Who will Dodgers call up to replace Carl Crawford?

Cameron Spencer

We know Carl Crawford will be placed on the 15-day disabled list with a sprained left ankle; he said so himself after Tuesday's win over the Reds.

"It's going to take a while," Crawford said.

Now the question remains, who will the Dodgers call up to replace him? There are more options than you might think.

The obvious first thought is Joc Pederson, either the team's top or second-best hitting prospect depending on your trusted ranker of choice. Pederson is hitting .347/.454/.652 and tied for the Pacific Coast League lead with 15 home runs while playing center field in Triple-A Albuquerque.

If the Dodgers are serious about going defense first, as suggested by the five-game benching of Matt Kemp, their best major-league-ready center fielder in the organization is Pederson. It's a chance for the Dodgers to catch lightning in a bottle with a 22-year-old rookie outfielder for a second straight year.

But don't be shocked if that doesn't happen, at least not yet.

The Dodgers want Pederson to continue to develop before bringing him up. He is hitting .296/.383/.549 with five home runs against left-handed pitching this season and .266/.366/.385 against southpaws in his minor league career.

Pederson could continue to develop while playing everyday in the majors, or even with Kemp spelling him occasionally against left-handed pitchers, but it's unclear the team would be willing to commit to Pederson to playing nearly every day.

Then again, necessity forces hands now and then.

More likely, the Dodgers will continue to play Andre Ethier in center field, since he's hitting .333/.380/.515 in May after his home run and triple on Tuesday night, with Kemp shifting over to left plus a mix of Scott Van Slyke now and then.

If Kemp is ready, that is, to play a position he hasn't played since 2006.

“He’s going to have to make that decision,” manager Don Mattingly said of Kemp, per J.P. Hoornstra of the LA Daily News. “I’m comfortable putting him out there as long as he feels like he’s going to be able to play. I don’t want him to get out there and feel like he’s not ready for it.”

With no Crawford for a while and the role for Kemp to accept presumably more full time than part time, it's much more likely Kemp starts in left on Wednesday night and continues to play there regularly, unless they decide to go with a completely scorched-earth policy.

But even if Pederson doesn't get the call, the Dodgers are still going to bring somebody up to replace Crawford.

The only healthy position player on the 40-man roster is infielder Carlos Triunfel, hitting an underwhelming .202/.235/.264 in Triple-A.

The Dodgers could call up another relief pitcher, most likely Chris Withrow or Paco Rodriguez, but that doesn't seem likely for a long-term solution since the club likely won't want to continue playing with a short bench for very long. In the short term it makes even less sense, with ace Clayton Kershaw starting Wednesday night and the entire bullpen limited to five innings and five total appearances over the last four games combined. This is a well-rested bullpen.

That leaves us with other position player candidates who, like Pederson, are not currently on the 40-man roster. The Dodgers have an open spot on the 40-man roster after Miguel Olivo's release for biting Alex Guerrero's ear last week, so adding a player isn't a huge issue.

Mike Baxter seems the most logical choice. The 29-year-old outfielder began the year with the Dodgers, has previous major league experience, and would fit in in a bench role. The left-handed Baxter hitting just .248/.357/.391 in the hitter-friendly PCL, but when compared to Trayvon Robinson's .216/.252/.307 line Baxter is a much more likely choice.

Or the Dodgers could go with Jamie Romak, hitting .272/.354/.578 with the Isotopes on the season including 10 home runs in May. The 28-year-old right-handed hitter has been playing mostly third base for Albuquerque, but has seen time at first base and corner outfield spots as well, versatility that could play well on a major league bench. Romak, with 4,306 minor league plate appearances, has never played in the majors.

If it's up to me — spoiler alert: it's not — I jump in to the deep end of the Joc Pederson pool. Put him in center field and let him roam every day. If he's not ready yet, he can be sent back to the minors. But if he is ready, the Dodgers could have something special on their hands, on both sides of the ball.

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