After Cody Bellinger signed a one-year contract with the Chicago Cubs, manager Dave Roberts acknowledged the Los Angeles Dodgers had a need for an outfielder, and specifically a center fielder.
The Dodgers reportedly made a strong effort to sign Kevin Kiermaier, but he chose to join the Toronto Blue Jays. They additionally have been among the teams mentioned for a potential Bryan Reynolds trade.
To this point the Dodgers’ outlook in center field appears to largely center around Jason Heyward, James Outman, Chris Taylor and Trayce Thompson. Manager Dave Roberts suggested Bradley Zimmer could factor into the picture as well.
“I don’t. I think your guys’ guess right now is as good as mine,” answered Roberts when asked if he knew who the Dodgers starting center fielder is.
“I think Chris Taylor is in the mix, I think Trayce is in the mix, I think Heyward’s in the mix, I think James Outman is in the mix, and I think Bradley Zimmer. Great defender and trying to clean up some things with his bat.”
Roberts made his comments during Dodgers FanFest at Dodger Stadium, which was the first time since 2020 the event was being held.
Center field is one of multiple questions the Dodgers face this season. That level of uncertainty hasn’t been common for the team over recent years, but it’s not of much concern to Roberts.
“I don’t know if it worries me. I think how are we going to get the most out of our ballclub, you could almost argue through competition,” he said.
“I don’t think that we’ve really had that, which you could say is good or bad, over years past. But a little competition, earning playing opportunities, I think is a good thing.”
Potential Dodgers starting center fielder
The Dodgers signed Heyward to a Minor League contract in December, and he is among their non-roster invitees to 2023 Spring Training.
Heyward played 26 games (23 starts) in center field for the Cubs last, which was a position he hadn’t manned since 2019. Heyward had a -1.8 Ultimate Zone Rating as a center fielder last year and 1 Outs Above Average.
Considered the favorite by some to start in center field for the Dodgers, Outman at minimum figures to take on a notable role with the club this year. He was added onto the Dodgers 40-man roster prior to the 2021 Rule 5 Draft that wound up being canceled due to the ongoing MLB lockout.
When asked at Dodger FanFest about his expected role for the 2023 season, Taylor only predicted he’s likely to play more outfield than infield.
Taylor had previously expressed a willingness — if not desire — to play shortstop, but the Dodgers are giving that role to Gavin Lux.
During the Dodgers Love L.A. Community Tour, Thompson said the front office had not conveyed what his role will be, but noted they didn’t need to and he would prepare for any scenario.
Like Heyward, Zimmer was signed to a Minor League contract with a non-roster invite to Spring Training. The 30-year-old offers a better profile in center field than Heyward, but hasn’t shown much at the plate over a six-year career.
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