No doubt, the 413-foot bomb that Gavin Lux launched in the eighth inning of Tuesday night’s victory was one of the most clutch moments the team has seen in weeks. While there have been a few other bright spots here and there offensively, the Dodgers just might find a way to put together a string of success should more of these huge plays occur in critical moments.
Lux in this role is interesting because he’s probably one of the least expected to perform these types of heroics, especially when considering his start to the 2021 season. Once ranked as the organization’s top prospect, several issues kept him off the big-league diamond last year until late August. When he finally arrived in 2020, he ended up hitting just .175/.246/.349 for the year with three homers over 63 AB in 19 games.
Prior to Tuesday’s opener against the Mariners, Lux was slashing .209/.247/.267 with no homers in 86 AB this year. Undeniably, moments like his go-ahead blast are not just huge for the team, but they’re also paramount in building a player’s confidence. Maybe his home run on Tuesday was one of those confidence builders.
When thinking about the future of Lux, one can’t help but consider what could potentially happen with Corey Seager. If Seager ends up in a different uniform next season, some fans feel that Lux might have a shot at an everyday shortstop role. Should Seager return, perhaps Lux might settle in as the regular second baseman, something the team hasn’t really had since the days of Chase Utley in 2016-17.
However, before we look too far ahead, Lux will most definitely need to prove his value before he’s considered as a long-term solution in the middle infield.
I’m not normally a huge fan of pre-season projections, but I still like to look at them to generate at least an idea as to how a player is perceived by a computer. Entering this year, ZiPS had Lux pegged to hit .246/.304/.446 with 16 doubles, six triples, 17 long balls, and 65 RBI. Those are not overwhelming numbers by any means—especially for a former Rookie of the Year favorite—but I’d bet if you’d ask Dodgers’ management if they’d take that production from Lux by season’s end, the answer would be an astounding “yes.”
The bigger question is whether those types of averages would warrant him everyday playing time over the next several years.
Sometimes, trying to determine if a prospect might be successful in the majors is a complete crapshoot. We see first-round blue chippers who are never able to figure out an MLB slider. Conversely, we see undrafted free agents latch on somewhere only to produce big league careers that last years.
Contrary to popular belief, second base is a crowded spot right now in the Los Angeles organization. Down on the farm, there are guys like Michael Busch, Omar Estevez, and Jacob Amaya who show promise, but none of them have the well-rounded tools of Lux. Busch might be a better all-around hitter, but many feel he’s lacking in the glove and hands department. Estevez is viewed as a potential defensive wizard, but his production at the plate is less than desired, even in the minors.
At the major league level, in addition to Lux’s 23 appearances there, we’ve seen Zach McKinstry, Max Muncy, Chris Taylor, and Sheldon Neuse all log time there. Austin Barnes has even made three appearances at the keystone.
The fact that skipper Dave Roberts continues to award Lux the lion’s share of time at second base emphasizes the team’s commitment to giving the youngster an extended opportunity to prove his value. No question, based on the tools we’ve seen, Lux perhaps has the highest ceiling of all the prospective second basemen in the system. Whether he’s able to maximize his tools and potential down the road, though, is an entirely different story.