2019 Dodgers Spring Training Positional Battle: Second Base
With spring training in gear, and games just mere days away, it’s been touched on ad nauseam about the Dodgers depth and embarrassment of riches. This leads to healthy competition at positions that have multiple good players who can play them. For this article, I’m going to look at the battle for 2B.
2018 wRC+: 162
Max Muncy didn’t play a ton at 2nd base last year, and when he did it was never met with a lot of enthusiasm from the Dodger faithful. This can be misleading, though. Muncy, in 250 innings at second base, has a career UZR/150 of 5.4 at second base. (For detailed information on UZR, check fangraphs here. I won’t bore anyone with the details who doesn’t want them.) That would have been sixth-best in MLB in 2018. This is a small sample size, and I understand that many fans don’t trust advanced analytics, particularly when it comes to defense.
So the analytics say Max Muncy CAN play 2nd base, and at a high rate. The arguably bigger x-factor with our Wolf is whether he hits at the prodigious power rate he posted in 2018, comes way back to earth, or somewhere in the middle. If he puts out what I predicted in this previous article, it’ll be somewhere in the middle and still WELL above average power. Give me 28 home runs, for 450 AB’s, Alex. The eye test still reigns supreme for Max Muncy–and just because he doesn’t look like a 2nd baseman shouldn’t put him out of the running. As of this moment, he’s the leading candidate.
2018 wRC+: 113
Ben Lindbergh, of TheRinger.com and author, ranked Chris Taylor as the 4th best 2nd baseman in baseball, with MLB Network’s ‘The Shredder’ ranking him #5. His 2018 was obviously a regression, but still was a solid year for CT3. He still hit 17 dingers and posted a 775 OPS. The x-factor with Chris Taylor’s 2019 candidacy for 2nd base is Robert Van Scoyoc. Scoyoc was the hitting coach that helped Chris Taylor re-invent his swing, leading to his huge 2017 breakout.
Defensively, the advanced metrics aren’t as kind to Chris Taylor as a 2nd baseman. The UZR and UZR/150 stats love Chris Taylor in the outfield corners and 3rd base. As a 2nd baseman his career UZR/150 at 2nd base is -19.6. This isn’t make or break either, but the Dodgers FO is well aware and versed in metrics. This will no doubt be in consideration.
2018 wRC+: 118
The super utility man had a career last year. I’ve covered his 2018 a few times in prior articles. He hit 21 dingers, posted an .806 OPS, and played every position except catcher. I truly believe his numbers would have been even better if he had not often been put in ill-advised spots in the batting order. Everyone plays in their ‘lane’ and Enrique batting 3rd just didn’t work out for him.
Defensively, UZR/150 doesn’t love the Banana man over at 2nd either. These metrics don’t love Kikè over at 3rd base either. There are some reasons for this. Looking deeper at the defensive metrics I could spell out why, but it’s very dense. Suffice to say, he should still be a solid 2nd baseman given enough time at the position.
Caution About UZR/150
When researching this topic I discovered that this stat can skew a player’s ability at a position, particularly these 3 players and their 2nd base experience. It’s “Balls In Zone” and “Plays.” The amount of balls in zone or plays that Max Muncy has had at 2nd base (per 150 games) is a significantly smaller amount than Hernandez and Taylor. All this to say, small sample size is a real skew, and take it with a grain of salt.
I know the most popular thought among Dodger fans is that Kikè should be a utility plater at all times. It’s a fair charge. Kikè is great as a utility player because he can literally play everywhere, so I understand that position. Still, I think Kikè is a great candidate for full time at 2nd base, defensively. The metrics may not agree, but the metrics aren’t perfect. Max Muncy would be my choice if he comes close to his 2018 production offensively, and he had more 2nd base experience. Chris Taylor may be the goldilocks of those two options. If produces anything like 2017, Chris Taylor is a great option for 2nd base. This could also all be for naught, and the Dodgers may platoon this position all year.
Who do you think will win the position during spring training?
[button link=”https://dodgersnation.com/dodgers-positional-prospects-to-watch-in-spring-training-2019/2019/02/22/” type=”big” color=”red”] Dodgers: Positional Prospects to Watch in Spring Training 2019[/button]
If Muncy can be simply an average defensive 2nd baseman I would play him there as this would allow Bellinger to play 1st base where he is a Gold Glove caliber defender. There would still be the opportunity for Kike and Taylor to sub in the OF and rotate around the infield to give guys some time off.
1st base can be such a key defensive spot I like the most talented defender there that a team can find.
I like Taylor at 2b. But it will come down to who performs best in spring training. And whoever starts the season at 2b might not be the same as who finished the season there. David Freeze is also an X factor, if Mindy is at 2nd does Freeze play 1b the majority of the time? If Belli goes to 1st who plays right field? Do you want an of of Pederson,, Pollock and Verdugo?
For one thing the idea that 2nd base will most likely be a platoon position just sickens me. Someone should earn the job outright so Seager doesn’t have to see a different middle INF partner every game. And Muncy? Just another of a plethora of LH hitters on this team…
The second base issue poses an interesting conundrum : one player can hit, one can field, and CT3 might be able to do both. IMHO, Taylor is the most well-rounded of the three players. I like Belles at first; Taylor at second; Kiki as the supersub; and Max can fill in anywhere we need help on any given day, like the outfield. I agree with Azul and PD Jr. that the thought of platooning at second base does not make me happy. Let us see how CT does and go from there. It would also be nice seeing Taylor use his speed while batting at or near the top of the lineup with Verdugo. Go Blue!!