On Sunday, the Dodgers officially declined the $17.5 million contract of veteran Andre Ethier, buying him out for $2.5 million. He was the longest tenured Dodger player, playing in the big leagues for parts of 12 seasons. His last hit as a Dodger might just be the run scoring single he hit in Game 7 of the World Series.
Ethier could be re-signed for less in the offseason as an incoming free agent, but he would return to an already crowded outfield. One person who seemingly will return to that outfield is Andrew Toles. After missing most of last season with a torn right ACL going after a fly ball in left field in early May, Toles has recently been posting his recovery process on his Instagram account.
Andrew was having a good season up until the point of the injury. In 31 games, he posted a .271/.314/.458/.772 slash line. In addition, he had five home runs and three doubles. Toles was the primary lead off hitter for the Dodgers, and his loss opened the path for Chris Taylor to become the primary leadoff batter for the rest of the season. If he had not incurred the injury, he could have very well been the seventh Dodger player with over 20 home runs.
Toles has already had a rough time making it to a 25-man roster on a major league squad. His troubles started back in college, when he was dismissed from both the Tennessee Volunteers and Chipola College baseball teams for unspecified reasons. He was drafted by the Tampa Bay Rays in the third round of the 2012 Draft. He played well for a few years, earning many accolades in the Rays minor league system.
Then in 2014, he was criticized by his Class A-Advanced manager, left the team and was placed on the inactive list for “personal reasons.” After attending the Rays’ spring camp, he was released by the team and did not play during all of 2015. It is well noted how he was working in a grocery store during this time.
Things began to turn around when he signed with the Dodgers after the 2015 season, and he quickly worked his way up through the Dodgers farm system, debuting on July 8, 2016 against the San Diego Padres. He hit .314/.365/.505/.870 for the remainder of the season, with three homers and 16 RBI. He hit .364 in the postseason, playing in 11 games.
Toles primarily played left field against right handed pitching. If he returns to full health and action, he could very well find himself in a platoon with Kiké Hernandez, who would then face left-handed pitching. There is quite the backlog of outfielders at the moment in the Dodgers organization, with Joc Pederson, Alex Verdugo, Taylor, Yasiel Puig, Trayce Thompson and even Cody Bellinger, should Adrian Gonzalez return to first next season. Toles will have to fight hard to secure a place on the 2018 roster, but if he continues his play from before his injury, no doubt we will see him back in Dodger Blue in left field next season.
(FOLLOW ANDY ON TWITTER: @DODGERSANDYINPA)