In 2010, the Dodgers ran out nine different left fielders, humorously picking up more errors than assists, on top of some generally lousy offiense:
The top four on that list – Manny, Podsednik, Johnson & Anderson – have all moved on. Beyond that, Xavier Paul may be lost on waivers should he not make the Opening Day roster, Jamey Carroll ideally shouldn’t be seeing any time in left field, Trent Oeltjen is a minor-league lifer with no guarantees, and Russ Mitchell looks less like a major leaguer the more we see of him (not to mention he’s more of an infielder, anyway). Of the nine left fielders from last year, only Jay Gibbons seems certain to see time there again this year, and even still I’ve been spending half the spring wondering if he’s going to lose his roster spot.
But that hasn’t stopped me from wondering – might the Dodgers actually top last year’s left fielder count?
Let’s assume for the moment that Gibbons, Tony Gwynn, and Marcus Thames are all but certain to see some time in left. With the extra spots opened up by the injuries to Jon Garland and Vicente Padilla, I think Paul probably does spend the first week or two with the big club, though I’d be shocked if he survives through April. Also on the out-of-options train is Hector Gimenez, who’s doing everything possible to make the club, and who we learned today is supposedly going to see some left field time of his own this week.
Let’s say that both Paul & Gimenez make the roster and make token appearances in LF, even if both are gone by May. That’ll be five possibles, but it won’t stop there. We all think Jerry Sands makes his debut this season, and that might extend to Trayvon Robinson as well. For veteran stopgaps in Albuquerque, there’s Oeltjen and Jamie Hoffmann, and possibly utility guy Eugenio Velez. Then there’s the non-zero possibility that infielders Carroll and Blake make cameos, and you could possibly see Andre Ethier shifted over should Gwynn actually grab the CF job and slide Matt Kemp to RF. That’s without even considering what happens if JaMarcus Gwybbons, Jr. fails completely before Sands is ready and the club is forced to go out and acquire someone new.
Despite losing the top four left fielders (in terms of playing time) from 2010, it’s not hard to see them trotting out double digits at the position this year. If so, then the real question is, can they break the all-time team record? That’s 15, set in 1985 and tied in 1987 (according to the wonderful Sam Miller of the Orange County Register). If there’s a bright side, the 1985 team won 95 games and went to the NLCS. (Of course, they also had Pedro Guerrero, a .320/.422/.577 beast at age 29, playing more LF than anyone else. Somehow I doubt that kind of production is getting replicated this year.)