Hernández, Outman, Heyward set to lead way in LA's OF

February 19th, 2024

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Coming into the offseason, the Dodgers knew they needed to make some changes.

Despite winning 100 games, the Dodgers fell short of their goal, losing in the National League Division Series for the second season in a row. The biggest need they had to address was starting pitching. They did just that, signing Yoshinobu Yamamoto and James Paxton while trading for Tyler Glasnow.

But as the Dodgers re-tooled their roster this offseason, they also made significant changes to their outfield picture.

The most significant move, of course, was moving Mookie Betts, a six-time Gold Glove Award winner in right field, to second base. It’s a move that Betts has been hoping to make at some point in his career, and the Dodgers felt the ‘24 season was the right time for it.

With Betts now a second baseman, the Dodgers knew they needed to make some additions in the outfield. Los Angeles accomplished that goal, signing and via free agency and acquiring .

How will all those new pieces get worked in this season? Things will change throughout the year, but this is how the Dodgers plan on splitting up playing time in all three outfield spots.

Left field

Once the Dodgers decided to move Betts to the infield, they knew the most critical position to fill was left field. The ideal fit was a player who hits left-handed pitching but could also play significant time against righties.

The Dodgers were interested in a handful of players this winter, which included Tommy Pham. But after exploring their options, the Dodgers identified Hernández as the best option. Hernández has been terrorizing left-handed pitching throughout his career, posting an .887 OPS against southpaws. Hernández has also been solid against righties, posting an above-average .772 OPS.

This year, Hernández will be the Dodgers’ top option in left field.

“He really wanted to be a Dodger,” said manager Dave Roberts. “The slug will be there, the runs batted in and all that stuff. He’s 100 percent in, and I think he’s going to have a fantastic season.”

Behind Hernández, the Dodgers will give some playing time to , who will move back into the super-utility role that made him an invaluable piece of the puzzle. , who came into camp in left field, will be a depth piece, likely to start in Triple-A.

Center field

Once the Dodgers parted ways with Cody Bellinger before the ‘23 season, there was a lot of uncertainty about what that position would look like. But after winning the job in camp, solidified himself as the man for the job. Outman’s defense picked up towards the second half of the season and he will come into the ‘24 season as the starting center fielder.

Roberts, however, said he’ll look to give Outman some days off throughout the season, particularly against southpaws. When Outman sits, Margot would be the next man up.

“I want him out there,” Roberts said of Outman. “He’s shown he can take good at-bats against left-handed pitching, so it’s definitely not a platoon situation. It’s more of how can I keep Manny involved situation.”

Right field

What the Dodgers do throughout the season in right field will be interesting. After a resurgent season at the plate in ‘23, Heyward will handle most of the playing time. Heyward’s defense was just as good, if not better, than Betts’ last season. The key in ‘24 will be for Heyward to provide similar production at the plate this season.

If he does, Heyward should give the Dodgers a viable option against right-handed pitching. Against lefties, the Dodgers will have options. Margot has played right field over the last few seasons in Tampa Bay. Hernandez could also slide over to right to get Taylor or Margot in the lineup simultaneously.

The pieces to the puzzle will ultimately be determined based on production. But after the Dodgers spent all winter trying to fit the pieces, they head into the ‘24 season confident with what they’ll trot out there on a nightly basis.