The news was not good for Andrew Toles on Wednesday, as it was announced he tore the ACL in his right knee and is out for the season. He took it in stride, but it’s no doubt a big blow to the Dodgers.
Toles was slashing .271/.314/.458 with a 108 wRC+ and a surprising five home runs. In his last 11 games, he seemed to be finding his stride by hitting .375/.405/.600 with a 170 wRC+. He’s still a liability against left-handed pitching (just five plate appearances this against them), but he was holding his own against righties.
But like we’ve said ad naseum on this website, the Dodgers have the depth to cover such an injury. At least, they do in the immediate.
Brett Eibner was recalled to take Toles’ spot on the 25-man roster, and he’s getting the first chance to replace Toles on the roster, but left field will likely be manned mostly by Cody Bellinger and Franklin Gutierrez. Eibner will be more of a fifth outfielder right now.
Other options to replace Toles include Trayce Thompson and Scott Van Slyke. Thompson would be my first choice. In fact, if he were fully recovered from his back injury at the end of March, he still probably would have began the season with Oklahoma City, but he would have been the player chosen to come up when Bellinger was promoted. The front office thinks he has starter’s ability, but he hasn’t been given a chance to show it all and, obviously, hasn’t been fully healthy.
Van Slyke is a less appealing option. He struggled in his first stint with the Dodgers and was recalled from OKC when Adam Liberatore went on the disabled list on Wednesday. His upside is limited and he hasn’t shown any semblance of the player he was as recently as 2014 (or even 2015).
Some intriguing non-40-man roster options include O’Koyea Dickson and Alex Verdugo.
Dickson mashed last season in Triple-A and got off to a blazing start this season. He has cooled off, but that’s not the reason he probably won’t get a chance. Rather, for a roster that values versatility, it’s a minus that he’s strictly a LF/1B guy and the Dodgers have those positions pretty well covered. He also doesn’t run well and there are still questions about his bat. If he’s ever going to get a shot with the Dodgers, it’d be this season. But that doesn’t seem terribly likely.
Verdugo is interesting, but I really don’t see it happening. He’s almost a year younger than Bellinger and isn’t as good a prospect overall. While he’s getting on base at a solid clip in Triple-A, he has seen a big dip in his power. Here are his isolated power numbers from the last three seasons:
It’s trending downward. He may not ever be a 20 home-run guy in the majors, but he definitely has more power than a guy like Jose Iglesias or Yunel Escobar. Fact is, the Dodgers aren’t going to bring him up to play for a week or so and send him back down, and it wouldn’t make any sense to waste an option year on him if they’re going to send him back to Triple-A. It’s fun to think about, but what are the odds of hitting on another rookie promoted before it was expected?
If Toles were healthy, the combination of him, Bellinger and Gutierrez could have been plenty good to handle left field. Bellinger might be that guy, too, but there will be some regression in his numbers.
If it gets to late July and Dodger left fielders are struggling, a trade could be the best course of action. Unless they’d be bringing in a legit young stud or an established veteran with more than a year or two on his deal, the upgrade would be of the short-term variety.
One player who might make some sense is Lorenzo Cain. The Dodgers showed at least some interest him before the Winter Meetings. Cain is a free agent after the season and is looking to cash in on the open market. He’s not an offensive stalwart, but he is about as close as it comes to bringing in a player similar to Toles in terms of athleticism. In this scenario, Cain would probably play center field and Joc Pederson would slide over to left. But, the cost might be prohibitive and asking Pederson to move out of his spot in center field isn’t a great look.
Thus, the best-case scenario for the Dodgers is for Bellinger to keep producing, Adrian Gonzalez coming back and being close to his former self and guys like Yasmani Grandal, Yasiel Puig and whomever is playing second base (Logan Forsythe, Chris Taylor, Chase Utley) picks up their respective offensive game. Grandal already is but Puig is wildly inconsistent, while Taylor is the hottest hitter on the team at present and even Utley is showing signs of life.
It certainly looks as if the Dodgers are going to be fine without Andrew Toles. It’d obviously be better if his knee wasn’t ripped up, but the Dodgers can withstand his loss. It just remains to be seen exactly how it all plays out.