The Los Angeles Dodgers aggressively used platoons last season, particularly in center field with Joc Pederson. However, splitting time with Kiké Hernandez eventually led to Hernandez taking over on a regular basis as Pederson continued to slump at the plate.
Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said during the spring he expected Pederson to once again take hold of the starting job in center field, citing his strong defensive skills. Days prior to the 2016 season beginning, Roberts said there would not be a “straight platoon” used in center field.
What’s transpired since makes it difficult to not view center field as a platoon situation.
“I think right now it looks like a platoon because Trayce has performed,” Roberts acknowledged prior to the series opener against the San Francisco Giants.
“I really like his defense at all three spots.” Of Thompson’s 12 games played, six have come in left field, four in center and two in right. He’s made four starts in center field and one in left.
With Madison Bumgarner on the mound Friday night, Thompson started in center, where he also played the game prior. “Trayce is a very dynamic player, he can play anywhere in the outfield,” Roberts said. “He’s continued to give us good at-bats, so although you want to get Joc out there as much as possible, I have to find ways to keep Trayce involved.”
Last season, Pederson batted .216/.295/.397 with three doubles, six home runs, 14 RBIs, a .298 wOBA and 90 wRC+ against lefties; he had 48 strikeouts to 13 walks in 129 plate appearances against same-side pitching. Although he indicated Thompson will factor heavily into the picture when a lefty is on the mound, Roberts intends to distribute equal playing time.
“It’s still so early. My mentality is to keep everyone involved,” he said. “I think right now, where we’re at with trying to throw even at-bats around, I think everyone is in a good place.” That includes starts for Thompson even when the Dodgers face a right-handed starter.
“We’re going to have a stretch of righties, and my plan is still to get [Thompson] out there,” Roberts said. “He’s performing, and I really like our positional depth.”
Thompson is batting .350/.409/.450 with two doubles, three RBIs two walks and five strikeouts in 22 plate appearances over 10 games; he’s 4-for-11 against lefties.