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Scott: I have seen you guys mention Justin Turner quite a bit with how good he has been both this year and last year, but I am wondering what your take is on him for the long haul. Has he now become a long-term full time player? How much do you expect his stats to fall once he comes down to Earth, if at all? Is he the future at third or only a place-holder till Hector Olivera comes up?
I said previously that I was skeptical about him as a full-time option, and to an extent that sort of still rings true. Not because of performance though, but rather because of reports on how regular playing time might cause knee problems to flare up. Apart from that, at this point one has to believe that you’re better off betting on Turner’s breakout to be legit than betting against it.
The difference between this year and last year is that he’s no longer relying on an impossibly high BABIP (80 points lower this year), but is instead pulling the ball at a career-high rate and is hitting the ball on the ground at a career-low rate, both of which support the power surge. Combine those two factors with consistent hard contact and a high contact rate, and it’s difficult to not conclude that what we’re seeing is legit.
As you mentioned though, how legit this breakout actually is remains the question. Turner is likely not this good, as it would arguably make him the best third baseman in baseball, and the thing most likely to come back down to Earth is the home-run rate. That said, even if we’re looking at “just” a mid-to-high .800 OPS player, combine that with his above-average defense and you’re looking at a top-seven or so third baseman, much less a regular.
Dean: Assuming we see Olivera produce enough to get the call-up, what are your thoughts on the chances that Howie Kendrick becomes available in a trade? He can block deals to the Marlins, Mets, Blue Jays, and Rays, and I know he’s pretty much exactly what the Dodgers hoped he would be. However, it seems unlikely that we’ll re-sign him this off-season, and the Juan Uribe trade: 1) shows the team isn’t afraid to deal well-liked veterans who can be replaced, and 2) brought in some depth, if you can call it that, at second. With Kendrick, Turner, Olivera, and Alberto Callaspo all splitting time at second and third, doesn’t this create essentially the same situation that shipped Uribe out in the first place?
If the Dodgers could get a solid return for a need position, I’m sure they wouldn’t hesitate to pull the trigger on this. The problem is that there’s still a lot to be proven in terms of Olivera. In order to do this, the team would have to be convinced that Olivera is as advertised with the bat and that he can handle second base adequately. Unfortunately, we’re still a long ways off from that being established.
As you said, this logically makes sense to me, but I’m not convinced that Olivera can prove enough to the front office by July 31 to make this happen.
Steve: Conventional wisdom seems to be that Olivera will soon be our third baseman, Corey Seager, our shortstop, and Kendrick, our second baseman. Last year, Turner hit not well, but very well. This year, he provides more of the same along with a measure of grit. Barring a trade, when Hector comes up this year, he will probably play third. Looking forward, however, do you see a scenario where Howie walks, Hector takes over second where he has the most professional experience, and Justin assumes third full-time? While that infield would rake, what does our defense look like?
Honestly? I’m not exactly sure how they manage this, but if I had to bet…
Adrian Gonzalez is obviously locked in at first barring anything crazy. Olivera has said that his preferred position is second base, and he has played some of that in the minors this year, so I’m thinking that is his spot to lose next year. Seager would seem to be in a similar situation at shortstop, where the job would be his to lose, but I think the Dodgers bring in veteran insurance just in case. Turner will probably start at third at this rate, which would round out the infield.
As you said, that infield would hypothetically rake, but defense would be a bit more of a question. A-Gon is a plus-plus defender at first, and Turner is actually above-average with potential for better as he gets more regular playing time (surprisingly). The real questions are up the middle, as Seager has long been assumed to be a third baseman and will likely have to work to grade out as average, while Olivera would seem to be average at best as well. Middle infield defense will likely be a concern next year, which actually could make Erisbel Arruebarrena an important bench piece if he can get his shit together.
There are lots of question marks though. What if Olivera can’t handle the position defensively? What if Seager struggles to adjust? What if Turner’s knees don’t hold up? All those things could complicate matters, which is why depth and positional versatility has been so valued by this front office and it has paid off this year after all the injuries. Either way, at least the Dodgers have internal options, because looking at the free agent crop is … not promising.
James Sears: Why do they draft 40 rounds but never sign a bunch of mid-level draft picks and do sign the last picks? It does not make sense to me. To me, they say that the 20-something pick is more valuable but they don’t sign them.
I’m sure if they had their way all those guys in the 20-something range would sign, but most of them are high school kids with upside that would probably benefit from going to college for development and/or to increase their draft stock. Generally, the guys signing in the later rounds are college seniors, who don’t really have any leverage.
Now for the real treat, which is basically making fun of the fans who are in the glorious Los Angeles Times mailbag. They were asked for suggestions to improve the Dodgers, and there were some amazing ones, summed up by this general theme:
More than 500 of you emailed your suggestions, with the two biggest ideas: Trade Yasiel Puig for a pitcher and fire Don Mattingly.
And as expected, there were some precious gems.
Gary Muntz: Trade Yasiel Puig to the Reds for Aroldis Chapman. He would be the eighth-inning guy. Game. Set. Match.
Michael Thurston: The first thing I’d do is trade Puig to the A’s for Scott Kazmir and prospects. As much as I like watching Puig play, I feel like he’s more of a distraction for the team than an asset. I like Scott Van Slyke, and feel if given the chance he can easily hit .270/20 HR.
Lots of people saying to trade Puig for a pitcher with less than half a year of team control and/or a closer that’s either highly paid or has less than two years of team control. I just want to know in what world does this make sense to people.
I’m actually fine with trading Puig (or basically anybody) if they can get value back, but it amazes me just how much Puig’s value has fallen in the eyes of fans. Just last year I would get equally ridiculous questions going the other way, asking like if Puig or Mike Trout was better. Fickle.
Dan Ellis: I really think it’s time to let Don Mattingly go. Tim Wallach would be a good replacement. I’m also thinking of the Dodgers firing Andrew Friedman for his inability to have a set balanced line-up and staying with it, instead of changing it day after day after day.
This person appears to be under the impression that either Friedman makes lineups or is just mad that Friedman tries to constantly improve the team at the margins.
Either way, amazing.
Also, if you don’t like Mattingly, putting his bench coach in charge is probably not the change you’re looking for.
Sandy Maroney: Remove the geeks from the Ivory Tower (aka the front office) and replace them with bonafide baseball men.
I love this and I wish we got more mailbag questions like this.
Gives me visions of Mike Petriello and His Golden Throne in New York.