Going on the Offensive

I often border on the offensive… however, that picture is pretty cool: Orel Hershiser and Russ Martin.

How many teams have two starting catchers who can play several other positions? Russ Martin is a catcher who can also play LF, 3B, SS and 2B… probably 1B as well. Austin Barnes, who is also a catcher, can also play 2B or 3B. Now, I am not saying they are Gold Glove defenders there, but that flexibility could come in handy occasionally… and it could mean that the Dodgers could carry 12 position players and 13 pitchers, especially now that Andrew Toles is out of the picture (at least temporarily).

In addition to having two catchers who can play other positions, let’s look at the flexibility other players have in being able to play multiple positions:

  • Cody Bellinger – 1B, LF, CF, RF
  • Justin Turner – 1B, 2B, 3B
  • Max Muncy – 1B, 2B, 3B (Emergency C)
  • Kike Hernandez – Name it (Emergency C and P)
  • AJ Pollock – LF, RF, CF
  • Joc Pederson – LF, CF
  • Alex Verdugo – LF, CF, RF
  • David Freese – 1B, 3B (he can be an emergency C)
  • Chris Taylor – 2B, SS, 3B, LF, CF, RF
  • Corey Seager – Just a SS (what a slacker?)

This type of flexibility makes predicting an opening day lineup almost impossible. Who leads off? Taylor, Pederson, Verdugo, Pollack? It’s likely to be one of those four. Pick one…

There has been a lot of discussion about Alex Verdugo. It’s a running joke but I do not really think Alex will be Tony Gwynn, but he could be “Tony Gwynnesque.” He has a great eye, he doesn’t strike out much and he walks, which is why, with maturity and launch angle changes he could be a special player. He could also develop significant power as he does hit the ball really, really hard. All that is up to him and how he plays. Nothing is sure, however just changing a hitter’s approach on launch angle and keeping the bat in the zone longer can have a amazing impact on their power.

Look at Max Muncy. He’s a strikeout guy, but changing his launch angle gave him the ability to hit 35 HR. He struck out a lot before and strikes out a lot afterward, because he does not have elite bat-to-ball skills like Verdugo. After further review, I think I may have been wrong in predicting Alex would hit 20 + HR. I actually think it is double that! He will still strike out a lot less than Muncy if he changes his launch angle. In fact, staying in the zone longer can give him the ability to hit even more HR than Max because he makes elite contact.

I think the conventional wisdom that he will not be a HR hitter is wrong using the new techniques being taught by the new Dodger hitting instructors. Alex Verdugo could actually become a power hitter. Again, I am not saying that WILL happen – just saying that it could happen and maybe that is part of what Friedman sees in Verdugo. Usually, the guys we have heard about changing their approach and launch angles were not elite-bat-to-ball specialists. What if you try that on a guy like Verdugo? I think we may find out…

The Dodgers have several “all-or-nothing” hitters and while Joc Pederson has had some success, he falls into that category. I think the LF job is Verdugo’s to lose. How he hits will determine his fate, but with Toles gone, he will almost certainly break with the team.

There is also the perception that Kike is an “all-or-nothing” player. That is a misconception. He has cut his strikeout rate nearly in half the past two years and now strikes out at about a 12.7% rate. While he may never be JD Martinez, I do think he will improve again.

The Dodgers seem intent on putting Muncy at 1B, Taylor at 2B, Pollock in CF and Bellinger in RF. So, it appears that Pederson and Verdugo will fight it out as to who starts in LF. Edwin Rios has been mentioned as a player who could make the team as well. I happen to think he is a AAAA player. I think his bat is a tick slow for MLB. I hope I am wrong, but that’s the way I see it.

I was asked yesterday if I would rather trade for Kluber or Bauer and my answer was:

At this juncture, I don’t want to give up the requisite prospects for either one. Starting pitching is a huge strength for the Dodgers. Now, if Kershaw or others go down or lay an egg, then it can be addressed before the Trade Deadline, but at this juncture, I don’t want either one.

The Dodgers just signed Kershaw to a nearly $100 million 3-year deal. Yes, they did it to keep him in the organization as a Dodger for life and in that respect, it was a payment for past services, but if they did not reasonably expect him to pitch well for these next three years, I do not think they would have done the deal. If healthy (and he’s only 31) he has been the best pitcher of this generation and you have to let this play out… at least for a half-season. Get back to me at the All-Star Break on this.

Here’s another reason for optimism: Many Dodgers, including Seager, Jansen, Turner, Hernandez and many others are going “dairy-free” to reduce inflammation according toPedro Moura of The Athletic. It’s a wonderful read. These guys are locked an loaded on playing and winning game-by-game and playing the final game about 250 days from now. Tomorrow, let the games begin.

If you look at the photos onDodger Insider, you will see that Ryu plays ping-pong RH. I’m just sayin…

Photo Credit: Jon SooHoo/LA Dodgers

This article has 57 Comments

  1. One question about Verdugo – does increased launch angle lead to more strikeouts? We have seen an increased focus on launch angle during an increased number of strikeouts across MLB. Are these related or merely coincidental? If related, I hope Alex doesn’t change his swing plane. The Dodgers need baserunners. I’d welcome any thoughts you guys have on this.

    1. I don’t think the launch angle changes the strikeouts if the hitter stays longer in the zone.

  2. Fun Fact – Hyun-Jin Ryu is actually right handed, but learned to pitch with his left hand when his father accidentally bought him the wrong glove when Ryu was 10 years old.

    Too bad RVS wasn’t around when Loney came up. What could have been? Sadly, Loney struck out more and walked less as he matured.

    Thank God, baseball starts tomorrow! It’s been a long off season culminating with the longest week of them all.

    Can’t wait to watch Verdugo go yard tomorrow.

  3. Great read Mark! Well done, I hope and pray the Verdugo becomes who you think he will! I would trade some strike outs for more homers

  4. Snow, snow and more snow,34 inches this month ( new record ) and more for tomorrow, great fun but somewhere they are playing baseball, just not here.

  5. Man I really hope everything is good with Toles cause I would really like to see that guy play again I really feel he has so much potential! The year he got injured he was on point could have been a breack out year. The guy could be good

    1. I’m with you on Toles. He’s a really exciting player to me. I sure hopes he gets another shot to turn it around. I’m glad to hear that the club is behind him. It’s a tall ask for him to beat out both Joc and Verdugo though. I give Verdugo a lot of grief, but would be thrilled if he’s half the player that MT thinks he’ll be!

      1. Sadly I think Toles days with the team are over. How can they ship out an impact guy like Puig and keep a fringe guy like Toles if they are trying to change the culture? At least Puig showed up and competed. Toles has been suspended from every team he has played on including college. Regardless I wish him well and hope for the best for him. On a side note the schools in Las Vegas are closed today due to unsafe conditions for school buses.

        1. I never got too caught up in the Yasiel Puig thing. I do think he either didn’t, after several years, live up to his billing or his skill set was overrated. He did seem to come across as immature but at the same time seemed to have a zest for life. In a way i think we should never grow up.
          However, I was surprised by the last paragraph in this from Yasiel. It is strikingly honest and probably what others may do, but I really didn’t believe Yasiel would be playing for the next contract.
          “That’s going to help me out to have a new life in a different city. Now, I need to go over there and have fun and try to have my best season ever. Next year, a new contract. I don’t know where I’m going to be. I’m going to be the best I can.
          “If I can sign here, you say? I don’t know. You been asking the GM if he wants to sign me? If he gives me the money I want, I’m going to be here all the years he wants. I love Ohio. This is my color. I love red.
          “The last couple of years, I didn’t work hard because I still have a contract to go. Now, I think work harder than any year of my life.”

        2. I think it’s because the dodgers see something in him as I and 59 do! He may have personal reasons or problems with himself who knows but I do feel hell be back and better then ever. He worked so damn hard after that injury to come back and play, he just needs a chance

          1. I truly hope it is something that Andrew can work through. He doesn’t have to make it back with the Dodgers, although that would be nice, but just make it back Andrew.

  6. So a guy who hit 7 HR’s in 132 AAA games last year will hit MORE HR’s than Muncy who hit 35 in the bigs in 395 PA last year? That’s just silly, Verdugo will never be a power hitter like that and he doesn’t need to be.

    Let’s see if there is an open competition this spring because there never has been before under this regime. With Toles MIA I see NO open spots for position players barring injuries or trades. There will be a battle for the 5th rotation spot, the 2nd LHP in the bullpen and the final bullpen spot and that’s about it. BUT having a breakout spring is the precurser to an eventual injury or DFA callup as the team did with CT3, Morrow and Belly in 2017 and Muncy and Caleb last year.

    1. The pen is really muddy to me, but the rotation seems pretty set with Maeda in the 5th spot and Stripling in the pen. There’s been rumors that Urias will also start off in the pen. Then there’s out of option guys Fields and Chargois. And I’m not sure if Stewart is also OOO as I’ve heard it both ways.

      Just to get down to 8 bullpen spots, you have to cut two from this list. Ferguson is destined to start the season in AAA as a starter. Other options include trades and injuries.
      I know Floro and Alexander have options left, so there’s a telling sign.

      1. Fields has one option remaining. Stewart does have an option remaining. Because of some obscure rule in the last CBA, the team can get a 4th year option in some very unlikely events. The Athletic article explains it very well, and I would not do it justice. That OKC rotation is going to be pretty good.
        Depending on the source, Shaggy may still have one. Eric Stephen says he is out of options, but Roster Resource says he has one remaining.
        The only one I am sure of is Yimi Garcia who is out of options…or maybe not?

        1. Thanks AC! It seems that trying to figure out remaining options is muddier than trying to predict the bullpen outlook. Any way you look at it, we have a lot of quality arms stacked up. I’m guessing Roster Resource is the best place to refer to for options?

    2. Vegas, That is a good point. As you said, barring injury or trade, the position players are set. A breakout spring is a precursor to a call up but outerwise won’t beat out an established player

      59, I think you are right, options will go a long ways to deciding BP makeup. Also inevitable injury.

      Right now, we are at the what you see is what you get stage for the roster

    3. Truth be said I do agree, I would take a dominated contact hitter like him anyday. You don’t always need a home run guy, we have hitters like that already we need men to get on base to score

      1. Vegas

        Like I told Mark, that is the first place my mind went to, but we don’t know what the issue is with Toles.

        And he has never did that when he was with the Dodgers, and remember it was an anxiety issue with him, not that he was a bad guy.

        But Friedman will be the one to decide what happens, and he drafted Toles, so he has a better look at the entire picture then any of us.

        And you know I wouldn’t have traded Puig myself, but these are two different people and players.

        Remember when Mattingly was the manager he had different issues with Puig.

        And in his last year managing the team, he accused Puig of malingering when Puig went out, and Puig went out more then once that year, and he refused to talk to Puig.

        And I am no Mattingly fan, and I personally think he should have handled that differently myself.

        But Roberts also had trouble with Puig in Robert’s first year, and that was when Puig was sent down to AAA.

        Also remember when Joc stopped hitting in 2015 he was never sent down to AAA, but in 2017 when Joc stopped hitting again, he was finally sent down.

        But every time Toles has been given a real chance, he has produced.

        And when Toles first came up in 2016 in July, he hit 300 through the rest of that season.

        And he also hit 360 in the post season that year too.

        Toles was the regular leftfielder, before he hurt his knee in 2017.

        And after spending the rest of the 2017 rehabbing his knee after his surgery, and the entire off season rehabbing his knee, he arrived to spring training in the best shape he could be in, after all of that.

        And after Toles was told this would be a competition in spring training last year, he out hit Joc, and by quite a bit.

        But Toles was still sent down anyways.

        And we saw what happened last September when both Verdugo and Toles came up.

        And apparently from those reports, Verdugo did something even when he was up with the major league team last year.

        How do you think Puig, Joc, or Verdugo would handle what Toles has had to handle, in the last couple years?

        And how would they feel if they were still sent down, even though they produced every time they got a fair chance?

        Because both Puig and Joc were sent down, because they were not delivering, in some way or another.

        And up to now, Toles has been nothing but a good teammate.

        And we really don’t know for sure what the issue is, but it is hard not to go there right away.

        I have some compassion for Toles because I don’t know how I would feel after all of that!

        And I certainly hope that Toles has not given up, but I can understand how he might feel, that it doesn’t matter what he does.

        1. Make his fight on the hill in the early day
          Constant chill deep inside
          Shouting gun, on they run through the endless grey
          On the fight, for they are right, yes, by who’s to say?
          For a hill men would kill, why? They do not know
          Stiffened wounds test their pride
          Men of five, still alive through the raging glow
          Gone insane from the pain that they surely know

          For whom the bell Toles
          Time marches on
          For whom the bell Toles


      2. Totally agree. We really missed Seager last year as that guy who puts the bat on the ball. If Verdugo or Toles becomes another that can do that steadily, it would really balance things out. It’s going to be a really tough decision to weigh the contact skills of Verdugo against the sexy OPS of a Kike Pederson platoon.

        It sure would be great if Verdugo can steal that full-time job instead of having that Kike Pederson platoon. If he does, how long before they put him in right with that arm of his? AC / DC / MT thoughts?

        Can’t wait to watch the game on TV tomorrow!

  7. 1 – Stewart isn’t out of options – they recently gave him a 4th option year
    2 – Increasing the “launch angle” leads to more Ks because you reduce the amount of time that the bat is in the hitting zone. The more pronounced the uppercut, the less that the bat is in the same plane as the ball.
    3 – Ted Williams called for a “slight uppercut”. He didn’t strike out much. He would not be happy with the swings of the Chris Taylors of this world.
    4 – I’m very disappointed with what Puig had to say. I didn’t think that he was wired that way. He seemed to be a max effort guy. I wonder how much of his comments were to endear himself to a new team.
    5 – The only real competitions this Spring are:
    a – Which of our .190 hitting catchers will start?
    b – Who will get the bulk of the time in LF?
    c – Do they really plan on Bellinger being the regular RF? That means Muncy at 1B and Taylor or Hernandez at 2B
    d – Who stays in the bullpen and who goes to AAA?

    1. While on the surface the Puig comments can be very disconcerting, I believe he was playing up more for Cincinnati fans than saying anything negative about his time in LA. I know some say that those words will come back to haunt him. But I do not believe that. Manny Machado still got his $300MM after his “I am not Johnny Hustle type player”. Puig will undoubtedly go off this year, and he will get paid.

    2. Rick

      Do you have that thread on Puig, because I never read it?

      I agree with AC and you, that Puig is probably just trying to play that up.

      And maybe Puig is a little hurt that he was traded too.

      Because I think he loved his time in LA, especially the last couple years.

      I give him a lot of credit for learning English and having the courage to use it publicly.

    3. Rick,
      1. I believe the Catcher position is our weakest link at this point in time. Smith or Ruiz may change that.
      2. I think they may over-rate our starting pitching given the weakness of arm strength holding up to the weather. A few innings pitched and they end up on the disabled list.
      3. I like Bellinger starting everyday.
      4. I like giving Verdugo a chance to play a lot and giving Muncy more playing time.
      5. I hated the launch angle even if it led to more home runs. It was boring baseball.
      6. I would like to see MLB bring in the 3 batter minimum for relief pitchers. Something to force managers to keep starters in longer.
      7. Dodgers need to spend money on players and not on old guys at the end of careers, but in the prime.
      Good comments Rick. Ham.

  8. In the bullpen: Shaggy and Fields have an option left, Stewart and Garcia do not per Roster Resource, which Mark has provided a link to. Urias and Ferguson have options left too so they could be in the bullpen in LA or starting in AAA.

      1. Rick

        If you are talking about a post you posted yesterday, I had a post disappear yesterday too.

        I had that happen the day before, but then I had duplicates, so I thought yesterday I would just wait and see, but it never appeared.

        But I thought maybe when I was correcting something, I might have accidentally hit delete, so I am not sure if it was me, or something else.

  9. Your comment regarding Ryu playing ping pong right handed got me thinking that maybe there’s a spot for me in the Dodgers rotation. I’m also a lefthander that plays ping pong right handed.

    If need be, I’m ready to take Kershaw’s place in the rotation. As Badger used to say, easy peasy.

  10. DodgerRick,

    Do you have that thread on Puig, I never read it?

    I think that is Puig just playing things up to his new team, like AC and You suggested.

    And maybe Puig is a little hurt that he was traded too.

    Because I think he really enjoyed his last couple years in LA.

    I give the guy credit for learning English and having the courage to use it publicly.

    That first series against the Reds, is going to be interesting that is for sure!

  11. I read that interview with Puig, and that interview made me think it must have been an interview in English, because with the way Puig repeated his words, so I think that is why that interview sounded like it did.

  12. I freed some comments that were in Spam. We have had some hackers trying to get into this site, so our spam filters are set to maximum. If you lose a comment, email me and I’ll fix it.

  13. I hate to be the first to say it, but it sounds to me that a TJ is in Clayton’s near future!

    I hope I am wrong!

    1. So yesterday I asked you about trading for Kluber or Bauer and I wanted Bauer. I think signing Kershaw for $93m was a huge mistake and I hope I am wrong, but DR looked like a Deer in headlights when talking about him. So, well I ask again

      1. Today. It is still no. It’s a dope
        fiend move to pay what they want.

        The same thing could happen to Kluber.

        1. I said I wanted Bauer, not Kluber. Bauer is younger and imo better. We don’t need to cave to their demands, Like Trump the Art of the Deal is to be made. Bauer hates Cleveland and they hate him. Throw in Toles for free in the deal.

  14. Just FYI for us Dodger fans who live on the west coast of Florida. The boys in blue will be playing in Tampa on Tuesday May 21st and Wednesday May 22nd at 7:10pm.
    From where I live in Punta Gorda its only about 180 miles RT to Tampa compared to over 350 miles RT to Miami.

  15. They are sure downplaying this arm thing. But, this definitely isn’t the results we were hoping for after changing his offseason routine, adding velocity, increasing flexibility and all that. That dude needs the Robocop operation. Hip, back, shoulder, elbow all at once. Come back as the 6 million dollar man and bionic his way to the another contract extension and some more of those golden years of 200+ innings, 230+ Ks and sub 2 ERAs.

      1. I agree if you look at it in a silo. But, there’s nothing wrong with keeping you HOFers locked up. You can’t just look at it as payroll because it sends a message to your home grown guys that you will keep them around. I blast Kershaw a lot for his post-season flops, but I would hate to see him on another team. I just hope they don’t screw around, if he needs surgery just get it. Don’t pull a Clayton Richards and try to treat it with aromatherapy and get that back fixed at the same time! I would gladly lose him for the year and come back strong at the end of next year, than have him at 75% for three years.

      2. Why do some people jump to the worst conclusions so easily? Let’s just wait and see what transpires. There was nothing in the original news that suggested he was hurt. I know teams will often hide relevant information for various reasons, but let’s not go over board and project all our fears into this situation.

        1. Everything you say is true. This team has a history of significantly downplaying injuries though. A pitcher gets shut down early in ST because the arm doesn’t feel right, but it’s not his previous biceps tendonitis. Only so many joints in the arm. Time will tell, but history teaches us to expect the worst when this team downplays an injury.

        2. If you know anything about Kershaw, you know that it is not good and with the number of innings on his arm, you expect it. Actually, when signed, I expected to see him pitch for two not three years. I fully expect a TJ for him… If not this year, then next.

          The Dodgers are prepared for it, but Friedman will not make a move now.

        3. Well Jeff, it’s not like he hasn’t been hurt the last 3 seasons in a row. And getting progressively worse each season. And it was at least a little questionable giving him 93 million after all of that.

          1. I do not question the $93 million dollar deal. This is a once in a generation pitcher and they knew the risk and did it anyway. I would have too. I kind of hope that he just gets to TJ out of the way and comes back next year. Clayton needs to retire as a Dodger… that’s why they paid him what they did.

          2. I’m aware of Kershaw’s history. My point is not that it isn’t anything to worry about, it is the projections and accusations that surround such a possibility when we don’t know all the facts. Things happen and they get dealt with. It’s not like Kershaw’s career is over. Even if Kershaw is really hurt and cannot pitch this season, we have many arms ready to step in. Of course, we don’t want to see that, but……..we will still field a strong rotation, IMO.

      3. Checkmate on that!

        Where did I first see someone here mention a trade for Bauer, was it on the 14th of this month?

        And all that other stuff, doesn’t throw me off, it makes it more apparent.

        File that, under better left alone.

  16. In other news. I find it funny that the Phillies owner is reportedly meeting with Bryce in Vegas right now. Wasn’t it reported that Bryce kinda snubbed the Phillies earlier this offseason? Nothing like pursuing a guy that doesn’t really want to be there. Match made in crapsville. I was hoping all off-season. Now, I just don’t really give a hell where he winds up. What an a-hole!

  17. Well great start for Clayton and Toles having iuess. Ugh what’s next seager has a set back? Harper to the Giants calling it. I don’t see Brock Stewart every back in the major for the dodgers. Unless it is on another team. Fields can be nasty if he stays healthy. Stripping should start in the bullpen for the first half of the season and maybe start the second half of the season. I hope Urais can bounce back and be a sick starter.

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