Posted on August 31, 2017, by Bryan Zarpentine
The Los Angeles Dodgers aren’t a team in need of a lot of help. But help is on the way nonetheless. When rosters expand on Friday, the Dodgers are expected to call up outfield prospect Alex Verdugo, one of the top prospects in baseball. However, the Dodgers do not plan on recalling outfielder Joc Pederson, at least not yet.
Verdugo is currently ranked as the 28th best prospect in baseball, according to MLB.com. He’s had an exceptional season in triple-A, hitting .314 with an OPS of .825. Having just turned 21 in May, there’s little doubt that Verdugo has a bright future ahead of him. However, the Dodgers are hoping he’ll be ready to contribute in the present, as he figures to get regular playing time right away.
“We’re going to play him,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Verdugo. “We have a lot of outfield options. But I do want to see Alex take at-bats and get out there.”
While he doesn’t possess elite speed, Verdugo has spent most of his minor league career in center field. His ability to read the ball and get good jumps has allowed him to remain in center field. He’s started to see more time at the corner outfield spots this season. But he will certainly give the Dodgers another option in center field upon his arrival.
Chris Taylor, a shortstop by trade, is currently getting a majority of the time in center field for the Dodgers. Curtis Granderson is also an option, but he’s not started a game in center field since being traded to Los Angeles. That should leave the door open for Verdugo to get playing time in center field, especially since Taylor can be moved to almost any other position on the diamond.
Meanwhile, the Dodgers have no plans to promote Pederson when rosters expand on Friday. Before the demotion, Pederson was hitting just .215 with an OPS of .747. He had just two hits in 37 at-bats during the month of August. Pederson is supposedly working on a new batting stance at triple-A. But through 12 games, he’s hitting just .200 with an OPS of .610. Those poor numbers have the Dodgers thinking that he needs more time in the minors despite reports that he’s made some progress.
“Joc’s going to stay, whether to finish the season or a day or two early,” said Roberts. “It’s more to give him continuous at-bats. From the reports, the last couple of days have been better. To build on that momentum, it’s best for Joc.”
Pederson will likely be back with the Dodgers at some point. But there’s no guarantee there will be a lot of playing time available for him when he returns. In addition to Verdugo, Taylor, and Granderson, Yasiel Puig, Enrique Hernandez, Cody Bellinger, and Andre Ethier will also be outfield options for the Dodgers in September. That could leave Pederson struggling to find at-bats and an opportunity to play his way onto the Los Angeles playoff roster.
If nothing else, the Dodgers will have a lot of options when it comes to figuring out their outfield for the postseason. The month of September could turn into one long audition for the team’s playoff roster. Based on the team’s plans for roster expansion, Verdugo will have plenty of opportunities to play his way onto the playoff roster, while Pederson could struggle just to find playing time. This opens up the possibility of Verdugo being included and Pederson being excluded from the team’s postseason roster.