While there have been many fantastic storylines that have come in the first-half of 2018, none has captured the hearts of Dodgers fans more than the emergence of utility man extraordinaire Max Muncy. By no means am I saying his overall statistics are monumental—his home run output is very close, though—but considering where he was on the organizational ladder last winter, his ascension to becoming the Dodger’s top slugger has been colossal. It’s almost reminiscent of the under-the-radar advent of Chris Taylor in 2017, but in a much smaller span of time.
Last Christmas Eve, when nobody even heard of him, I put together a quick story about Muncy, mentioning how he could be a sleeper for the big league 25-man roster in 2018. And even though second base is not his natural position, my focus was seeing Muncy sliding onto the squad to make-up for an under-productive Logan Forsythe on offense:
“He 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. 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… 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.”
Not only did Muncy sneak through that door, skipper Dave Roberts now finds it difficult to keep the 27-year-old Texas native out of the daily lineup—even for a single day of rest.
The craziest stat of all is that Muncy hammered just five long balls in his first 96 big league ABs. However, in the first half of 2018, he reached 20 home runs in only his 183rd AB of the season, making him the fastest to get there in Dodgers history, according to Elias Sports Bureau research. Muncy broke the record set by Cody Bellinger in 189 ABs last season.
“He’s putting up All-Star numbers,” Roberts recently said of his lefty-hitting slugger. “That’s just the way it is. That’s the truth. He’s taking advantage of an opportunity, and it’s good to see.”
Muncy’s 1.060 OPS would be leading the National League by a wide margin, but he doesn’t yet have enough ABs to qualify for the official lead among regular players. Still, his 20 blasts are good enough for third place on the Senior Circuit, trailing only Bryce Harper of the Nationals and Nolan Arenado of the Rockies.
Even teammate Clayton Kershaw is on board with the “Mad Max” brigade, telling reporters earlier in the week that he believes Muncy is currently among the hottest in the game.
“We knew Max was a good hitter, but I don’t think anybody in the world would expect this,” Kersh explained. “He’s the best hitter in baseball right now. I don’t think anybody could argue with that.”
In a special-guest column last week, an old friend of our site, Todd Boldizsar, touched upon a few of the technical aspects that have been attributed to Muncy’s latest string of success:
“Muncy, under hitting coach Darren Bush, featured a much more level swing, and a small shuffle of his front foot. This led to solid contact and average exit velocity on balls in play, but Muncy’s balance was off on breaking balls and his torque was minimal on fastballs. In 2017, Muncy spent the entire season with Triple-A Oklahoma City hitting coach Shawn Wooten, and the real man behind the scenes, hitting consultant Craig Wallenbrock. These two men gave Muncy a better timing mechanism with a small leg kick, and provided Muncy with advice on adding a slight upturn to his swing. The result was increased bat speed due to body mechanics, and Muncy’s swing now generates lift. Muncy’s new swing mimics the trend in Major League Baseball, where hitters are relying less on bunt hits and stolen bases, and more on instant power. This make-or-break approach has added excitement back into the game. Muncy has gone from nullified WAR to 2.2 already in 2018, and is on pace for nearly 7 WAR by the end of the regular season.”
With the NL All-Star rosters not long from being finalized, there’s a good chance that Muncy may be included in some shape or form, especially with Roberts being the NL skipper. Undeniably, he’s certainly deserving, yet, there’s no question he puts the success of his team ahead of any personal accolades.
And while there’s no telling what surprises lie ahead in the second-half of the year, if Muncy’s output comes anywhere close to that of the first-half, fans of the Dodgers are likely to look back and remember Muncy’s 2018 campaign for a long, long time.
22 thoughts on “So Far, Max Muncy’s 2018 Season Has Been Monumental”
My inclination, despite how Dodger fans absolutely love Max, was to assume that nationally hardly anyone knows about him. I was very happy this morning to see that one of the guys on the MLB tv morning show made a big deal out of saying that he deserves to be on the All Star team. Go Max!
Well, guess it just goes to show you that this current Dodger staff knows exactly what it’s doing with their hitters and Oakland still doesn’t have a damn clue (LMAO!). Wasn’t like Muncy just exploded on the scene all of a sudden. He actually did show flashes of this kind of potential back during the 2013 season in the CAL League where he cranked out 25 longballs and drove in 103 runs. Then he inexplicably went away from what was working for him that year (Darren Bush’s influence???) and it took both Wooten and that “swing doctor” Wallenbrock to get him back on track again. What a journey, indeed. I’m just glad the Dodgers snatched up Muncy when they did. Sooner or later, some other team might’ve ended up reaping the benefits had they gotten their hands on that guy instead of them.
And yeah, he’s headed to the All-Star Game. Book it!
Muncy has been doing so well at the plate, we haven’t talked about his defense at second. It seems to me he has done ok, don’t think he’ll win the gold glove there, but he hasn’t hurt us yet, what do you guys think?
I’ll leave the exact defensive analysis to Dennis and Manuel but to the naked eye Muncy certainly seems to field the position as well as Daniel Murphy and in past years the Nats felt comfortable enough with his bat that they played him there on a regular basis. That said, Muncy has really had very few games at second so I would assume he would continue to improve as a gets more reps. There you have it, one person’s opinion.
You said it better than I ever could regarding Muncy’s defense at 2B, Jeff. I’ll leave it at that! Like I said before on here, if Daniel Murphy can play that position long-term, so can he.
I have a bad feeling that Toles is going to be the guy we no longer have on the roster at the end of the month. Joc has established himself as a regular and I don’t think Friedman would trade Verdugo for any reliever, so unless he goes in a deal for a Machado, deGrom or Realmuto and if relievers are our number one priority, Toles seems like he could be in big demand.
Question to the assembled multitude – Which of the following relievers do you think we could get for Toles straight up or Toles and a prospect in our 10-15 range: Treinen, Kela, Hand, Barraclough, Iglesias, Vazquez (formerly Rivero)? Or am I severely over estimating Toles’ value on the open market?
I think you’re overestimating. His sample size at the big league level is much too small. His ceiling is very high, that’s for sure, but high ceilings alone rarely get traded like that completed.
I always laugh at fans who value their prospects way too high and now I’m doing it myself. That’s why Friedman is good at his job. He seems to be able to leave emotion out of it. Do you think Verdugo’s trade value is a lot higher? Meaning, if you sub him for Toles in my scenarios, does that get it done? Of course Verdugo’s sample size at MLB level is even smaller.
For some reason, and I don’t know why, rival clubs see Verdugo as having much better tools. There are tons of dynamics to trades, though. Oftentimes, successful deals depend on the needs of each club. Oakland, for example, may have no interest at all in an outfielder, regardless of experience or his potential ceiling. Maybe all the conversations start with a highly ranked pitching prospect. We’ll likely never know, aside from the speculative reports we read.
Looks like one of the Rancho farmhands just got promoted to AA Tulsa today. Bad news is it’s not Rylan Bannon, Cody Thomas, or even Marshall Kasowski. Good news is it’s one of their starting pitchers, Dean Kremer. He’s currently pitching the tail-end of a double-header tonight and so far looks to be right on the money still. Continues to rack up the Ks at a ridiculous rate, Drillers’ play-by-play guy seemed to be impressed by his outing so far. Thought fellow Rancho teammate Tony Gonsolin would beat him there, but he was just placed on the 7-Day DL and I honestly don’t know why at the moment. Pray it’s nothing too serious, though.
Before I forget, know anything about this Miguel Vargas kid the Dodgers signed out of Cuba recently Dennis??? Ever since coming over stateside, he’s just taken off with the bat. Heard he’s got Cuban baseball bloodlines on account of his father who’s supposed to be among that country’s most well-known ballplayers, but that’s all I could find on my end. Sounds like someone worth tracking over the next couple years if he continues to trend up at his current pace…
I’ll definitely do some poking around on Vargas.
I think we’re all going to want to keep an eye on Vargas. So far in tonight’s game (still in progress) he’s 3-5 with 4 rbi and that lowered his batting avg from .700 to .667. Good find Manuel! Obviously a very small sample size, but the kid’s only 18 and worth a look. So far this year it seems as though Ogden is scoring huge amounts of runs in every game and Great Lakes is having trouble scoring any at all.
Yeah Jeff, that Great Lakes team is the only one in the entire Dodger farm system that’s been snakebit all season long (largely due to the rash of bad weather they had to endure during much of that 1st half, ugh). Coaching staff down there are probably better off using their lost season as an opportunity to get many of those prospects learning the finer points of the game and more importantly, PLAYING TOGETHER AS ONE UNIT! Latin players in particular who have pretty much washed out down there and will have to repeat the level again as a result, which is extremely disappointing. Dodger brass might have to consider possibly moving their Low-A operation to a less “stressful” (and WARMER) league after this year, I’m not kidding either…
I agree. Playing up there you’re just begging to have weather take a big toll on your season. Maybe they can find an equivalent league in a warmer climate and closer to L.A.
I’d appreciate it, Dennis. I know it’s just the Pioneer League, but this kid’s looking like a flat-out hitting machine right now and might not be long for that level anyway. Hardly ever strikes out from what I’ve noticed so far, lol. Other players that caught my eye down there were the middle infielders Jacob Amaya (VERY advanced eye at the plate for his age) and Ronny Brito.(slick fielder at SS and finally showing something with the bat after finally arriving stateside this year) as well as that 1B they drafted this year out of USC, Dillon Paulson. That guy looks like he might actually skip Low-A ball and head straight to Rancho fairly soon because he looks so polished offensively, but with Jared Walker already settled there he’ll probably have to go to the less glamorous Great Lakes affiliate anyway. Aye, too much depth eh??? Still a nice problem to have no matter what!
Our number 1 pick in this year’s draft just announced he isn’t signing. I thought teams always talked to their first pick before spending the pick on him. We not only wasted a pick here but lost over 2 mil in pool money which we can’t spend on other guys. Oh well, we’ll get a compensatory pick next year right after the first round so should have 2 picks in the top 31.
I heard that he really wants to play for the Braves.
He should have told us that before we wasted a pick on him. He’s eligible again after his sophomore year. I think we should pick him again to teach him a lesson. 🙂
Doesn’t phase me one bit. Sounds like they already have their 2nd round pick locked up at least. I think that was the hold up all along and Ginn just couldn’t wait any longer. I’ll gladly take a comp pick ANYDAY and might have a few more coming down the pipe this upcoming offseason with many of these expiring contracts coming off the books. Besides, Dodgers knocked it out of the park in the international draft by netting the big prize in C Diego Cartaya along with a few other potential sleepers for good measure. MLB Draft’s no longer the one-stop for replenishing a “slightly” thinning Dodger farm system and that’s a welcome relief for once.
I’d love to see MLB allow teams to trade their draft picks. It works very nicely in the NBA and I really can’t see any good reason not to allow it. Also, I’m guessing within the next few years, there will be an international draft or at some point it might even be incorporated into the current domestic draft.
I agree with your thoughts about having an international draft.
Kasowski at it again. 2.2 innings tonight, 0 runs, 1 hit, 1 bb, 6 k’s. ERA now at 1.15, WHIP at 0.85, Bat Avg against is .098. 23 k’s in 13 innings. I don’t see any reason to keep him at Rancho any longer.