One of the first moves of the offseason for the Dodgers was signing outfielder Jason Heyward to a minor-league contract. Heyward was a superstar for the Braves and Cardinals before signing a huge deal with the Cubs after the 2015 season, but his career has gone downhill since. Los Angeles is hoping to revitalize that career and help Heyward rediscover the form that had him looking like a future Hall of Famer early in his career.
Late in the offseason, LA signed David Peralta, who, like Heyward, is an outfielder who throws and bats left-handed. Peralta had spent most of his career with the Diamondbacks, occasionally being a thorn in the side of the Dodgers for the division rival.
Both new outfielders are well into their thirties – Heyward is 33, Peralta is 35 – but Los Angeles has high hopes for each. LA manager Dave Roberts gave a little insight on Wednesday into what their roles will be.
With Peralta and Heyward both being lefties, the natural assumption is that they’d platoon with righties. Besides Mookie Betts, who is not a candidate for a platoon role, the Dodgers have Chris Taylor and Trayce Thompson as right-handed outfielders. Of course, Taylor will be playing more infield than originally planned because of the season-ending knee injury to Gavin Lux, and Thompson had significant platoon splits last year, meaning he was far better against righties than against lefties.
The Dodgers likely don’t expect Thompson’s reverse splits to continue, at least to that extreme, so they could employ him in a platoon. Taylor’s situation is trickier, as he’ll still spend time in the outfield but not as much as they’d planned.
Of course, another option would be for Heyward and Peralta to both be part of the same platoon in left field, with (for example) Taylor getting the starts in left against left-handed pitching and the two lefties splitting time against righties. Last year, Los Angeles had 4,509 plate appearances against righties and 1,738 against lefties, so a player getting half the PAs against righties would still get more playing time than the platoon partner who hits against lefties. That option would open up a possible role for James Outman, possibly in a platoon (or other time-sharing arrangement) with Thompson in center field.
While Roberts said Peralta will play some center in spring to get ready for the World Baseball Classic, it’s unlikely he’s being strongly considered for serious playing time there in the regular season. He’s a subpar defensive left-fielder, so it’s unlikely he’d be able to handle center regularly.
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