One of the most fun things about spring training is watching players compete for regular playing time, especially at the positions where there’s still uncertainty. While the Dodgers have plenty of spots on the field that are locked down, there could be one or two that are decided in the final moments leading up to Opening Day.
Seemingly, there’s a chance that former 2016 first-round pick Gavin Lux is absent from the starting lineup on Opening Day in Denver, although the possibility is good that he’s a regular contributor throughout the season.
When the Dodgers signed Freddie Freeman last week, the uncertainty around which players would handle specific positions increased significantly, particularly with players like Lux, Max Muncy and Chris Taylor. However, it’s probably safe to assume that the Dodgers will rotate the designated hitter spot based on the handedness of the pitcher, which players need rest and injuries.
For as much as we speculate, injuries can highly impact how a team fields its starting nine. And for as much as the Dodgers rotate players around the diamond, nobody ever really sits for an extended period. For the 24-year-old lefty hitting Lux, it’s critical that he get his fair share of looks, because there’s really not much more he can do in the minor leagues to prove himself.
That said, Lux is far from a proven big leaguer, particularly with a team with higher-than-average standards like the Dodgers.
Most of us hate projections, but at least they give us a good idea what someone else — or a computer — is thinking. Steamer has Lux playing in just 63 major league games this year, slashing .261/.339/.430 with eight homers and 32 RBI. ZiPS, on the other hand, has him playing in 132 games, hitting .243/.318/.414 with 16 bombs and 70 RBI.
As much as we know, either could be accurate; and a lot of it could depend on how hot Lux comes out of the gate with his bat. It’s probably also worth mentioning that Lux still has two options on his contract, so at least the team has roster flexibility if things go sour for him at some point.
Last year was a tale of two seasons for the 6-foot-2 Lux, as he was demoted in late August after producing a .221/.302/.340 slash line over 85 games. However, he finished strong in September, hitting an impressive .367 for the entire month. He even showed his willingness and athleticism by moving all around the field late in the season, playing in new spots like third base, left field and center field.
One of the things to watch with the lefty-hitting Lux is his splits. Many scouts thought he have no problem hitting lefties in the majors, but he still can’t seem to figure them out. As a minor leaguer, they’ve always been evenly split — even last year during his time down in Triple-A he hit .265 against lefties and .273 against righties. However, in the majors, he has a career .168 average against southpaws with a .251 mark against right handers.
I’m one of those fans who thinks Muncy will see significant time at designated hitter, although by no means will he be a regular there. Justin Turner could also benefit from extended time at DH, giving the club the option to take a lefty/righty approach against an opposing starting pitcher. Freeman doesn’t need much time off, but he might even benefit from the occasional DH appearance, as could someone like Chris Taylor, who likely won’t have an everyday playing spot.
At the end of the day, there’s plenty of flexibility for the team to give Lux all the looks he needs to prove himself. The bigger question is whether he has the skills needed for a successful career in the majors.