The Los Angeles Dodgers begin their 2011 spring training schedule on Saturday with a pair of split squad games, in Tempe against the Angels and in Scottsdale against the Giants. Spring training camp is in full swing with a series of daily full squad workouts this week at Camelback Ranch in Glendale, Ariz. Our 2011 spring training preview looks now at the Dodgers outfield.
Right Field: Andre Ethier
Center Field: Matt Kemp
Ethier and Kemp were the offensive leaders in 2009 when the Dodgers won 95 games and had the best record in the National League. Last year, however, both struggled in their own way as the Dodgers slumped to 80-82. Ethier broke his pinkie finger in May and wasn't the same afterward, hitting .256/.348/.426 with nine home runs in 69 games after the All-Star break. Kemp got off to a great start in 2010, but struggled all over the field: he slumped defensively, he was caught stealing 15 times and picked off four times, and had a sub-.300 on-base percentage in each of the final four months of the season.
The Dodgers need both Ethier and Kemp to produce in 2011, as they will be asked to carry the load offensively in what looks like a below average lineup.
Out of Options: Xavier Paul (LHB)
This is a position of great concern for the Dodgers, and one they really didn't address this offseason. The Dodgers expect Thames and Gibbons to form a platoon, with Gwynn filling in occasionally at all three outfield spots. The wild card here is Paul, who is out of options, and seems to be the odd man out. Paul could force his way onto the roster with a strong spring, but it would likely take a collapse by Gibbons to create room on the roster. While Gibbons did sign a guaranteed contract, it is only partially guaranteed (the $650,000 deal is only guaranteed for the major league minimum of $414,000, with the other $236,000 coming if Gibbons makes the team).
With Manny Ramirez limited to just 48 games in left in 2010, Dodger left fielders hit .261/.322/.392 with 14 home runs last season.
Kapler, like Gibbons and catcher Rod Barajas, is a local boy who came home to play for his local team. Sands was the organization's minor league player of the year in 2010, but he will likely start in the minors to start the season so he can play every day. Velez has some versatility in that he has experience playing both infield and outfield, though his defense at second base has been in question.
For more Dodgers spring training news and information, be sure to read True Blue LA.