There Is No Battle For LF, But the Bullpen Battle Rages

Contrary to what the Dodgers say, I do not believe there is a battle to determine who the starting left-fielder will be.  It has already been decided. When Matt Kemp showed up early to Spring Training 40 pounds lighter and looking to be in the best shape of his life, he had a leg up on the competition and when he blasted a HR in his first game, the deal was sealed.  Barring injury, Matt Kemp will be the starting Left Fielder and likely hit 5th. If you happen to believe Kemp will still be traded, well I want what you are smoking!

Not only has Matt Kemp shown up right (40 pounds lighter), acted right (no drama – he even gets along with Puig), said everything right (“That’s the thing, man, when you get older, you can’t ruin my mood.”) and hit everything right. Unless he gets injured, Matt Kemp will be the starting LF when Mad-Bum takes the mound on Opening Day (if he takes the mound). The thing is: Dodger fans would revolt if Kemp shows he can play and doesn’t!

The real battle is for who backs him up.  Kike Hernandez is the super-sub so he is not really in that mix. It will likely be Joc Pederson or Andrew Toles and the player that is the backup at the start of the season may not be the one there at the end of the season. I think Toles and Verdugo will start the season at AAA and Joc Pederson will be Matt Kemp’s caddy at the start of the season.

Trayce Thompson looks to be 100% recovered from his back injury and disastrous 2017 season, and I think he will play a lot this Spring so as to showcase him for a trade.  However, if the Dodgers don’t get a good return for him, he could make the team.

The Dodgers are making noises that they will carry 8 pitchers in the bullpen… which makes sense.  That would leave only 4 position players on the bench and would preclude the Dodgers from carrying 3 catchers.  If healthy, Austin Barnes is the backup catcher (some may say the starter). Kike Hernandez and Chase Utley are also on the team and if the Dodgers carry 8 in the bullpen, Joc Pederson would be the 12th position player.

That leaves, Max Muncy, Thompson, Toles, Verdugo, Segedin and Farmer at AAA. Muncy has been playing these first four games of Spring Training like his life depends upon it. Kyle Farmer is hitting out his wazzooo right about now and the battle is on for a couple of spots in the bullpen.

This Pen is No Bull

There are some very live arms at this camp, with several capable of hitting triple digits. The Dodgers have indicated that they may keep 8 pitchers in the pen, which would make sense, considering how they use the pen. If the Dodger carry 8 in the bullpen (and I am not convinced they will, with the 10-day DL and all), there are only a few spots available.  Barring injury, these guys are locks:

  1. Kenley Jansen
  2. Pedro Baez
  3. Scott Alexander
  4. Tony Cingrani
  5. Scott Koehler

That leaves the following pitchers as bullpen options (some have a better chance than others:

  • Ross Stripling
  • Wilmer Font
  • Brock Stewart
  • Yimi Garcia
  • Edward Parades
  • Adam Liberatore
  • Dennis Santana
  • Josh Fields
  • J.T. Chargois
  • Dylan Baker
  • Walker Buehler
  • Yasiel Sierra (slim and none)
  • Joe Broussard
  • CC Lee
  • Mark Lowe
  • Pat Venditte

… I probably forgot one or three.  My favorites would be Stewart, Liberatore and Font (I like Venditte, but I doubt he makes it), but it could be Parades or Garcia… or Lowe… or Chargois or Fields.  What’s your take?

Posted by Mark Timmons

We started LA Dodger Talk in 2001. This site is about giving another perspective outside of the average day-to-day reporting. We don't do game recaps or such things -- lots of sites do that well. I value sabermetrics, but don't think they are the "end-all-be-all.". This is where you should start your day as a Dodger Fan. Welcome! We'd like to hear your voice.

This article has 52 Comments

  1. It does not look good for Seager. It looks like his arm did not heal over the winter. He is on a throwing program already. That means Taylor may play SS. Joc, Thompson, Verdugo and Toles for CF.

    1. Hate to sound like Chicken Little, but the elbow thing with Seager has me perplexed. I thought the worst when Seager couldn’t play in the NLCS especially when we learned he had an epidural for his back ailment, but he did indeed play in the WS.

      If the medical team/FO/Seager opted for a rest approach this off season, when surgery was an option I am upset and confounded. Even if Seager has a UCL/bone spur problem he could have had surgery this off season and most likely make it back to full strength by August or so. If the pain persists and he now opts for surgery he’ll be lost for the season.

      Mark-do you think the Dodgers are slow playing this out of abundance of caution or should we, as fans, start to worry Seager’s elbow is a real thing and may put his 2018 season at-risk?

      1. I have heard that he rested all off season and did therapy. He did not throw until he arrived at camp and is not ready to make the throw from the hole at SS. He is throwing from 100 to 150 feet, so I have no idea if it is bad or good. I guess we will find out.

  2. My initial selection would be Fields (R), Liberatore (L), and Font (R). That would make 5 RHRP and 3 LHRP. With Font and Koehler, neither Stripling or Stewart are needed for long relief and may best serve the ML team as RHSP stretching out at OKC and be ready if the opportunity arises.
    I think Paredes could be outstanding. In 10 games and 8.1 IP in 2017, Paredes allowed a run in only one game…Sept 7 when he was torched by Colorado (as were other pitchers that day in a 9-1 loss). In the other 9 games, he allowed 0 runs, 4 hits, and 0 walks. Overall he had 11 K’s and 0 BB’s over those 8.1 IP. Those 3 runs in 0 IP on Sept 7 crushed his ERA, which is why an ERA is not ideal to measure relief pitching. His less than 1.000 WHIP is a better indicator. But I selected Liberatore because he has been there before, and in 2016 he was as close to automatic as there was.
    I selected Fields for the same reason…he has been there before, and for the most part has been solid for the Dodgers. Maybe because he is another Georgia Bulldog (with two of my favorites Wood & Farmer), I am an unashamed Josh Fields supporter. Does he have his moments with HR’s? Yes he does (10); as do most of the other Dodger pitchers last year not named Brandon Morrow. But for overall, Josh was 5-0, 2.84 ERA 57 IP, 60 K, 15 BB, and a .965 WHIP. Dodger relievers are going to give up HR’s because they are ENCOURAGED to work up in the zone with their heat. Sometimes those 4 seamers drop down into the zone, and get hit.
    Font is out of options, and now that he is encouraged to pitch up in the zone, he is getting much better results. Last year he led the PCL in both ERA and strike outs, as a starting pitcher. I have no doubt that he can relieve. I think it serves LAD the best to see what he can do at the ML level with his repertoire of pitches. He is out of options, and he would certainly be picked up, and I do think that would be a mistake. If he bombs out as a reliever, he can be a DFA candidate later in the season.
    Yaisel Sierra has virtually no chance of making the 25 man. He may make the 40 man and be picked up in September, but with his $6M AAV, he is highly unlikely to see Dodger Stadium before September when the pro-rata share of that $6M AAV would be more tolerable. If the Dodgers pick up an expensive trade deadline player, Sierra’s best chance will be 2019.
    I do not believe FAZ will mess with Buehler going between starting and relieving this year.
    I do think J. T. Chargois may have the best arm, but I think he starts off at OKC to prove he can stay healthy. But he could be up soon if anyone falters.
    I do like Pat Venditte, Mark Lowe, Justin De Fratus, and Brian Schlitter. All four have ML experience. But there is virtually no room for them. I see no spot for Broussard, or Sborz, or Sopko anytime soon. This will be the make or break year for all three, before they take the Jacob Rhame or Zach Lee route out of the organization.
    I do think Morrow will help the Cubs, and that Watson will help the Giants. But the Dodgers have MORE than enough arms to make up for those losses.

  3. Mark’s probably wrong on Kemp, but who cares.

    More interesting (to me) is this look at the rotation at FanGraphs.

    They say what many think, that the rotation and it’s depth are OK, but probably needs fortification because none of the pitchers are proven or situated to handle significant season-long workloads.

    Right now, the Dodgers look like the team to beat, at least in the NL West if not the entire league, thanks to their combination of frontline talent and depth. Via our projected standings, they’re forecast for an NL-best 94 wins, tied with the Cubs. Come late July, it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Friedman and Zaidi engineer another blockbuster if the conditions merit it. But between now and then, the team is one significant and hardly unforeseeable owie away from uncharted waters, and for all of the upside of their alternatives — who, let’s not forget, are vulnerable to injuries, too — the brass still has work to do.

    1. Given the track record of the last 3 years (Wood, Hill, Darvish), I would be shocked if we don’t trade for a starting pitcher at the trade deadline. Why pay for a front of the rotation pitcher for the entire season when you can rent one for three months. They have more than enough pitching to make the playoffs.

  4. Based on potential injury and added rest given to Kemp and Seager, Joc or Toles will get innings in CF as well as LF and Taylor will get innings at SS. Kemp and Joc/Toles will get 400 PAs and hopefully Seager will get 600 but maybe 400 is in the cards for him as well.
    I like Font in the bullpen. I like Stewart and Stripling in the OK rotation to start the season. I like Garcia to make a solid contribution during the season and still worry about Baez and Fields.

    1. I see stripling making the roster and stewart stretching out in AAA. with font stashed on the roster as well, I have a finished 8 man bullpen:


      i’d love to see yimi or paredes or one of the NRIs but if we can keep them, history suggests we’ll stash them in AAA

      do we know the opt-out clauses in any of the NRIs deals?

  5. The 4 man bench causes big problems. The Dodgers have resolved some of these by having Swiss Army Knife players who can do many things, like Kike Hernandez, Chris Taylor and Austin Barnes. This is the problem of resigning Chase Utley who really only plays 2B notwithstanding efforts at 1B and 3B. This is also the problem with keeping Matt Kemp who really can only play one OF spot given his recent past (LF). I much prefer a 5 man bench for this reason.

    If I were the king I would keep a 5 man bench – the other catcher (Grandal/Barnes), Kike, the other LF (Kemp/Joc), Utley and Toles.

    If the Dodgers keep 8 for the ‘pen, I would keep Jansen, Cingrani, Alexander, Koehler, Baez (ugh). I agree with AC – try to keep Font as long man since he doesn’t have options and stretch Stripling and Stewart out in AAA. As Bluto said, we have 5 fragile starters in the rotation and we will need more than spot starts of 3 or 4 innings from someone else. I think that Fields makes it and that’s 7. If they keep 7 then that would probably be it. If it’s 8 then they keep one more lefty – either Parades or Liberatore. I suspect the latter has the edge.

    I am not too keen on 2 homer-prone relievers with straight fastballs and am more than a little concerned about the Baez/Fields combo.

  6. the best that can be said for baez and fields is that we can ride them hard before ditching them come the postseason. they are decent regular season options to have.

  7. Utley: He is a slow starter – Don’t judge him by what happens now. That said, he may decide to hang it up. That would not surprise me.

    Baez: I think he can improve this year. He hasn’t been pitching that long.

    Fields: Better than you think.

    Stewart: I am violently opposed to him as a starter. I think he will be a trememdous reliver and a AAAA starter!

    Lincecum: If he can pitch, bring him on.

    Kemp: Starting Left Fielder and an asset to the team. I have never been a Kemp fan, but I think he has one OUTSTANDING year in him… maybe two!

    1. theory: we are playing poker with kemp. we have no desire to have him on the team. we will give him every chance to do well before we trade him for the best offer. if no offer comes, we decide whether to ditch him or give him a shot. best case scenario is he’s the rh half of a lf platoon until he breaks down or a ball hits him in the head. i’m rooting hard for him but i’m not buying anything from the first week of spring training.

      1. Dionysis

        And we aren’t playing poker with Joc, after three years?

        And like I already said, Kemp hits righties better then Joc, and lefties too, so why would you put Kemp in the short side of a platoon, with Joc?

        That just doesn’t make sense.

        I haven’t read , or heard, anyone say, that Kemp can’t hit, so if he can play adequate defense in left, the job is his.

        And non of this is based on the first week in spring, unless we are talking about Kemp coming to spring in great shape, and with a new attitude.

        1. MJ, I’m not sure why you throw away .OBP. I agree Joc has a lot to prove and improve. However, here are some numbers to look vs RH pitching:

          2015 Joc .361 .OBP &.784 .OPS; Kemp .305 .OBP & .736 .OPS
          2016 Joc .371 .OBP & .918 OPS; Kemp .293 .OBP & .761 .OPS
          2017 Joc .340 .OBP & .768 ,OPS; Kemp .314 .OBP & .808 .OPS

          I don’t see anything there that give Kemp an overwhelming advantage vs RH pitching. Kemp’s .OBP is abysmal and so was Joc’s batting average last year. Between Kemp’s hips and hammies I don’t think they are going to push him to play every day against RH pitching. If Kemp could pull his .OBP up to the .340 range at least it would help a lot. If Joc could hit .250 with his .OBP skils that would help a lot as well.

          1. Hawkeye,
            MJ’s inability to understand just what OBP/SLG/OPS will drive most to insanity.
            Trust me, it’s based on irrationality and an refusal to realize what those stats are designed to quantify

          2. Hawkeye

            Joc has still not proved he can hit consistently, after three years!

            And if it isn’t Kemp, then Toles should get this chance.

            And remember, Joc is hitting eighth most of the time, and Kemp is hitting fourth.

            And it is a lot easier to pick up walks hitting eighth, like Joc usually does.

            Do you really think Joc’s OBP would be that high, hitting fourth?

            And Joc still has not hit 250 for the season, after three years, so that is not a given.

            I think everyone is going to get timely days off.

            And I don’t think most anyone including you, would want Joc up in a RBI situation, over Kemp.

            Because Joc still has not made an adjustment, in these situations.

          3. Joc wasn’t hitting 8th last year until he went into the nosedive, but yes I agree AB’s in the 8 hole has had an effect on his stats. His walks dropped when they tried him at leadoff, but that was his rookie year. I can’t remember where he hit in 2016, but I would happily take those numbers against righties. I don’t know what Kemp’s clutch numbers vs Joc’s clutch numbers are during those periods, but I think you might be right. However, Joc hit .269 vs righties in 2016. That would make for a good platoon with the .OBP and .OPS.

  8. “we forget what we want to remember and remember what we want to forget” –Cormac McCarthy

    a few things:

    1. we still have urias and buehler for the second half of the season
    2. we just need one of Santana/white/alvarez to hit for us to have another stud arm in the wings
    3. alex Verdugo not only exists, he’d be the starting lf on many mlb teams this year
    4. kyle farmer, locastro, muncy, & peters will be rotated onto the roster throughout the year
    5. we have plenty of potential DHs for when the need arises: seager/grandal/kemp?
    6. trayce Thompson would look nice in a pirates uniform
    7. as much as we may dislike Utley’s skills, his experience makes him a lock for any roster imaginable
    8. a few trades could really clear some things up here
    9. maeda is a reliever. his contract complicates things. come October he’ll be back to setting up kj
    10. toles feels like last year’s chris taylor–a guy who may not make the team but could impact the season majorly

    1. Bluto

      I understand those numbers.

      I just don’t agree with your assessment, that Joc was the second best offensive player on this team in 2016, because of his OPS.

      And I also don’t think it takes a lot of talent, to pick up walks hitting eighth, when a pitcher is coming up to bat, next.

      And an OBP based more on walks, from a hitter that is hitting eighth, is not impressive to me either.

      And without even looking at any numbers, I already knew that Turner was the second best offensive player on the team, in 2016.

      1. The Padres spent big and made a log of big moves 3 years ago. They brought in Kemp, Upton, and some others. Can’t blame his failures on the lineup. His attitude and conditioning were called into question for a reason. I’m glad to see him in shape.

  9. The Dodgers will use the 10 day DL to effectively give them more bench players, a bigger bullpen and hide players without options.

    1. Utley is the definition of ‘pro athlete’. Even Brian Kenny said he doesn’t have to go by specs that Utley is HOF without bothering researching. I’m thrilled he’s in the clubhouse to keep those egos in check. Besides, he’s always been a Dodger at heart and I hope he’ll be part of the future Dodgers in some capacity.

  10. Old friend alert:
    Frankie Montas is 93-95, flashed a plus slider in first inning of work. It’s early, but Montas was 98-100 pretty consistently 18 months ago.

    1. In a year or two, these players will be mentioned in the same sentence: Seager, Bellinger, Kershaw, Ruiz. He’s comimg and he’s special. I’ve been saying that for a year and a half.

      I’ve also been saying Matt Kemp will be the LF and I’m not probably wrong. I’m absolutely right. Watch and see!

      1. Kershaw is a Hall of Famer. Seager has played 2 years in MLB; Bellinger 1; Ruiz might make it one day.

        No one is going to mention the other guys in the same breath as Kershaw until they have 10 years in the Bigs and the same type of numbers as Kershaw.

    1. I have been saying that for a long time.

      I am not happy with his playoff failures, but Koufax was the best in baseball for 5 years. Clayton has been the best for 10 years.

  11. If Utley makes the team it is not because of his bat. His bat has termites.

    It’s not just Seager’s arm I am worried about but Barnes’ also. Neither has made a throw in ST

    Lincecum does not look good in blue, but come to think of it Texas has blue jerseys almost the same color of the Dodger’s. He looks good in Texas blue.

  12. The Battle For Left Feld
    Thompson is 4 for 10, 1 rbi, no walks, 1 strikeout, and 1 stolen base.
    Kemp is 2 for 7, 3 rbi’s, 1 home run, 1 walk, and 1 strikeout.
    Toles is 0 for 7 with no walks and 4 strikeouts.
    Pederson is 1 for 8 with 1 walk and 4 strikeouts.

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