GLENDALE -- With Matt Kemp likely to open the season on the disabled list, the Dodgers will probably need another outfielder on the roster. That opens up a potential spot for new Dodger Mike Baxter.
The Dodgers claimed Baxter off waivers from the Mets on Oct. 17. He was with New York for three years but after hitting just .189/.303/.250 in 74 games in 2013 it was a move he saw coming.
"I didn't have a great year last year. Whenever you do that you're definitely susceptible to a roster move like that. It wasn't shocking but it was disappointing obviously whenever a team wants to let you go," Baxter said. "But I was thrilled a few days later when I heard that the Dodgers wanted me."
Baxter has played mostly right field and left field in the majors. He has played seven major league innings and 46 minor league games in center field, and says he likes playing all three positions equally, though manager Don Mattingly said Baxter would be more likely to see time in the corner spots, especially during spring.
"We don't have a ton of guys here. There's [seven] outfielders [not including Kemp]," Mattingly siad. "I feel like we'll get a good look at all of our outfielders."
In his career Baxter has excelled as a pinch hitter, hitting .313/.417/.463 with 10 doubles and 11 walks in 84 plate appearances.
"Over the years I've kind of developed an in-game routine that prepares me," Baxter said. "I might sneak back in clubhouse during game to watch film."
On a team with four starting outfielders under contract and Scott Van Slyke also vying for a bench spot, Baxter faces tough competition for the active roster. But he welcomes the challenge.
"I've been doing that for a long time. It's just another spring training for me," Baxter said. "To come in and have the opportunity to play on this team it's unbelievable. There's a lot of great players here, and I know I can help the team win."
Baxter set a Mets franchise record with five walks in a nine-inning game on Aug. 4, 2012 against the Padres, the team that drafted him in the fourth round in 2005.
He has always had an above-average walk rate. Among the 492 players with at least 300 plate appearances from 2011-2013, Baxter's 11.6% walk rate ranks 51st.
Baxter avoided arbitration with a non-guaranteed $700,000 contract for 2014. He has two years, 129 days of service time and one option year remaining.
|2014 projections - Age 29 season|
I'll guess Baxter hits .240/.328/.370 in 117 plate appearances in 2014. What's your guess?