In addition to hot stove talk and reruns of old games, MLB Network fills its offseason programming with Top Ten rankings of position players and pitchers. Most recently, it revealed its 10 best starting pitchers. Clayton Kershaw came in at number 10 on the list, and he was chosen as one the best pitchers of the last decade.
What was interesting to me was the first baseman rankings. Max Muncy came in at number four on the list, behind Paul Goldschmidt, Freddie Freeman and Joey Votto. Muncy burst back on the Major League scene in 2018, after having played only 107 games in 2015-16 with the Oakland Athletics, and none at all in 2017.
After being called up from Triple-A Oklahoma City on April 17th, he saw 84 games at first base for the Dodgers, basically replacing Cody Bellinger who spent most of the 2017 season at first, and who moved to the outfield for the majority of 2018.
With the Dodgers’ current roster construct, Bellinger may again be called upon to spend most of his games in the outfield. And if Muncy produces like he did last season, he will once again see the majority of his playing time at first. Muncy had a 4.8 WAR, a slash line of .263/.391/.582/.973 with 35 homers and 17 doubles.
But as Dodger fans know, the brass love players that can play at multiple positions. The team currently does not have a regular starter at second base. In 2017, Muncy played 38 at third, 13 at second, six in left and one at DH. Manager Dave Roberts has mentioned that Muncy will be in the discussion of who will man the keystone. Muncy played 159 innings at second base for Oakland in 2016.
To be in the lineup every day, as mentioned above, Muncy will have to perform like he did last season. Overall, Muncy hit left-handers fairly well, facing them 119 times and batting .255/.361/.529. His issues came in the second half of the season, when his production saw a downhill slide against both righty and lefty pitching.
The key to Muncy replicating his 2018 complain is to maintain his patience at the plate. Muncy saw more pitches per plate appearance than most in the league, walking in 16.4% of his at-bats. One will also wonder what the Dodgers’ new hitting coach, Robert Van Scoyoc, will see in Muncy to help him maintain and possibly improve.
I think that overall, Muncy will be as good as he was last year, maybe with some slight regression. I also think first base will be his home, and second will be left to the duo of Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez. (Taylor was ranked as the fifth best second baseman by MLB Network).
Regardless, Dieter Ruehle will be regaling us with strains of “That Funky Monkey” all season long.