When considering the few holes in the Dodgers‘ prospective 25-man roster for the upcoming season, many fans are quick to point out the needs for starting pitching, bullpen help or even some type of power bat in the middle of the lineup. However, we’ve been talking for a few months about the potential requirement for a left-handed hitting middle infielder, most specifically a body to pair with Logan Forsythe at second base.
Forsythe could conceivably play every day if required, plus there’s a whole army of players who can provide cover at the keystone—Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor, Austin Barnes, Tim Locastro, or even Justin Turner in an emergency. But all those options are righty hitters, and it will be very atypical of Andrew Friedman and his crew not to have a left-handed hitting second baseman on the 25-man roster, especially considering the way Forsythe has hit right-handed pitching throughout his career.
For the entirety of the 2017 regular season, Forsythe hit just .190/.315/.262 in 286 plate appearances against RHP—a scary thought when considering that roughly two-thirds of the starting pitchers in the majors throw from the right side. Career-wise, his numbers are a little better, but not stellar by any means, as he has a .236/.317/.344 lifetime mark against right-handers. In the greater scope of things, a .344 career slugging percentage for a player hitting in the middle of a lineup with championship aspirations probably won’t do the trick.
There are a few free agent options—Jose Reyes, Danny Espinosa and Cliff Pennington, to name a few—but if the payroll figure happens to drift dangerously close to the luxury tax threshold anytime soon, the last thing management will want to do is spend several million dollars on a backup middle infielder.
This is where Max Muncy comes in to the picture. The left-handed hitting, 27-year-old utility man can play all over the yard, but as far as major league experience goes, he’s spent most of his time at second base. For Oakland in 2016, he started 19 games at the keystone and logged 159 innings defensively without recording an error.
The Athletics released Muncy at the conclusion of spring training in 2017 to create roster space, and the Dodgers snagged him immediately, ushering him into Triple-A Oklahoma City right away. The Midland, Texas native went on to have an outstanding year for OKC, slashing .309/.414/.491 with 12 long balls, 20 doubles and 44 RBI in 109 contests. Perhaps more importantly, he proved his defensive versatility, having played ample time at first base, second base and third base, along with a handful of games at both corner outfield spots.
Based on his success in the PCL last season, it’s likely he’ll garner an NRI invite to big league spring training, and it wouldn’t be at all shocking if he’s considered for a 25-man roster spot once the dust settles, so long as he has a productive camp. And perhaps another thing working in Muncy’s favor is the fact that he has one option year left on his contract, providing management with additional roster flexibility, if needed.
Of course, there are a few other options if management decides to pass over Muncy, and if they indeed do not opt to bring in a free agent from the outside. Unlike Forsythe, Taylor had a very productive campaign against right-handed pitchers in 2017, having slashed .285/.355/.500. Moreover, Taylor hit 17 of his 21 home runs against RHP. That said, it wouldn’t be difficult to slide Taylor into second base on occasion, while moving either Andrew Toles or Joc Pederson into center field.
Additionally, the Dodgers grabbed a switch-hitting middle infield prospect in Angelo Mora during the minor league portion of the Rule 5 draft during the Winter Meetings. Last season, Mora appeared in 107 games across two different levels of the Philadelphia farm, slashing a combined .291/.334/.435 with nine home runs, 24 doubles and 55 RBI. He played mostly second base, shortstop and third base defensively, but he has yet to come anywhere near a big league roster.
In the end, while other alternatives to compliment Forsythe do exist, there may be a door leading to the 25-man roster for Muncy to sneak through, as long as the Dodgers don’t make any major additions between now and mid-February. And as it seems like spring training is still an eternity away, pitchers and catchers will be filing into the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch in just 50 days, making that doorway for Muncy even wider .
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