kemp_road_grays

Mailbag #1: Outfield Shuffle, SP Prospects, Playoffs

A mailbag? Yes, a mailbag.

In all our collective wisdom here at Dodgers Digest, I don’t believe any of us have ever tried a mailbag that simply answers your questions, probably because you’re all so frightening and intimidating. Fortunately, with all our powers combined, we were able to summon the courage to answer all your questions (sort of).

We’ll try to make this a regular thing, and to ensure it is a regular thing, you can send in your questions via the form on the sidebar (preferred), the @DodgersDigest Twitter, or even our individual Twitters.

The aim will be for us to provide serious answers to serious questions … and stupid answers to stupid questions (because it amuses me, primarily). Also, we’ll designate who’s answering the questions via the author’s initials, if necessary.

And now, onto the mailbag.

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Mikey: “What’s your take on the outfield rotation when Kemp is in? Trading Ethier in and out at center a la 2013?”

As long as Yasiel Puig remains productive, he’s anchored as the starter in right field. Then, if Matt Kemp is healthy, he’s starting in center. The Dodgers have no real plus center fielder, so he’s probably the best option both ways. I don’t think there’s much of a question there as others do, since he hit quite well after his shoulder improved and he fixed his swing. But health is obviously a valid concern.

The problem with Carl Crawford and Andre Ethier is that they both can’t hit lefties. Crawford is at .809 against RHP and .679 against LHP, whereas Ethier is .906 and .644, respectively. It’s not really an option to platoon them, but you could give Puig and Kemp days off against tough righties and rotate them in. Otherwise, with Crawford’s decreased effectiveness in the field and on the bases, they should start Ethier on a regular basis. Mainly because while Crawford’s hitting was improved in 2013, he didn’t show much of his previous explosiveness.

I think the outlook of “we’ll cross that road when we get there” is best, because we fretted about this for the second-half of 2013 and it turns out they rarely were healthy together anyway.

Scott: “Outside of injuries/staying healthy, what do you think the Dodgers biggest hurdle will be to get to the playoffs?”

If everybody’s healthy, I’m honestly not worried at all. Famous last words, maybe, but that’s the biggest risk for most every team, and on paper the Dodgers are a clear playoff team.

If there are areas of concern, they would probably be at second base and third base. Second base is obvious since there’s no starter there yet, and we just may end up with a utility infielder platoon of some sort there. But third base is also a cause of worry for me, as I’m concerned that Juan Uribe could get old in a hurry and might regress to his 2011-12 offensive levels.

Pair those two issues with a very shaky and questionable bench, and there’s the recipe for two black holes in the starting eight.

David: “So what’s the aversion to using Fife as a back-end guy? Why entertain someone like Bronson Arroyo who may have a better track record than the younger Fife, but at least last year Fife put up respectable numbers and is a cheaper alternative.”

Because Stephen Fife‘s health has been a huge question mark. There’s valid questions as to whether he’s even back to his old form, and that form had question marks as well. His 3.39 ERA is misleading, and his 4.29 FIP and 4.21 SIERA tell the real story. Both numbers are acceptable for a fifth starter, but it’s not much of a sample size because of his constant arm problems, which is sort of the point here.

It’s like asking why they can’t rely on Josh Beckett and Chad Billingsley, because they’re either hurt or have question marks regarding form. Bronson Arroyo, for all his flaws, rarely has trouble eclipsing 200 innings.

David: “Why are the deep pocket Dodgers skimping on finding replacements for the solid Nick Punto, Skip Schumaker tandem they had last year?”

I honestly don’t know, I raised that question myself before. Stan Kasten claims he wanted the bench to get younger, but I actually have no idea what the real reason is. Skip Schumaker wasn’t really useful, but I’m sure the team doesn’t actually think Justin Sellers and Chone Figgins and the like are better utility options than Nick Punto.

I’m less miffed that they didn’t bring Punto back than I am that they didn’t really go after anybody on the open market. I hate signing bench players/relief pitchers to significant contracts, but if anything, it’s the fringe players that are the only ones going for bargain rates in the current free agent market.

Emmett: “There seem to be many starting pitching prospects who have an ETA somewhere in the next 18 months. Will these pitchers be used in trades or is it more likely that they are brought in to supplement the bullpen? Or do the Dodgers keep them in the minors until the inevitable injury?”

The Dodgers seem to like Zach Lee, and I think he’ll compete for the fifth starter spot in the future. He’s prime bait for a trade as well, but I only see him getting moved in a package for an elite level player or somebody close to it.

Ross Stripling, Matt Magill, and Tom Windle are probably the prime candidates to be traded for mid-season help, mainly because they don’t profile well as relievers to me (maybe Windle as a LOOGY?), but may still have trade value to other teams as back of the rotation guys.

Jarret Martin, Chris Anderson, and Chris Reed are strong bullpen candidates if they don’t work out as starters. In fact, I think both Martin and Reed profile best as relievers.

Vin_Skully: “Stan Kasten has stated his desire to ‘buy bats and grow arms’, which I normally agree with, but does the lack of talent available to buy at 3B and C for the foreseeable future (plus the cost of losing a first rounder) change that? Should it? They went after college arms last year to get more MLB-ready arms quickly. Could we see the same for C and 3B?”

I think the long-term answer at third base is either Corey Seager or Hanley Ramirez, so that position will be taken care of. For catchers, I definitely think they might want to consider either drafting a catcher or drafting a player they think they can convert to catcher (Carlos Santana/Russell Martin). A.J. Ellis isn’t getting younger and will need to be replaced eventually no matter how much we love him, and Tim Federowicz profiles best as a backup. As of this moment, the team has nobody in the system I would feel comfortable even projecting as a backup.

As for the general draft question, I believe in taking the best player available in most circumstances, simply because the MLB draft is unpredictable enough where drafting for need is extremely risky. I think in sports like football or basketball, it’s a strategy that’s employed because the draftees are ready to contribute on day one, but the bust rate for even top baseball prospects is high, and if they aren’t exceptional, they still take a few years until they’re ready to contribute. In the mean time, who knows what happens or what other player becomes available? I’m a best player available guy.

A Nonny Moose: “How do you answer these?”

Well…