Heading into the 2017 season, Andre Ethier, Kiké Hernandez, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig and Andrew Toles figured to comprise the group of Los Angeles Dodgers outfielders. Chris Taylor, who played some center field during Spring Training, was thought to be on the periphery.
That changed when Ethier became saddled by back trouble that abruptly ended his spring and has since kept the veteran on the disabled list, and Toles suffered a torn ACL that required season-ending surgery in May. It created an opportunity for Cody Bellinger, who then became entrenched at first base in the wake of Adrian Gonzalez’s prolonged absence.
In turn, Taylor cemented himself in left field but has since slid over to center in the wake of the Dodgers acquiring Curtis Granderson and sending Pederson to Triple-A Oklahoma City so he can continue working on his swing.
Although Hernandez and Taylor have spent the most time in center field outside of Pederson, some within the Dodgers organization view Bellinger as the best option, according to Peter Gammons:
There are baseball people with the Dodgers who think Cody Bellinger is their best defensive center fielder
— Peter Gammons (@pgammo) July 13, 2017
Bellinger first played the outfield — center field — with High-A Rancho Cucamonga in 2015, which was his second year as a professional. He played 13 games in left field for Double-A Tulsa last season, 13 in center and nine in right.
The 22-year-old saw minimal time in the outfield with Oklahoma City prior to making his MLB debut on April 25. The Dodgers thus far have not shown any indications of putting their rookie in center field.
It may even be unlikely, as Alex Verdugo is expected to be among the early call-ups this month. Though, considering Granderson’s arrival and Taylor’s emergence, playing Bellinger in center may be a strategy worth pursuing, particularly for the playoffs.
Doing so would allow the Dodgers to field a lineup that includes Bellinger, Granderson and Taylor (second base) when facing a right-handed starter.