Left Field: Ned Colletti’s Folly.
This is the Season Review I’ve been least looking forward to because it’s by far the most depressing, and it’s therefore the one I have the least interest in writing.
Essentially, left field was a hot mess in 2011, as the Dodgers used basically everybody, the kitchen sink, and Eugenio Velez. I’ll focus on the main guys and then leave the rest to rot in baseball purgatory where they belong.
I begin with Jerry Sands because of his status as a top prospect heading into 2011 and his likely status as the 2012 starting left fielder. Sands mashed at every minor league level, and it was just a matter of time before he made his major league debut, particularly with the way Ned Colletti had constructed the team, and especially with the way he constructed said team in left and at first base. What was surprising though was that Sands made his debut on April 18th, earlier than just about anyone anticipated.
Jerry’s first 30 games were not spectacular by any means, but he showed the tools necessary to succeed, as he slashed .239/.343/.413/.756 with 12 extra-base hits and a 22:15 K:BB mark. He went the other way, was willing to draw a walk, and displayed a solid arm in the field.
His next 10 games would be his undoing, however, as he hit just .091/.143/.091/.234 with 0 extra-base hits and 11 strikeouts against just 2 walks (although it should be noted his BABIP was an unhelpful .136). Sands was sent back to AAA and asked to make adjustments at the plate, and make adjustments he did.
Upon his return to the show as a September call-up on the 8th, Jerry displayed the hitting prowess that Dodger fans everywhere were hoping would translate. In 20 games, he mashed at a .342/.415/.493/.908 clip with seven XBHs and an 18:8 K:BB mark. He hit in 14 straight and cemented himself as a starter somewhere on the diamond next season, barring any Uncle Ned funny business.
His home/road splits, as noted by Mike Petriello, were certainly something that needs noting, but with his minor league success, plate discipline, ability to use all fields, and raw power, I’m not concerned that he’ll morph into the right-handed version of James Loney.
After being picked up off of waivers from Toronto, Juan Rivera split time in right, left, and at first. Never more than a role player in Anaheim, Rivera tanked with the Jays before landing his new gig in Los Angeles by simply being better than Marcus Thames’ corpse. Juan started 32 games in left for the Dodgers and matched his solid reputation with the glove (2011 L.A. UZR/150 of 4.1, career 4.8).
However, despite a fast start, James Loney’s temporary caddy did not perform as admirably with the bat. During his 62 game stint, and almost 250 plate appearances after being signed, Juan slashed .274/.333/.406 with a .324 wOBA. Again, better than Marcus Thames, but not worthy of a starting gig with the Blue Crew in 2012.
As a right-handed platoon-mate for Ethier and Loney, Rivera could fit in nicely with the club. Beyond that, however, he’s not worthy of more than a one-year deal with a small salary of one to two million.
JaMarcus Gwybbons, Jr.
Coined by the aforementioned Petriello, this motley trio was Ned Colletti’s bright idea to begin the season in left.
Gwynn Jr. was a glove-only player to begin with, as well as being the only option to spell The Bison in center. He met those expectations, as his UZR/150 in left was a spectacular 20.9, with a 23.7 overall in 677 innings in the field. His bat was miniscule as usual, as he hit .256/.308/.353 with a .299 wOBA and checked in with a WAR of 1.6. As a backup outfielder playing for a million or so, he certainly has a place on the squad, as he was also successful on 22 of 28 stolen base attempts (79%).
Marcus Thames was hurt and ineffective before being DFA’d. A triple slash line of .197/.243/.333, a wOBA of .254, a wRC+ of 58, and a WAR of -0.3 will inevitably lead to your release. He also displayed a lead glove, with a UZR/150 of -14.6.
Gibbons spent time on the DL with vision problems before not doing anything in the show and being DFA’d back to Albuquerque. His WAR was equivalent to Thames’, his wOBA was just .293, and he, like Marcus, doesn’t walk enough (8.1 BB%), strikes out too much (22.6% of the time), and couldn’t field a ball to save his or anyone else’s life (2011 UZR/150 in 100 innings of -46.5).
Totality Of The Situation
The Dodgers used 10 men in left, traded away their best defensive outfield prospect in Trayvon Robinson, and let Eugenio Velez start a game in left and appear in three more.