Dodgers rally late behind Yasiel Puig to beat Team Australia, 4-2

AustralianBaseballHistory

The Dodgers beat to Team Australia today, 4-2, in a game that the Dodgers didn’t seem to care much about until Yasiel Puig decided he would like to have fun.

It was also a bit of an odd start when they seemingly ran out of baseballs to start the baseball game. So there’s that.

As you know, prospect Zach Lee was out on the mound and he looked generally sharp. As usual, Lee showcased all his pitches and thrived on his command. His curve was hung one too many times, but he only gave up one run in four innings on three hits to go along with six strikeouts and no walks.

Here are examples of his sharpness:
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What it would take for Joc Pederson to make the Dodgers

pederson_bats_arizona-2014-03-08

Soon, but not quite yet.

Joc Pederson is going to be a good baseball player. There’s no denying that. He has a sweet swing, better-than-advertised power and can play good defense in center field (despite letting that popup drop in on Saturday night).

The question many fans are asking is, “Is he going to break camp with the team?” The answer is simply, no. The 22-year-old is plenty talented to start in center field for at least a third of the teams in the majors right now, but there are a lot of things that would have to happen for him to don a Dodger jersey on opening day.

Matt Kemp is going to begin the 2014 on the disabled list. He’s doing more baseball stuff, but he won’t be ready for March 30 — three weeks from today. So, that’s a plus on Pederson’s side. Since Kemp figures to be the center fielder, that spot is technically open. But that spot will also be filled by Andre Ethier, who played a not-terrible center field in Kemp’s absence last year.

Dodgers
Royals
1:05pm PT
Surprise, Ariz.
SS
Figgins
RF
Aoki
LF
Crawford
2B
Infante
RF
Puig
LF
Gordon
1B
Gonzalez
1B
Butler
CF
Van Slyke
DH
Maxwell
3B
Uribe
3B
Valencia
2B
Turner
CF
Cain
C
Ellis
C
Hayes
P
Haren
SS
Escobar

Barring anything unforeseen, Yasiel Puig will play 150-plus games this season, so right field is out of the question. Even Scott Van Slyke has laid claim to the team’s No. 5 outfield spot.

That leaves the left field duo of Carl Crawford and Ethier. Both of them have spent ample time on the disabled list in recent years, but for Pederson to be on the 25-man roster on opening day, Crawford and Ethier would have to be on the DL.

While Pederson is arguably as talented as those two (probably more so), he isn’t going to win a job over them in spring training. We all know spring training stats are generally useless, let’s remember Puig hit .514/.500/.828 last year and began the season at Double-A. Pederson is hitting .250/.423/.600 in 12 games this spring. If he were Puiging this spring training, he might have a more solid case.

The Dodgers’ top three outfielders would have to be on the DL for an extended period of time for Pederson to make the team. It wouldn’t make sense to have him up for only a handful of games, just to send him down to Triple-A.

Pederson will make his debut in 2014, because the likelihood of all four outfielders making it through the season unscathed is minimal. When Pederson comes up, it will be — at minimum — for a 10-15 game stretch in which he plays every day. That will be fun to see.

But until that time, spend the $20 on MiLB.tv and watch him hit in the Pacific Coast League. That will pay for the service by itself.

Matt Kemp could see game action soon, says Don Mattingly

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Matt Kemp could soon return to game action for the Dodgers, according to manager Don Mattingly (via Ken Gurnick).

“I think that’s fair to say,” Mattingly said when asked if Kemp’s intensifying workouts were a sign that game action could soon follow.

Kemp, recovering from serious ankle surgery, has begun to run and make turns, although not yet on the bases. He also has resumed tracking fly balls in the outfield. He has been taking batting practice and throwing throughout Spring Training. He will start the season on the disabled list.

“We’re seeing him take fly balls, getting jumps,” said Mattingly. “He’s swinging the bat good. It won’t be long before he’s in a game.”

Dodgers (ss)
Mariners
6:05pm PT
Phoenix, Ariz.
2B
Gordon
CF
Almonte
LF
Crawford
3B
Seager
SS
Ramirez
SS
Franklin
RF
Van Slyke
DH
Smoak
1B
Robinson
1B
Montero
3B
Uribe
LF
Romero
CF
Pederson
RF
Jones
C
Federowicz
2B
Triunfel
DH
Guerrero
C
Quintero
P
Beckett
 
P
Beavan

Understandably though, as they’ve done all off-season, Dodgers management has refused to set a timetable or raise expectations on his return.

Mattingly, however, wouldn’t say if the club will see Kemp in a game before the team flight to Australia on March 16.

“I don’t put that kind of timetable on it,” he said. “As long as he’s moving forward.”

It makes sense and jives with the off-season company line regarding Kemp’s health, which has been basically to not rush proceedings via media quotes under any circumstances.

Timetable or not, it’s the first indication the Dodgers have given that we could soon see Kemp on the field again, and it certainly represents a positive step forward in the rehab process.

=====

Also of note in terms of injury, Zack Greinke threw 34 pitches in a BP session today and felt “pretty good.”

Most importantly, it led to this assessment of his current speed.

“I could field now,” he said. “If I had to beat Dee (Gordon) to first base from the mound, Dee would beat me. If it was A.J. Ellis, I still might not, but I’d probably beat him.”

Poor A.J. Ellis.

Finally, Yasiel Puig was excused today to deal with a “personal matter.” No details on that were revealed.

2014 Spring Training preview: Right field

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Yasiel Puig. Yasiel Puig. Yasiel Puig. Yasiel Puig.

Name Age System BA OBP SLG wOBA wRC+ WAR
Yasiel Puig
23 2013 .319 .391 .534 .398 160 4.0
’14 ZiPS .284 .354 .485 .359 n/a 3.8
’14 Steamer .288 .358 .498 .368 140 4.8
Andre Ethier
32 2013 .272 .360 .423 .340 120 2.9
’14 ZiPS .261 .340 .405 .319 n/a 1.5
’14 Steamer .272 .351 .433 .341 120 2.4
Scott Van Slyke 27 2013 .240 .342 .465 .353 129 0.9
’14 ZiPS .249 .325 .420 .325 n/a 1.6
’14 Steamer .245 .332 .408 .327 111 0.2
Joc Pederson 22 2013 (AA) .278 .381 .497 .398 155 n/a
Mike Baxter 29 2013 (Mets) .189 .303 .250 .262 65 -0.7

Yasiel Puig. I could probably leave the right field preview at that and everyone would be happy — even the likes of Scott Van Slyke and Mike Baxter. But, I like to write, so here are some words about the Dodgers’ right field situation heading into the 2014 season.

The Dodgers have employed a lot of quality right fielders in the last 10-15 years — Gary Sheffield, Shawn Green, J.D. Drew (he was good, no matter what anyone else says) and Andre Ethier. If you were to combine them all, you have one of the best right fielders to ever play baseball. Sheffield was an elite hitter, Green had the most power, Drew had a great eye and Ethier is clutch*.

*- Not an actual thing

Despite those resumes, Puig has a chance to have the biggest impact of any Dodger right fielder in recent memory.

Puig made his MLB debut on June 3, and he quickly established himself as a “must-watch” player. He had one of the best debut weeks in the franchise’s history — and maybe ever. He couldn’t keep up the blistering pace he was on, but he proved himself to be an impact bat and a big part of the Dodgers’ future.

He hit .319 in his debut and had a .391 on-base percentage. I don’t think either of those are sustainable for Puig’s second season. That would make him a “7″ hitter, which he just isn’t. His .383 BABiP is due to regress closer to the mean (mean = ~ .300). But his power is there (.215 ISO), and it’s legit.

Despite Don Mattingly proclaiming Puig isn’t a “proven RBI guy,” Puig is best-suited to hit in the middle of the order (or in the No. 2 spot). But since the Dodgers lack a legitimate leadoff hitter (no, I don’t mean a fast, slappy guy), Puig might be thrust into that role — a role in which he thrived last season.

Puig hitting first in the order
.333/.409/.618, 8 HR in 115 plate appearances

Sure, it was a small sample size, but the Dodgers would be smart to get Puig as many plate appearances as possible.

His defense is inconsistent, but his arm isn’t. His baserunning is questionable at times, but his speed isn’t. Those are the two biggest things he needs to work on going forward. With his speed, he should be a 30-stolen base guy easy. With the tutelage of Davey Lopes and Maury Wills, he could become a much more efficient base-stealer as he matures.

Barring anything unforeseen (injury, really), Puig, 23, should play no fewer than 150 games in right field this season. Other than an injury to himself, the only other way he doesn’t play that many games in right field is if he proves himself to be a somewhat capable center fielder, and both Matt Kemp and Ethier are hurt. Even then, if both those guys are hurt, Joc Pederson could get the call from (presumably) Triple-A.

Puig’s backups in right should play sparsely this season. Ethier, whom I think should be the Dodgers’ primary left fielder, is more than capable of spelling Puig, but he’s a much better fit in left field. He was profiled in Daniel’s left field preview. Ethier destroys right-handed pitching (.309/.388/.518 for his career) and could give Puig a blow if there’s a tough righty on the mound.

Van Slyke is like Ethier, as he’s slated for backup duty in the corner outfield spots. He’s a better defender than folks give him credit for, but he’ll probably spend most of his 2014 season giving Ethier and Carl Crawford days off in left field, along with Adrian Gonzalez at first base.

I included Baxter here because he has yet to be included in any of the previews. He was claimed off waivers from the Mets in October (Alex Castellanos was designated for assignment), and at least gives the Dodgers a warm body to put in right field. But if Baxter is playing meaningful games for the Dodgers, something has gone horrifically wrong in LA. Pederson could see some time in right, but he’s more likely to fill in at center field.

Right field is Puig’s territory, and will be for a long, long time.

Next up: Starting pitchers

Yasiel Puig, Australia, Cricket, Star Wars, GIF

Yasiel Puig is ready for the season opener in Australia in this Dodgers promo, where he uses a cricket bat as a lightsaber, complete with Star Wars sound effects. Then he makes weird noises.

GIF!


GIF Link

CONTENT RICH POST

Projected 2017 Dodgers’ lineup

Is there any doubt who the Dodgers' right fielder will be in 2017? (By: Dustin Nosler)

Is there any doubt who the Dodgers’ right fielder will be in 2017? (By: Dustin Nosler)

It’s hard to project anything in baseball, especially something like a 2017 lineup. But that’s what I’m going to do here.

I usually attach this at the end of my prospect write-ups, but I wanted to go a little more in depth here. It takes into account who is currently in the farm system and who is on the big league roster. It doesn’t project trades or free agent signings.

Baseball America does this exercise yearly.

Catcher
Seeing as the Dodgers don’t have a ton of catching depth, and A.J. Ellis would be entering his age-36 season, and there’s no guarantee his body is going to hold up, the Dodgers’ 2017 catcher might have to come from within the system. It’s either that or the 2017 catcher isn’t yet with the organization.

Options
A.J. Ellis: Will be 36 and would be an unrestricted free agent; might be backup-quality by then.
Kyle Farmer: Conversion prospect, will be 26 and there’s no telling if he’ll still be a viable option.
Tim Federowicz: Will be 29 and has always profiled as a backup.
Pratt Maynard: Second-most promising prospect, will be 27 and has athleticism; needs to hit.
Spencer Navin: The best defender of this group, will be 24, needs to prove he can hit.

2017 catcher: Navin

Navin’s defensive ability alone gives him the advantage. While he’s logged all of 25 professional late appearances, the Dodgers drafted him in the 11th round and gave him $200,000 more than the slot recommended bonus. They obviously see something in him and, at worst, he should be a standout defender they could bat in the No. 8 spot (if there’s no DH in the National League by then; sad).

First base
Adrian Gonzalez can’t do it forever, but if the Dodgers are looking for a replacement to come from within the farm system, they’re probably out of luck. Gonzalez will be 35 by the time 2017 rolls around, and will have two years remaining on his contract (worth $43 million — $21.5 million per season).

Options
Cody Bellinger: Most potential of anyone on this list, will be only 21 years old and could be heir apparent to Gonzalez.
Justin Chigbogu: Most power potential of any 1B in the system, will be only 22, but most likely trade bait.
O’Koyea Dickson: Would have to do something amazing in the next few years to even be considered, will be 27.
Adrian Gonzalez: Unless the Dodgers want to trade him, he isn’t going anywhere, even if he will be 35.

2017 first baseman: Gonzalez

Ned Colletti perused Gonzalez for years before finally getting him in 2012. There’s no real reason for the Dodgers to think about moving, especially since they don’t know what they have in Bellinger and/or Chigbogu. It’s a safe bet that one of them will replace Gonzalez come 2019. Then again, that could just be my optimism regarding the prospects.

Second base
The Dodgers signed Alex Guerrero for one reason: to be their second baseman of the future. After a slow start in winter ball following his October signing, Guerrero might be back on track. He’s drawn positive reviews in spring training thus far and is the odds-on favorite to open the season at second.

Options
Erisbel Arruebarruena: Recent import (unofficially) would be an elite defender at second, will be 27.
Alex Guerrero: Will be 30 and entering the last year of his 4-year, $28 million deal.
Darnell Sweeney: Converted shortstop has decent power/speed combo, will be 26, likely a backup.
Jesmuel Valentin: Slick fielder who can walk has a decent chance, will be just 23.

2017 second baseman: Guerrero

It isn’t likely any of the others listed above would be able to out-hit Guerrero, while Arruebarruena and Valentin could certainly out-field him. But, the Dodgers can live with maybe average defense in return for the above-average offense.

Third base
This might be the most interesting position. While Juan Uribe will either be a former Dodger or merely a bench player in 2017, third base could end up being a position of strength after being a weakness for nearly a decade.

Options
Hanley Ramirez: Could move to third in future, unsigned beyond 2014, will be entering age-33 season.
Alex Santana: Former second-rounder could make some noise, but could also be destined for the outfield; will be just 23.
Corey Seager: If they keep Ramirez and move him, Seager could be the shortstop; will be 23.

2017 third baseman: Ramirez

This was tough, but I think Ramirez might fit better at third base in his age-33 season. While he obviously feels more comfortable at shortstop, his frame might not allow him to stay there into his mid-30s. This also assumes a lengthy, lucrative contract extension is reached sooner rather than later.

Shortstop
Ramirez is firmly entrenched as the team’s shortstop, and the signing of Arruebarruena does nothing to change that for 2014 (or 2015). But the Dodgers have a lot more depth up the middle than they did two years ago.

Options
Erisbel Arruebarruena: Easily the best glove, must prove he can hit, will be 27.
Cristian Gomez: Only 42 pro games, could move to second base, will be just 21 and in the minors.
Hanley Ramirez: Already chosen as the 2017 third baseman, could play short in a pinch.
Corey Seager: Would be biggest regular SS in MLB history, plus bat, will be 23.
Lucas Tirado: Will be just 20 and probably still working his way up the minor-league ladder.

2017 shortstop: Seager

The Dodgers could conceivable flip-flop Ramirez and Seager, but I’m thinking a 23-year-old Seager might fare better at shortstop than a 33-year-old Ramirez. Both should be well above-average hitters at either position.

Left field
The Dodgers have all of the outfielders, and they might have all of the outfielders in 2017. All of the big four are signed through at least that season, but only one can be the left fielder. Crawford and Ethier are slated to share left field duties in 2014.

Options
Carl Crawford: Limited to left, will be 35 and entering the last year of his contract (worth $21 million).
Andre Ethier: Can play all three spots, but profiles best in left, will be 35 with at least $20 million left on his deal.
Matt Kemp: Not much of a center fielder, and won’t be in three years, will be 32 and owed $64.5 million on his deal.

2017 left fielder: Kemp

Kemp has the largest deal and the most talent. A move to left field should benefit him, provided he stays healthy. Come 2017, one of Ethier or Crawford will have already been traded (long ago), while the other will likely be on his way out (probably before 2017).

Center field
Kemp is the best option for the 2014 Dodgers, if he can run. Ethier filled in admirably last season, but he isn’t a realistic option come 2017.

Options
Matt Kemp: Will presumably lose some range and profile better in a corner.
Joc Pederson: This is the Dodgers’ CF of the future, will be 25 and just about to enter his prime.

2017 center fielder: Pederson

This was the easiest choice. While Pederson might not be the best center fielder to ever put on a uniform, he’s plenty capable of handling the position adequately and should provide at least average offensive output. In 2017, Pederson will, in theory, be entering his first year of arbitration.

Right field
The Dodgers have some interesting prospects for the corner outfield spots (Joey Curletta, Jacob Scavuzzo, Scott Schebler), but none of them have the talent Yasiel Puig does. He is the Dodgers’ right fielder and should be for many years to come.

Options
Joey Curletta: Big power and arm, will be 23 and challenging for MLB playing time.
Yasiel Puig: Will be in the sixth year of his 7-year deal, provided he doesn’t opt for arbitration after the 2015 season (he probably will).
Jacob Scavuzzo: Will be 23, loud tools, might end up in left.
Scott Schebler: Same age as Puig, but not the same talent level, likely trade bait.

2017 right fielder: Puig

This is a no-brainer. Puig will be just 26 and entering his prime. If his 2013 season is any indication, the Dodgers and their fans should be in for a treat in 2017 (and likely sooner).

Player Position
Joc Pederson CF
Yasiel Puig RF
Hanley Ramirez 3B
Matt Kemp LF
Adrian Gonzalez 1B
Alex Guerero 2B
Corey Seager SS
Spencer Navin C

Next up: Projected 2017 pitching staff

Yasiel Puig, Leadoff Hitter?

puig_looks

Yes… gooood… good. (Dustin took this!)

Remember how the biggest story of last winter was “hey, who is going to hit leadoff?” Carl Crawford stepped into the role and batted first 85 times, generally doing a fine enough job at it, and our main complaints about the spot were that Mark Ellis and Skip Schumaker collected 33 starts there when Crawford was unavailable. You may have thought that he’d simply do so again in 2014, but if Don Mattingly is to be believed, perhaps not:

Yasiel Puig could be the Dodgers’ leadoff hitter this year, manager Don Mattingly indicated this weekend.

Mattingly said by switching Puig and last year’s leadoff hitter, lefty-swinging Carl Crawford, in the order, it would provide better righty-lefty balance, with right-handed hitter Hanley Ramirez batting third and left-handed hitter Adrian Gonzalez batting fourth.

That’s from Ken Gurnick, and he goes on to indicate that Mattingly can’t “ignore Puig’s .391 on-base percentage, second on the club only to Ramirez’s .402,” and that’s wonderful. For years we’ve been yelling about on-base skills rather than speed at the top, or have you forgotten about all the angst over Dee Gordon leading off in 2011-12, or when we semi-seriously wanted A.J. Ellis up there? Or just remember last season, when every Cincinnati fan wanted so desperately to believe that Brandon Phillips was great because he was driving in so many runs, when in reality Phillips was having a mediocre season and benefited from Shin-Soo Choo‘s .423 OBP at the top of the lineup.

Except, if I’m being honest, the fact that there’s not a single quote from Mattingly in there sort of gives me hesitation. Not that I don’t believe Gurnick, but “indicated” isn’t the same thing as being on the record, and since this presumably came during Fan Fest, it’s odd that not a single other reporter made even passing mention of it. It’s really less about questioning the reporting than it is about questioning Mattingly ever caring about on-base skills at all, ever.

Still, if we take this at face value, there’s merit to the idea. Even taking into account the fact that we’re still not really sure what Puig can do over a full season, Crawford’s .329 OBP last year was his highest in the last three years, and it seems difficult to think that Puig (coming off a .391) can’t top that. (Before anyone asks about their splits hitting leadoff, I didn’t look it up because I don’t care. There’s too much noise in those small samples, and highs or lows in stats hitting in a certain spot can easily be attributed to any number of other things.) And while it’s not always used effectively, Puig certainly has plenty of speed as well.

The downside here is that it does some what limit the amount of run production Puig can create, because were he to hit leadoff, he’d come up at least once every game with no one on, and behind the bottom of the lineup and the pitcher the rest of the time. That’s not ideal, but it is a trade-off you can make, because again, nothing is more important than simply getting the leadoff man on base. Crawford won’t do that better than Puig; Ramirez might, but does seem to be comfortably settled in the three spot.

The other benefit here is that, if Crawford hits second, you have the option of going R/L/R pretty much down the lineup, and it eliminates the need to continually change things at the top since Crawford can’t hit lefties any better than Andre Ethier can. Of course, I’ll believe Crawford is hitting second when I see it: as we all know by know, second basemen hit second, particularly if that’s Alexander Guerrero, who has far fewer concerns about his bat than his glove.

Believe it or not, the first spring game is three weeks from tomorrow, and while no one should put too much emphasis on spring training batting orders, we could get this cleared up sooner than later.