(Photo Credit: Jeff Roberson/AP)
Whether it be early or late in the game, against opposing starters or relievers, in the field or at the dish, the 24-year-old outfielder continues to make things happen for the Dodgers, and could be a key component to the club’s 25-man roster when the postseason begins in just a few weeks.
In the opener of a critical three-game divisional series against the Giants on Monday night, Toles was the catalyst of an otherwise sluggish offense, as he so often is, when he led off the ninth inning with a single to right field down by a run after replacing center fielder Enrique Hernandez.
Toles advanced from first to third on a slow rolling single by Corey Seager that snuck past the glove of second baseman Joe Panik, and eventually knotted the game at one apiece when Justin Turner lined a base hit to right, setting the stage for Adrian Gonzalez to deliver the evening’s butter and eggs.
“He can hit, he can defend. I like his energy,” Dodgers skipper Dave Roberts said of Toles back in July. “To bring in a kid who’s a nice little spark, it’s a little shot in the arm for the guys.”
Toles has been a spark to the tune of a .349/.402/.578 slash line over 92 plate appearances during his time in the bigs this season. While the Dodgers have lived by philosophies surrounding many different platoon scenarios and hitting matchups, Toles continues to produce whenever he’s called upon, regardless of the situation.
He’s hitting .368 when leading off an inning, .429 as a substitute player, .334 with two outs and runners in scoring position, and .364 when his squad is behind. He’s even batting .333 against lefty pitching — the Dodgers biggest weakness as a team.
And that’s not mentioning his superior arm, nor his excellent defensive range at any of the three outfield spots.
As we’ve already began preliminary conversations geared towards the structure of the club’s 25-man postseason roster, Toles has successfully made a a case for himself over and over again. It’s almost getting to a point where it’s smart to have him in the lineup every day, whatever the pitching matchup may be, just as a way to draw a conclusion regarding the accuracy of his current sample size.
Based on his recent offensive success alone without even discussing defense, there’s no doubt that he’s a cinch for the playoff roster. The largest speculation is deciding which spot he plays in the outfield and where he hits in the lineup.
Never has a Dodgers team in recent history depended so much upon rookies in a quest for a divisional title, and Andrew Toles is just a small part of such a bigger picture. But it’s extremely difficult not to make him a centerpiece of the daily lineup going forward, just because the man always seems to make things happen — invariably.