strike percentage was 10.3% in 2016. That fell to 9.5% in 2017. But Joc didn’t swing at more pitches outside the strike zone. Actually it was the opposite. According to the numbers Joc swung at 24.9% of pitches outside the zone compared to 27.5% in 2016. However his line drive percentage (20.6% in 2016, 18.9% in 2017) and Hard hit rate (38.7% in 2016, 33.0% in 2017) all dipped considerably.

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His defense, which was once stellar, fell off the map as well. According to the defensive metrics, Joc cost the Dodgers 12 runs and was 10 runs below average. It’s hard to cover ground when you’re hurt and overweight. An early season collision with Yasiel Puig and a groin injury prevented Joc from being able to patrol center field like he normally was able to do. Joc was able to redeem himself by hitting three home runs in the World Series. Pederson hit .333 (6 for 18) with 6 runs scored and five extra-base hits in 20 Fall Classic plate appearances.

It’s important to note that Joc posted a 3.4 war in 2016. However in 2017 he posted a negative war for the first time in his young career.

Then there’s Toles. The speedy versatile outfielder came out of nowhere in 2016. That year he batted .314 (33 for 105) in 115 plate appearances providing a line drive bat with some good plate discipline. Toles was starting to hit well in May after a slow start, Before tearing his knee banging into the Dodger Stadium left field wall while going after a fly ball. He was hitting .360 in May before the injury. Overall Toles batted .271 with 5 home runs in 31 games last season. Unfortunately we don’t know if he’ll be ready by spring training, but if he is he should be a strong candidate in left field. Toles is still young enough (25 years old) to come back from a serious injury like the one that ended his 2017 season. After all he was bagging groceries before the Dodgers called him. The guy is very familiar with overcoming adversity.

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Finally there is rookie Alex Verdugo. The Dodgers drafted the 21-year old in the second round of the 2014 amateur draft. Verdugo isn’t a huge power hitter but is more of a contact hitting and defensive specialist. He had a terrific year in triple-A with the Oklahoma City Dodgers. He batted .314 with 6 home runs and posted a .389 OBP with 62 runs driven in.

The toolsy athletic kid didn’t perform well in his first MLB callup. The Dodgers waited until rosters expanded before promoting Verdugo to the major league roster. He batted an unimpressive .174 (4 for 23) with 1 home run in 25 plate appearances. You would think the lefty swinging youngster would be able to adjust to major league pitching easier opening the season with the big club.

All three players bat left handed so there’s no clear platoon advantage. Although Joc has a history of struggles against left handers. All three players will be competing for the left field job in spring training, unless the Dodgers make a move before then. So who’s your left fielder?

Scott Andes

Scott Andes

Scott Andes: Former Co-editor of Lasorda's Lair. Longtime writer and Dodger fanatic

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18 thoughts on “Dodgers Left Field Competition: Who’s Your Starting Left Fielder?

  1. I may be in the severe minority, but I am a realist, and with so many candidates I think we just keep the two that have the most question marks (ie the least tradeable): Kemp and Toles.

    A platoon of Kemp and Toles actually checks a lot of boxes. Kemp and Verdugo would be even better but I don’t think any team will take Toles.

    TradeJox and Verdugo while they still have value. I think if we don’t move Grandal, Joc and Verdugo, their value will evaporate.

    If they can move Kemp and either Toles/Joc, I would be pleasantly surprised. And we still have Trayce.

  2. I go with Verdugo. No, I trade Verdugo for Yelich. No, I platoon Kemp and Toles. No, I platoon Kiké and Joc and Toles and Verdugo and Kemp and I trade for Yelich. Yes, I have no idea what I’m talking about.

    With so little being said by anyone about anything who knows what is going to happen. Wait and see.

  3. Although I have wanted to see what Toles would do if he was given more at bats, I don’t think we know what is best for the Dodgers today.

    And I think Toles may need to test his knee more on defense, and I don’t think spring training will give him enough innings in the outfield, to do that, so he may have to play himself back, in AAA for a while.

    But I do think he has showed more what we need on offense, then the other young players, because he has hit consistently, when he was given the chance to start, most of the time.

    But it is a small sample size, like Badger has pointed out.

    And Joc has not hit consistently for much more then the hundred at bats, in each of his seasons.

    And because Joc has trouble hitting consistently, we have had to trade for a player, to try to pick up for Joc, in two, of the last three years.

    And we have no idea what Verdugo would do at the major league level, because he has not been giving a fair chance, to see what he would do at the major league level.

    But I agree with YF, we probably should trade certain players, before there value goes down, but we have never had a problem with to many outfielders, like we thought we would have, once the season started.

    And I am still not sure that Kemp will be traded, because his value is down, and I don’t think this front office have moved any of the players they have brought to the team, that fast.

    They have gave the players they brought to the team, a much longer look, then some of us, have liked!

    Think Reddick, Granderson, and Hatcher.

  4. There are a hodgepodge of choices. Making a definitive choice is almost impossible. Based on what they have done in their careers, a platoon with Kemp as the RH option would probably be the strongest offensively. But my gut tells me Matt is gone before or sometime during spring. Kike to me is not consistent enough to play everyday and would probably be ok in a L-R platoon. With who is the bigger question. Joc brings the most power, and I want to see what he looks like when he reports to the team in February. Toles brings the more consistent contact hitter, and by all reports he is getting better rapidly. I do not put the role in the hands of an untested, although talented rookie in Verdugo. He has shown the tools, but is not yet immersed enough in the system. I would welcome a trade for a regular, and Yelich makes the most sense. Thompson to me is going to have to show he is A. Healthy and recovered from his back issues, and B. More consistent at the plate. His defense has never been in question. So my obvious choice is Yelich. The rest is just a crap shoot. Considering the production they received from LF after Taylor moved to center, there is a lot of room for improvement.

  5. Lose Kemp, send him back to Rhianna (but she like everyone else doesn’t want him). Verdugo was severely overmatched and lost at the plate when he was called up, he needs at least one more year in the minors. Toles really is a great option. Hits, runs, fields and has a good attitude – time for him to shine and have his breakthru season, If healthy and given the chance he makes that breakthru this season.

    News out of Dodgerdom, Kemp has been cut from peanut vendor team, he just can’t keep up and has been a cancer among the other peanut vendors during winter training. Rumor has it, kemp is in intense training as he tries to get the feel for popcorn, so far he is burning more product than he is making well. Story developing, stayed tuned.

  6. Well I think that no one has a clue what Kemp will look like come spring training. Maybe Matt takes all this as a wake up call and is on a regimen to reduce his weight and add some speed back to his game. His pride is at stake. I seriously doubt he is enjoying the fact that for the most part he is unwanted by any MLB team at his age. I have found that counting players out just because of things that have happened in the past can come back and bite you in the butt. Case in point, Yasiel Puig. The buzz on here last year was trade the guy, and that was from the majority. Trade him and get this cancer off our team. Sure glad that did not happen. Of course the albatross in the room is Kemp’s contract. But until we hear different, Kemp is on the 40 man.

    1. Trade Puig?

      Good idea. Trade him and Grandal for Yelich and Realmuto.

      I didn’t really think that through. So what. One of my resolutions is to not think so much.

      I sure hope SOMEBODY in the organization is communicating with Kemp. He needs a sports psychologist, a team of trainers and nutritionists and of course the hitting instructors that will help him cut down on strikeouts. Yeah, I still believe strikeouts are a bad thing. Put the ball in play – it might fall in. A strikeout won’t.

      1. You and I from day 1 have been in the minority here on strikeouts. Probably because we were raised in an era where striking out was a no no. The only season I played in little league, I struck out exactly twice in 25 plate appearances. We only played 10 games. We were 8-1-1. The thought of not making contact was never in my mind. I waited for my pitch and jumped on it. Players today chase pitches they could not hit with a 10 foot pole. Strike zone recognition is horrible.

        1. I think the focus has shifted, indeed.

          It’s gone from striking out is a no-no, to minimize the # of outs made. Thus fewer sacrifices (giving away an out) and shift from slappy hitters.

          Similarly, on defense the focus has shifted from not making errors to preventing runs from scoring. Thus WHIP and exit velocity are key metrics for pitchers (allow less baserunners and less hard hit balls), and shifting and positioning for fielders.

          1. I think it’s all about OPS on offense and defensive runs saved on defense. OPS is easy to figure. Defensive runs saved algorithms are a secret.

            And there is BABIP. BABIP on strikeouts is considerably lower than that of pop ups or ground balls.

            The Rose Bowl without a PAC12 team in the game makes no sense.

  7. Interesting tidbit from Gammons:
    The Dodgers, who were thought to be a major player for Ohtani and who might have pulled off Stanton with a Yasiel Puig package, now become a team to watch. So are the Texas Rangers, with Daniels ever on the prowl. Would Toronto deal Josh Donaldson a year before free agency? Doubtful, but worth watching.

    1. Thought to be? By who? Yasiel Puig package? I recall us talking about a bunch of different scenarios, including that one. I think I mentioned a trade of right fielders could work. Is Gammons talking about me? That’s a joke.

      I do not expect anything bold from these guys. Do you? I don’t believe bold is in their nature. Do you? They’ve been here since October of ’14. This is their 4th off season. We’ve seen no AGon or Manny moves. We’ve seen Latos, McCarthy, Kazmir and Beachy. And yes, Taylor and Wood. I’m still waiting for the really big surprise.

      1. I definitely don’t see any moves like Manny or AGon. No need for it. The team is quite good.

        That said, those moves aren’t just made out of necessity, often they are made because unique opportunities arise (Boston was sick of Manny, Guggenheim wanted to lose the McCourt sheen.)

        I don’t see any reason this front office (or any other) wouldn’t make a move in that situation once the luxury tax is reset.

        This is why the Stanton thing stings so badly.

  8. Impossible to call it until we see what shape Joc and Kemp are in when they show up. An in-shape Kemp could be a real plus for us, as a platoon guy. If out of shape, cut him. Joc still is a big talent. Why did he get so fat? He’s a poster boy for the new uppercut swing. A Joc/Kemp platoon could hit 45 homers. I said could. Really? Maybe 35. Big question…can Joc go back to being a very good centerfielder again? If he can, I would move Taylor to second fulltime (because he’s a fulltime talent) and play Joc in center agaist righties and Toles is center against lefties. I would option Verdugo until he starts to bang for power. Then he’s worth a ton either for us, or in trade for a top young pitcher. Let Forsyth back up the whole infield–better fielder than Kike, who can be an all or nothing pinch hitter.

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