Matt Kemp is gone, Andre Ethier might go to the Orioles (although those talked have kind of faded), Carl Crawford is always hurt, Yasiel Puig is crazy-talented but super-dopey, Scott Van Slyke is an all-or-nothing bat who should really be a DH in the AL somewhere, and Joc Pederson, who tore up Spring Training in 2013, absolutely stunk up the joint when he was a late-season call-up last year.
For this blog post, let's just say that the Orioles aren't dumb enough to take on Ethier's contract - we'll assume, for now, that Ethier will be a Dodger in 2014.
The reason we want to be clear on Ethier is because, while we like Carl Crawford, it's no secret that he's a mess, physically, these days, which sucks. When Crawford was healthy, he was a game-changing player. Now, though, we have to settle for flashes of brilliance in between pulled hammies.
Dodgers Outfield, 2014: Scenario 1
CF: Joc Pederson
RF: Yasiel Puig
The first option is one that Dodger fans are (mostly) hopeful for. First, Dodger fans are hopeful that Carl Crawford can, somehow, find a way to play 145+ games and play like his old (errrr - his young) self again. Second, they're hopeful that Joc Pederson ends up being the power-hitting, center0field-roaming stud that they saw in spring training in 2013. Third, they just want Yasiel Puig to play, period, which he will.
Ultimately, the Dodgers are expecting Puig to play right field - the best place for his cannon arm; Pederson would play center field - he has the speed, the smarts and enough of an arm to do it; and Crawford would play left field - the only place he can justifiably play these days.
This best-case scenario requires two relatively-unlikely things: Crawford to stay healthy and Joc Pederson to be a stud on opening day. While this is the plan for 2014, we don't see it lasting.
Dodgers Outfield, 2014: Scenario 2
LF: Andre Ethier
CF: Joc Pederson
RF: Yasiel Puig
Andre Ethier takes over for Carl Crawford in left field only if he has to, but we think it's just as likely that Crawford gets hurt in spring training as he does any other time throughout the season. Scott Van Slyke will also get playing time in left field if/when Crawford gets hurt, but Van Slyke's strikeouts are gonna get really old on an everyday basis if you expect him to be a starter.
Again, this also assumes that Joc Pederson is suddenly able to play in the major leagues this season, and that's a significant question mark, still. Pederson hit .143 with 11 strikeouts in 28 at bats. He only scored one run, although he did manage to walk 9 times, but that's about the only positive we can draw from his big-league performance.
Dodgers Outfield, 2014: Scenario 3
Let's say that Joc Pederson sucks ass again this season, and let's also say that Carl Crawford has a season-ending injury in spring training (man... I hope that doesn't happen, now that I said it). Now what does the Dodger outfield look like?
LF: Scott Van Slyke
CF: Yasiel Puig
RF: Andre Ethier
With Pederson and Crawford out of the mix, the good news is that it makes the Dodgers' outfield problem a lot easier to figure out by process of elimination.
If Puig ends up playing center field, the Dodgers have two problems:
1. Wasting Puig's arm in center field.
2. Expecting Puig to use his baseball smarts to call the shots in center field.
A great arm is still very useful in center field, especially since a base hit through the middle with a runner on second base is a pretty common play to make. But a great arm in center is a luxury more than it is a necessity. Ultimately, the top-priority in center field is having a guy with the speed t track down fly balls. Puig has that; Ethier doesn't.
Also, Expecting Puig to run the show in center field is a scary proposition. If Puig plays center field, you can expect to see him calling guys off of fly balls and then not being able to make the play himself.
Andre Ethier has the smarts and experience to run the show in center field, although his lack of range may prove to be too troublesome for the Dodgers' outfield. The Dodgers really want Puig's arm in right, but they may have to sacrifice his arm for his range.