The Los Angeles Dodgers’ outfield went from a strength of the team to a question mark over the last week. With Matt Kemp’s return unknown and Yasiel Puig’s character and dedication not matching his ability. The Dodger’s crowded outfield just lost its advantage. It’s not like Puig came into camp unable to breathe without a CPAP machine, but when his manager is concerned with his weight at the start of spring training, Puig has something to prove to everyone. After Puig’s all-time great start in his first 41 days in the league (.391/.422/.616, 123 OPS+), he cooled off quite a bit in the second half (.273/.373/.481, 86 OPS+). Pitchers have figured out how to pitch to Puig, or so it seems.
Now that Major League teams have had an entire off-season to evaluate Puig’s swing and find holes, his numbers could drop even more this year. Add to this, his reckless off-season that seemed to show a lack of maturity and self-control, you have the potential for Puigmania to fizzle out and be just another player struggling to stay on the field. Puig’s defense will help him get more chances if needed as he has the speed to track down almost anything and a canon for a right-arm. He has been limited this spring training with arm soreness.
Matt Kemp’s situation causes even more concern than his fellow outfielder’s. Kemp, who was the consensus pre-season MVP going into the 2012 season, has had two consecutive season’s shortened due to injuries. He had surgery on his ankle and shoulder this past off-season and has not started running yet. Kemp does not have a history of bouncing back and recovering fast, so this delayed start to his season seems right in line with his typical time frame of coming back from injury. The major problem the Dodgers are facing is their inability to pull off a blockbuster trade, now.
Before Kemp’s slow recovery and Puig’s weight problems, the Dodgers were in an ideal place to trade one of their four All-Star caliber outfielders for more starting pitching. Not only will the Dodgers not be able to get better because of their outfield surplus, they are now weaker than last year. Many people were projecting the Dodgers to win the NL West and possibly represent the National League in the World Series. Of course it's early, but now all those predictions remain up in the air.
The 2014 Dodgers have the same players and talent that put together a magical run in the second half of 2013, but will their magic carry over to this season?
Written By, Nic Ammaro
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