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Should the Dodgers be Worried About David Peralta and Jason Heyward?

Throughout their run of relative dominance of Major League Baseball over the past decade, the Dodgers have been defined by their depth. However, in 2023, their depth has been somewhat thinned and tested with the arrival of two veteran lefty outfielders.

Jason Heyward and David Peralta have both seen better times in their careers, but the Dodgers saw things they liked in their swings and defense, inking them each to 1 year deals to play against primarily right-handed pitching, an especially pressing matter with the departure of centerfielder Cody Bellinger last offseason.

While both men have been capable defenders so far in 2023, neither has put up particularly impressive, or even average, offensive production. Peralta has an on-base-percentage of .235 with 1 home run and a 43 wRC+ and Heyward is getting on base at a clip of .283 with 3 homers. Neither has even really been close to a league average hitter through 20 or so games of the 2023 season.

While slow starts to the season are not uncommon, their lack of production has certainly hurt the Dodgers, a less offensively superpowered team than the have been in years past. In order for them to succeed in 2023, Heyward and Peralta are going to need to be hitting the ball at least compentently.

So should the Dodgers be worried about these two veterans? In my opinion, the answer is no, or at least not yet.

Both players' underlying numbers indicate a significant amount of bad luck, with Heyward's xwOBA (wieghted expected on-base-average based on the quality of contact a player is making with the baseball) being .393, significantly higher than his .283 OBP. Peralta's xwOBA is .327, again much higher than his current OBP.

Similarly, in looking at both players' baseball savant charts, which compare how well he's hitting in a myriad of categories compared to the rest of the league, are very encouraging. Peralta's has him as better than average if not great in almost every category, even if he hasn't been walking very much. With the amount of hard contact he's making and his relative lack of swing-and-miss, Peralta should start to get much better results at the plate somewhat soon and over the course of the season.

While Jason Heyward does not have a full chart on Baseball Savant, looking at certain statistics can tell the same story as the chart does for Peralta. Heyward's ISO (isolated power) of .256 falls into the "excellent" category of the statistic, demonstrating that he's been absolutely scorching the ball even if it's been ending up the gloves of fielders. However, his luck should turn if he keeps hitting the ball as hard as he is, essentially the best thing a player can do at the plate.

While neither player has put up serviceable traditional numbers to start the 2023 season, it's clear from examining the quality of contact that Jason Heyward and David Peralta have been making that they should remain in the lineup at least against right-handed pitchers. If they keep doing what they've been doing at the plate so far, even though it has not yet yielded noticeable results, they should soon be racking up the hits, homers, and RBIs!

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