Positional Preview 2018: Centerfield

Chris Taylor-NLCS

For today’s positional preview we move over to center field. We’re expecting for Chris Taylor to be the club’s primary centerfielder opening the 2018 season. Taylor was not the team’s opening day center fielder originally. It’s been so long we’ve almost forgotten but Joc Pederson was the Dodger’s regular center fielder, until injuries sidelined him for extended periods Taylor filled in early in the 2017 season and played so well that the Dodgers eventually pushed Joc into left field. If Taylor can reproduce his fantastic 2017 then he’ll stay there and Joc would be left to battle for left field. Taylor’s impressive breakout season culminated with him winning the Co-NLCS MVP award when the Dodgers defeated the Cubs to capture the National League Pennant.

Before the 2017 season Taylor was nothing more than a light hitting utility player. He was a fifth outfielder at best. The Dodgers acquired him from the Mariners in the Zach Lee swap. Initially he did not impress batting .207 in 62 plate appearances in 2016.

You have to tip your hat with the way Taylor reinvented himself last year. It took a lot of hard work and dedication. The right handed hitter tweaked his batting mechanics, and changed his approach. The numbers were terrific. Taylor slashed .288/.354/.496 with 21 home runs and 72 runs driven in over 568 plate appearances. Taylor’s combination of power and patience was a big recipe for success for the Dodgers at the top of the lineup. Taylor drew 50 walks and posted an 8.8% free pass rate. His isolated power was a .208 clip.

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There was a reason the Dodgers left Taylor in the lead-off spot for the majority of the year. He batted .302 in the top spot and hit .310 on the first pitch. When he led off an inning, he batted .291. Fifteen of his 21 home runs were hit from the lead-off spot. He was also quality on the base paths, swiping 17 bags during the 2017 campaign.

The question everyone is asking is whether Taylor can continue his success in 2018. Most of the projections show that Taylor’s production could dip, but will still be above average. Here’s what Steamer thinks Taylor will do in 2018.

Chris Taylor 2018 projections-Steamer-.263/.329/.459 13 HR 58 RBI 8.4% BB/ 22.8% K .146 ISO

Defense

Not only did Taylor have a successful season with the bat, but he also was solid as a rock with the glove. He appeared in 96 games as an outfielder, (49 of them in centerfield) and tallied 5 defensive runs saved with a +7 total zone fielding runs above average. Before he was ushered into center field he was also a backup in the infield. Taylor played 22 games at second and 14 games at shortstop filling in for Logan Forsythe and Corey Seager respectively when needed. He was rated well above league average at both positions. The 27-year old also saw 8 games at third base as well.

Postseason

Taylor had a very productive postseason overall, but most of the heavy lifting was done during the NLCS. He batted .231 (3 for 13) in the NLDS against Arizona. Then he went on to post a .316/.458/.789 slash line in the NLCS with two home runs, five walks and four extra-base hits. That helped him earn the Co-NLCS MVP award alongside Justin Turner in the Dodger’s five-game NLCS victory that sent the club to their first World Series trip since 1988. During the fall classic Taylor hit just .222 (6 for 27) with a home run and four runs scored.

Other options

If Taylor falters the Dodgers to have other guys who can play center field. Rookie Alex Verdugo and Joc can both man the position. Verdugo is probably expected to start the season in Oklahoma City unless he impresses in spring. The Dodgers also have Enrique Hernandez who has had considerable amounts of time in center as well. Don’t forget that Andrew Toles can play center too, if he is able to properly heal from his torn ACL that ended his season early last year.

Overall the Dodgers have a lot of quality options in center field. The ideal situation is for Taylor to continue his brilliance in center and atop the lineup. If for any reason he falters or gets hurt the Dodgers have plenty of depth behind him to survive.

Scott Andes

Scott Andes

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

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31 thoughts on “Positional Preview 2018: Centerfield

  1. Good write up Scott. We have a quality CF and good depth in CF. With Utley back, we do lose a roster spot, and maybe it’s better to have Joc and Toles playing the occasional CF rather than Taylor having to cover for Forsythe from time to time. If Taylor gets into a slump we can have platoons at LF (assuming Kemp is starting) and CF. Actually we could have rotating platoons at all three OF spots with Puig, Taylor, Kemp, Toles and Joc. Its a long season.

    I am worried about our pitching depth. For once FBZ is finally on board with giving the kids a chance to stick in the rotation. The inning limits have not worked. While Stripling and Steward certainly deserves their shots, I would not over look Font, and Roberts said yesterday that Terry Owens is one of the most exciting players in spring training. Very interesting comment!

    1. YF

      I don’t see another leftfielder, out hitting Kemp, so why would you platoon for him?

      I understand days off, but Roberts has already said, Taylor is our centerfielder, and Puig is the rightfielder, so I don’t see any platoons.

      Kemp hit better against righties, then Joc did.

      1. It’s a long season. I think with so many young players we will see a platoon in LF. And to get more speed once in a while. Unless there’s no roster space.

        Look back at the past few years, even with Taylor hitting the cover off the ball they still started him in the minors. They have their long term strategic plan for the long season and I think they make their decisions based on the plan, and it’s going to be very difficult to change that based on what happens in spring training short of an injury.

        1. YF

          Like I said, I understand days off, for the long season, but Kemp is not going to clog bases up like Agone did, especially after losing forty pounds.

          Kemp actually said he wants to steal twenty bases this year, and I know he has stolen that many bases in a season, after he had came back from injuries, after he left the Dodgers.

          But I don’t think he did that last year, because of his hammy issues.

          But I really rather he didn’t try to steal to many bases, because that may be pushing it, to much.

          Because his bat could really be a difference maker, especially if Turner Ward can help Kemp lay off those sliders, on the outside corner.

          And you know, I like Toles a lot for left, in the long run, but I rather have Toles playing everyday in AAA, then sitting on the bench, so he will be sharp, if he is needed.

  2. Considering the fact that he had never played the position, Taylor did a very good job. There were times when he looked like what he was, an infielder playing the outfield. But by the end of the season I was pretty comfortable with him manning the position. I would much rather see him as the full time 2nd baseman because I believe he is a whole lot better than Forsythe. I also believe that when Forsythe is no longer a Dodger, Taylor will move back to the infield since the Dodgers have a bunch of very capable players who can play that position now and in the future. JD Martinez to the Red Sox for 5 years, 110 million dollars. Lost 15 mil waiting around as he had a 5/125 offer on the table. D-Backs sign Dyson for 2 years. Pace of play rules will be in force in 2018, but no pitch clock. Lincecum has a major league offer according to sources and it is not from the Giants.

  3. Terry Owens? I read Henry. Whatever. He will be get his chance. Hope he is ready.

    I think we have plenty of outfielders. I’m confident it will work itself out, though I don’t see any sure fire All Stars out there. I’d rather have Taylor at second, and to see his Steamer projections is discouraging. If that happens it would be a rather significant setback. If he’s a .329 OBP guy, who leads off? Fangraphs actually has him doing much better than Steamer – .282/.351/.447. Let’s hope he does that. Also, 110 runs scored. We are gonna need a lot of runs scored. The league looks better. The Division looks better.

  4. I think Taylor will outperform again (like Turner did in his second full year). After that, Forsythe is gone and second base will be a great fit (and Utley in his second year can platoon with him – can Utley learn third base?).

    Yeah – Henry Owens. Don’t know who he is but would be thrilled to be surprised. Its just an eyeopening comment from Roberts, as Owens has been a walk machine even before last year when they tried him as a sidearmer. Now he’s back to throwing overhand and word is Honeycutt has been working with him. When Honeycutt works with somebody and Roberts comments on it, I take it that Honeycutt has seen something he believes he can fix. If Owens turns out to be another Morrow – all should bow down before Mighty Rick. This guy’s career stats is just not that good but he was a 1st round pick.

    Lincecum is back throwing 91-93 mph. He would be a good add as bullpen depth (read: flyer).

    1. YF

      I agree about Taylor, he actually hit better in the second half of the season, although he didn’t have a good September, but he might have tired out in September.

      They said Turner hurt his back inbetween the National League Pennant and the World Series, so that explains why he was not the same hitter, in the World Series.

    2. Henry Owens. 1st round pick #36 of the Boston Red Sox in 2011. He is a LH starting pitcher, not a reliever with 16 MLB games under his belt. Career record of 4-6 with a 5.19 ERA and a 1.518 Whip with 71 K’s in 85 innings. Was claimed by the Diamondbacks off waivers on Dec 8 2017, and then claimed off waivers from AZ by the Dodgers on Dec 22nd. He is 6’6″ 220 lbs from Orange Calif. He is 25 years old and will be 26 on July 21st. Won in double figures 4 times in the minors with 17 wins at AA and AAA in 2014. Had cups of coffee in the bigs with the Sox in 2015 and 16 going 4-4 in 15 and 0-2 in 16.

  5. The Dbacks are going to miss the 29 HRs, and 60 RBIs JD Martinez hit in, in that second half.

    I am glad that Boston finally signed him.

      1. Bluto

        They had to try to keep up with the Yankees, but I will always pull for the Red Sox, over the Yankees.

        Although I don’t dislike these Yankees as much as I use to, hate the Yankees.

          1. Package

            The Red Sox and the Yankees, do get the top talent, like you talk about.

            So I thought the least I could do, was talk about top talent, to cheer you up, because I know you won’t be happy until, March 29.

    1. Tyler Colvin? Well, he did hit .223 the last time played in the Majors – four years ago. He’s 32 now, but has had plenty of time to rest up since then. I think he got a few minutes in the ALPB with the Long Island Ducks in ‘16. You all know how competitive that league is – but mostly he’s been playing golf, doing a little gardening and participates in some league bowling on Tuesday nights. Guess you can’t have too many outfielders, right?

      Wake me when the season starts.

  6. Good Dodger bits all around:

    FanGraphs prospect chat:

    Question: Hey Eric. Starling Heredia: why does he not seem to receive a lot of love? He’s in as a 40 FV, but just annihilated the AZL, and will play 2018 as a 19 year old. What are your thoughts on his ceiling, and is he someone who could shoot up your midseason list?
    Eric A Longenhagen We had him on our upside 40s and 45s. He has huge power and runs well for his size (he’s huge, definitely more than his listed 200lbs) but strikes out a ton and he was much more physically mature than his peers in rookie ball last year. He’s a high variance prospect with big upside.

    Question:
    Edwin Rios has hit everywhere but seems buried in the Dodgers’ system. What is his future?
    Eric A Longenhagen He’s 1B-only for me and needs to become more patient for me to feel good about him clearing that offensive bar. Can he really hold a .350+ BABIP forever?

    On TheAthletic the under-rated Pedro Moura has a bit on Grandal following Turner and Taylor into modifying his swing to increase launch angle:
    https://theathletic.com/246939/2018/02/19/dodgers-yasmani-grandal-now-a-launch-angle-true-believer-hoping-for-power-spike/

    Initially, Grandal stood “very against it,” he said. Slowly, he opened to the idea, aided by the internet and success stories of the likes of Josh Donaldson and J.D. Martinez. That day, what he saw and overheard intrigued him even more.

    “So,” Grandal said, “I started asking questions. If you can average about 15 degrees, you’re probably gonna have a really good year,” Grandal said. “Look at Daniel Murphy. When he was with the Mets, he was about 11 degrees. He hit .280. All of the sudden, the next year, he was at 15 degrees and he was hitting .340-something.”

    The great Andrew Friedman on the starting rotation and giving the young prospects a chance:
    “You look on the position player side and the young players we’ve broken in over the last three or four years, we need to start doing that with our starting pitchers, and get to a point where one or two spots are taken down by our good young pitching and letting them have a runway to develop.”

    “I do think this year will provide some of that, for our guys to have an opportunity to have a softer landing. After this season we’ll have a better idea of who we can pencil in and count on as we start spring training next year.”

    Roberts on Bellinger and Buehler
    The Dodgers have “no plans” to use Cody Bellinger in the outfield this spring, Dave Roberts said and mentioned that, Walker Buehler is expected to throw his first bullpen session in the next two or three days…

    McCullough on Font’s role for the coming season:
    Org depth. Could compete for a spot in the bullpen, but that’s a crowded field.

  7. Guy to watch in spring. RH reliever Joe Broussard. The guy had a great year at OKC last season. Has a plus fastball and racks up the K’s. Younger version of Morrow.

  8. Their outfield is going to be Peralta in left, Pollock in CF and Souza in RF. With Dyson as the swing man. Tomas is pretty much the forgotten man out there.

    1. “Souza is no Martinez”

      Well, he kinda is Michael. In fact, he had a higher WAR last year. Maybe he isn’t quite the power hitter Martinez is, but he hit 30 in Tampa and frankly he’s a better baseball player. This could be a very big deal for Arizona. Yes, losing Drury is notable, but the dbacks believe they have the pieces to replace him. And frankly they would like to lose Tomas if they could.

  9. I recall reading an article a few years ago about contraction and how losing both Florida teams would be beneficial to MLB. Selig was in favor of it. As we watch the Rays and Marlins tanking at the same time I wonder if it’s time to revisit the idea.

    1. Badger

      We heard Forsythe was a better baseball player then Dozier, just like you said about Souza.

      Souza has not even hit 250, in 4 years at the major league level, so he is kind of like Joc.

      I think Drury is a better player, so this might be better for us.

      And this was the first year Souza had an OPS over 800, and his OPS is just over 800.

      1. Yeah, Martinez is a better hitter, I agree with that. But I think Souza just might light it up at Chase. And, he is a better athlete than Martinez so the dbacks are thrilled to have him. We’ll see about the fit. No doubt Martinez will put some dents in that Pony League wall in Boston, but he’s been replaced in Arizona.

        1. Well he has to adjust to a whole lot of new pitchers he has never faced. Chase is a launching pad so he could hit a lot of homers, but he will be down in Grandal’s range BA wise. He is a better defender so AZ’s OF defense will be better. It is as always with a trade, a wait and see thing. He is only 28, so maybe his best years are coming now. Dodgers in open dialog with Kershaw concerning extension to his contract.

        2. But the D-Backs want to use a humidor now.

          Your right about the wall, in Boston.

          I just am not a fan, of all or nothing hitters, because they clog the line up.

          And I think their true offense is over rated, especially if most of their OBP, is based on walks, more then hits.

          I think Drury might really take off, in NY.

          1. Drury might. He has great potential.

            It may sound ridiculous but GMs value what the numbers they read TELL them to value. Souza had a higher WAR than did JD Martinez last year. That may not resonate with us, but clearly it does to today’s management. Though the game looks the same, evaluations are seemingly very different now. Launch angle is more meaningful than batting average. Framing is a thing. I’m a former ump and I remember those catchers who tried to “present” a pitch to me and I found it laughable. Apparently it works with today’s umpires.

            MJ you and I, and many others here, are from an era where batting champions were celebrated. Now it feels meaningless. But it is what it is. I’m working on understanding and accepting it. It often isn’t easy.

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