Fields emerges as leading Spring Training underdog

Cubs at Dodgers, 12:05 p.m.
Tony Gwynn Jr., DH
Mark Ellis, 2B
James Loney, 1B
Jerry Sands, LF
Juan Uribe, 3B
Trent Oeltjen, RF
Tim Federowicz, C
Justim Sellers, SS
Matt Angle, CF
(Ted Lilly, P)

Though I’m not wishing to take away anything away from Cory Sullivan, whose ninth-inning grand slam lifted the Dodgers to a 10-6 victory over the White Sox late Saturday, I find myself thinking more this morning about Josh Fields.

No matter what he does in the spring, Sullivan is a 32-year-old fringe outfielder on a team with several stronger candidates. Never say never, but he remains a longshot to make a difference to the Dodgers and a much safer bet to become a Jason Romano-like footnote.

Fields, on the other hand, is still only 29 (younger than A.J. Ellis, for example), and he plays a position where the Dodgers are incredibly thin: third base. He also has power: 34 home runs in 713 major-league at-bats. That doesn’t mean he’s still not ultimately a Hector Gimenez in disguise, but there is a greater chance for Fields to mean something to the team.

The bar at third base for the Dodgers is so, so low: Juan Uribe, Jerry Hairston Jr., Adam Kennedy. Fields is 7 for 11 with three extra-base hits so far in the spring, and if he keeps that up, you can see where he might play his way into the 25th spot on the roster and earn some starts at third base (and at first base against right-handed pitching, with Jerry Sands getting more seasoning in the minors).

Again, I’m not getting my hopes up that Fields is anything more than a 2012 version of Corey Smith, who went 7 for 12 last year in March and then disappeared. I’m also not convinced that his shaky glove (that includes 24 errors and negative Ultimate Zone Rating in 158 career games at third base) wouldn’t undermine his contributions at the plate. But I do know that the Dodgers need all the help they can get at the position, and that they would be much better off if Uribe were their top utility infielder instead of a primary starter at third base.

It can all all apart in a minute, but for now, Fields is one unexpected Spring Training sensation that I’m not going to reflexively dismiss, but rather will keep an eye on.

* * *

Mike Petriello of Mike Scioscia’s Tragic Illness offers a status update on the Dodger ownership race, a subject that I find myself with no desire to cover, despite its huge importance.

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    /ears perk up
    What’s that you say now?

  • overkill94

    I’ve been following this kid for a while now since I picked him as a minor leaguer in my fantasy league back when he was a stud prospect.  I tend to get excited about guys who have displayed exceptional talent in the past over consistently mediocre players (like Cory Sullivan), so Fields intrigues me quite a bit.  Makes the Kennedy signing look even dumber, of course.

    • Anonymous

      Kennedy is 1 of those ‘good clubhouse guys’ Ned loves so much. Of course in Nedspeak that means they stink.

      • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

        I don’t think Kennedy stinks but definitely not a fan of the signing, especially in light of also signing Ellis and Hairston. Those were fine, imho, but the Kennedy role could’ve been filled by an NRI or minor leaguer, and cheaper. (Not that AK is that expensive per se, mind you.) 

        • Anonymous

          I agree Kennedy is not terrible, but you can probably get as much production, and greater versatility, from Sellers – for a fraction of the cost.

          • Anonymous

            Kennedy’s contract is not so much that he can’t be replaced by Fields.  He is only $500,000 over the MLB minimum.

        • Anonymous

          OK maybe stinks is too harsh a word. Sub is not very good anymore!

  • http://underdog.typepad.com/ underdog

    How would Fields making the team affect Sands’ chances, Jon? I was assuming there was room for both, or is there? 

    • Anonymous

      No room for both unless an injury happens. Only really one spot on 25 man left for position player.

  • Anonymous

    As the resident OSU grad, I’m a huge Josh Fields fan. For those that dont know, he was the starting QB for our football program when he was in college. His leading us to a W over OU was an inspirational type win for the program. Cowboys fan recognize that win as a turning for our football program. Love Fields and I hope he makes the team!!

  • Anonymous

    I agree with the interest in Fields.

    I was wondering why, with so many weak spots( just see the fan-graph position power ratings) we are still expected to play near .500. Then I realized it is the pitching. To me, the pitching situation seems poor, with every spot except #1 starter having some “iffy quality” to it. But that is just because as a Dodger fan for fifty years I am used to having 3 or 4 very good starter candidates almost every year.
    It’s tradition! I realize many teams in many years are like the Cubs currently. All they can say is either Dempster or Garza will be their #1 Starter and they will mix and match beyond that. The Dodgers have Kershaw, Billz( potentially good) and paid for a couple of solid vets( I don’t really approve of giving elderly pitchers 2 year contracts). With a pen full of young smoke and young starters on the way, this is a better situation than many, if not most clubs.

  • Anonymous

    Player 1: Coming off two excellent seasons with SFG, Juan Uribe posted a truly historically inept hitting numbers in 77 games played. According to fWAR, he was worth 0.4 WAR, thanks mostly to his solid defense across the infield.

    Player 2: In his rookie season in 2007, Josh Fields posted what would be his career numbers in circa 400 PAs. He was worth 0.6 fWAR.

    Juan Uribe’s worst, historically awful, close your eyes bad season was pretty much equal to the best the 29 year old Josh Fields could muster in his career so far. Obviously we shouldn’t have paid him $8 mil. for 3 years, but fielding does matter, especially considering we already have 50 errors at short.

    • Anonymous

      50 errors at short is Jose Offermann. Gordon is far better than that.

    • Anonymous

      Agreed on Fields. I don’t think we’re looking at Fields as the starting 3B, but maybe as the RH power bat off the bench who can fill in a little at both corners of the IF could be useful at least. 
      Uribe (hopefully) should bounce back to at least career norms which would in itself be a victory with his plus defense is probably our best bet at 3B….such as it is.
      I’m with WBB on the errors for Gordon. I don’t see him at 50. I say 30-35, but also with his range I see him taking 15-20 sure base hits away so I think it evens itself out somewhat.

  • Anonymous

    “…on the Dodger ownership race, a subject that I find myself with no desire to cover, despite its huge importance.”
    I am right there with you Jon.  Baseball, just baseball 

  • Anonymous

    Why are we even in this situation as regards Sands?  Ned, Ned Ned…Juan Rivera catches lightening in a bottle at manages a .740 OPS for us.  A level he hasn’t reached since 2009.  We resign him for $4 million.  Sands is brought up quickly after a strong showing in AA and a good spring  He shows that he needs to adjust, goes down and does just that.  Comes back up and in 84 PA during Sept/Oct hits 150 OPS+.  Juan Rivera in Sept/Oct, manages a 99 OPS+ in his last 97 PA, and is resigned for $4 million.  He is a  Anderson/Belliard/Uribe waiting to happen.

    • Anonymous

       I don’t think Rivera’s quite in that category, but Sands is clearly a superior option.

    • Anonymous

      Speaking of catching lightning in a bottle, Jerry Sands’ BABIP in Sept/Oct was .430. It was a ridiculous stretch of luck, not any adjustments, that made Sands look so good.

      • Anonymous

        I am under no illusion that Sands is a 150 OPS+ hitter.  On the other hand, his line drive rate suggests that he did learn something. 

      • Anonymous

        Although that is unsustainable for sure, line drives aren’t luck…the funny thing about guys hitting for better average, their BABIP is higher…but agree he must have had some luck of the rolling ball to BABIP .430.
        It was clear he was better able to handle the inside pitches on his return, plus his walk rate was good both times over 10% that right there is very valuable even if his AVG only hovers at .250-.260 with that walk rate his OBP jumps to pretty decent and if he can hit with some power he’s certainly at least as good as Rivera with maybe slightly better defense (although neither should win a GG of course neither should Ethier….)

  • http://www.dodgerthoughts.com/ Jon Weisman

     NPUT