Veteran outfielder Carl Crawford went 2 for 3 with a triple in the Dodger’s 5-2 win against the Giants on Sunday afternoon. He also bumbled a routine fly ball in left field as well. Crawford has gotten off to a good start with the bat this exhibition season, but it’s Andre Ethier who will likely be given the left field job with Crawford serving as his backup. The Dodgers did not officially announce that Dre will be the starting left fielder, but he is expected to be and the Dodgers told Crawford to be prepared for a bench role. Crawford understood the situation and is focusing on his new diminished role as a part time player.
Of course this is no surprise to many of us who have seen Crawford battle numerous injuries over the last several seasons. Crawford can no longer remain healthy. He’s 34 years old and has not played a full season since he was with Tampa Bay. Crawford has battled constant rustiness since becoming a Dodger via the big trade in 2012.
Stalwart Andre Ethier is the longest tenured Dodger player in the organization (He’s been with the club since 2006) and well deserving of the spot after having a very productive season in 2015. Ethier slashed .294/.366/.486 while posting an .852 OPS with 14 home runs and 53 RBI in 445 plate appearances. Ethier played in 142 games last season. Crawford on the other hand played in just 69 games last year posting a .707 OPS in just 370 plate appearances.
Crawford was predictably unhappy about the situation, but had this to say. He seems to be taking it well.
“My goal this year is to just stay healthy and try to dig myself out of this situation. And I’ll do whatever they need me to do.”
Unfortunately Ethier has had trouble hitting left handed pitching throughout the latter part of his career. Last year Ethier batted just .200 (9 for 45) against left handed pitching, and has a career .234 average with a .635 OPS against southpaws.
However I believe you should look at a player’s contributions as a whole. Many people like to bring up the “can’t hit lefties” argument and I can’t disagree. One should also notice that Ethier crushes right handers to the tune of a .304 career average with 137 home runs. Last season Ethier batted .309 against righties.
Yes Ethier has problems hitting left handers, but that’s why you find him a platoon partner. Outfielder/first baseman Scott Van Slyke is still expected to share some time in left field with Ethier as part of a platoon. Since Ethier would play against right handers he would still get the majority of the playing time.
Ethier hits better as a starter anyways. He’s a .286 career hitter when he starts compared to his .270 average when he is a sub. As a starter Ethier has an .825 OPS and as a sub he’s posted a .784 OPS. You know what they say, you can’t play unless you play and Ethier has said as much about himself before. Ethier plays better when he starts.
Maybe newly acquired prospect Trayce Thompson impresses enough to get a longer look. Maybe somebody else steps up and is considered for the left field job. Ethier is still a good player and I think it would be prudent to let him patrol left field again. Hopefully the Dodgers will have to Dre to make it every day. With Crawford slated for the bench and Van Slyke needed as the lefty masher off the bench, it seems as if the left field job is Andre Ethier’s to lose.