Everyone talks about the dilemma that the Dodgers have on the 4th OF. By now you’ve surely heard that Don Mattingly will be rotating the starters as currently set around, giving the more injury prone players a rest. However, this didn’t stop the rumblings that the Dodgers were going to trade Matt Kemp for anyone who was listening, or that Andre Ethier was going to the Mariners, or the terrible “YASIEL PUIG FOR GIANCARLO STANTON” ramblings. You can see why the 4 OF “problem” is so widely talked about, 3 former All Star caliber players in Matt Kemp, Andre Ethier, and Carl Crawford, one phenom who has the potential of being a perennial All Star, Yasiel Puig, and another prospect that is widely regarded as the best prospect in the Dodger system, and at least a top 30-50 prospect in the whole game, Joc Pederson.
The longer I think on this issue, the more I realize that maybe there isn’t much of an issue on the 4 OF plan. You can look at Matt Kemp’s injury problems and think he’s not a guy who will be a regular ever again, even though i’d vehemently disagree with that. You could also look at Andre Ethier and say his ineptitude versus left handed pitching causes him to be an albatross that can’t play everyday, maybe not so farfetched, but I think he’s still a guy that will play in most of his games, get him a decent platoon partner like Scott Van Slyke and that turns out to be a very solid position.
The issue here for me is Carl Crawford. Last season around Springtime there wasn’t a large amount of talking wondering “which OF are the Dodgers were going to trade?!”, mainly because Puig was getting ready for AA, Crawford was barely coming back from Tommy John surgery, Matt Kemp just had shoulder surgery, there were a fair amount of questions surrounding this OF. Fast forward a year, and Carl Crawford is coming off of a very respectable .283/.329/.407/ 2.9 fWAR season. It was a nice bounce back season from someone who took a lot of heat in Boston because of his injuries, and was atrocious otherwise.
It’s amazing what a 2.9 win season can do for you. Suddenly you’re getting projections from Steamer saying he’s going to be worth 2.1 wins, Oliver sees him actually cracking the 3.0 win mark sitting at 3.2. He is projected by most to be a pretty decent player, maybe not worth his insane deal, but one who will contribute. My problem here is these projection systems don’t seem to take into account his age, nor his injury problems. Oliver gives 600 PA’s to everyone, so you get a feel what Crawford would produce if he was healthy, but Steamer has him at 541 PA’s. The problem with that is Crawford hasn’t cracked 540 PA’s since 2008 in his Tampa Bay years. Oh, and don’t look now, but Crawford is going to turn 33 in August, couple this in with his injury problems last season with his leg, and back and you wonder how good he can be even in the games that he does play.
So you have a player soon to be in his mid-30′s, doesn’t get on base much, lost any speed he had from his earlier years, and a starting OF logjam? I think that the Dodgers were really smart in not trading away any OF’s this offseason. It’s likely that i’m completely wrong on Crawford, and it’s probably unfair to expect some significant regression, but I think there is certainly a possibility that Crawford isn’t very productive, especially if the injury problems resurface like they have the past 3 seasons.