Once again the Los Angeles Dodgers are primed for another season with an excess of outfielders. Of course, history has proven the depth to be a necessity. This year, the Dodgers face intrigue at the corner outfield positions.
Joc Pederson has essentially cemented himself as the everyday starter in center, gaining Dodgers manager Dave Roberts’ confidence to use him against a left-handed pitcher with more frequency this season. The outlook for others, namely Yasiel Puig, is more unclear.
After returning from a demotion to Triple-A Oklahoma City, Puig spent the final month of the regular season and playoffs as part of a platoon with Josh Reddick in right field.
Reddick signed with the Houston Astros during the offseason, though the reins have not been handed over to Puig. He expressed a desire to play everyday, whether with the Dodgers or another team.
Los Angeles has maintained the club is in better position when Puig is performing well and thus warranting starts on an everyday basis.
Roberts reiterated that stance on Wednesday and went so far as to mention Puig as arguably the top defensive right fielders in baseball, according to Ken Gurnick of MLB.com:
In the outfield, Roberts emphasized that having Yasiel Puig play right field every day would be a best-case scenario, if his performance justifies it.
“You look at his skill set defensively, there might not be a better right fielder in the game,” Roberts said. “The adjustments at the plate he made at the end of last season, we’re excited to see him out here. For us, the more he’s out there, the better it is for the Dodgers.”
Over 104 games (81 starts) with the Dodgers last season, Puig hit .263/.323/.416 with 14 doubles, 11 home runs, 45 RBIs and a 101 OPS+. In 23 games (13 starts) after returning from OKC, he batted .281/.338/.561 with four doubles, four home runs and six RBI.
Even throughout his slumps at the plate last season and in year’s prior, Puig remained capable of completing the near-impossible in right field. Though, his -0.3 UZR last season was down considerably from 5.6 in 2015.
Nonetheless, the 26-year-old is the Dodgers’ most dynamic outfielder and possesses the best arm on the roster. Last year, Puig led all Dodgers outfielders with six assists.
In a change from last offseason, there wasn’t much trade speculation involving Puig, though he reportedly continued to draw recent interest.