What happened in 2016: Went from potential leadoff hitter to missing almost the entire season.
Dave Roberts made an early declaration during spring training that Andre Ethier was slated to be the Dodgers’ starting left fielder, even laying out plans to potentially bat the veteran in the leadoff spot. Unfortunately Ethier’s 11th season with the Dodgers would be nearly nonexistent after he fouled a pitch off his shin on March 18. Although he initially remained in the game to finish off his plate appearance, he was lifted for a pinch-runner after drawing a walk. He was subsequently carted off the field, unable to return to the clubhouse on his own.
Dre was originally listed as day-to-day after X-rays came back negative, but a later scan showed that he fractured his right tibia. The injury was incredibly slow to heal, and as time went on it looked as though his entire season would essentially be a wash.
Although Ethier’s Captain Clutch days were long behind him, he had a resurgent year in 2015 and hit .294/.366/.486 with 14 home runs and 20 doubles in 395 at-bats when used almost exclusively against right-handed pitching. Losing the versatile outfielder ended up to be detrimental to the Dodgers, who in turn played a myriad of players in left field over the course of the season — none of which hit over .255 — including Carl Crawford, Scott Van Slyke, Trayce Thompson, Howie Kendrick, Enrique Hernandez and Zach Walters.
Nevertheless, Ethier continued his rehab despite his leg never fully healing and finally made his season debut on September 10 in hopes of proving that he could contribute and be named to the Dodgers’ postseason roster. Roberts indeed liked what he saw in Ethier’s at-bats despite his limited playing time, and he was included on both the NLDS and NLCS rosters.
Ethier had one hit in the NLDS against the Washington Nationals in Game 4, and he went 1-for-4 in the NLCS with a surprising pinch-hit solo home run against left-hander Jon Lester in Game 1. It was his first home run against a left-handed pitcher since Aug. 8, 2013 when he hit one off Cole Hamels at Citizens Bank Park, a span of 997 plate appearances.
2017 Status: Ethier will enter his final guaranteed year of his contract, good for $17.5 million. Years of speculative trade rumors swirled around him every off-season, but none ever came to fruition. Ethier now can veto any trade after earning his 10-and-5 rights (10 years of major league service, the last five with the same team) while he was on the disabled list in April. He should be healthy entering spring training, but with a crowded outfield it will be difficult for him to land a starting outfield job.