We are drawn to sports not just for entertainment, but for timeless storytelling. Everyone loves an underdog story; happenings such as the 2015 champion Kansas City Royals or the Chicago Cubs snapping a century of misery this October. Los Angeles is the land of narratives, and Andrew Toles’ tale is one fit for the big screen.
Toles’ ascension is one of the most improbable in recent history. Andrew Friedman drafted Toles in the third round of the 2012 draft with the Tampa Bay Rays, despite Toles being dismissed at the University of Tennessee and being suspended and benched at Chipola JC. He was a quickly star in the system, winning the Rays’ Minor League Player of The Year award in 2013.
Just a short time later, Toles’ past followed him and it fell apart. He was benched for laziness, his performance plummeted and he was placed on the inactive list for “personal reasons.” He was later released in 2015 spring training.
Toles took up a less spectacular lifestyle, bagging groceries at a local Kroger in Georgia. He remained devoted to a MLB career, working out daily, preparing for another opportunity. Friedman’s familiarity paid off – Toles signed with the Dodgers in October 2015. In one season, he went from Class-A Rancho to starter on the National League’s second best team. Toles is already one of Friedman’s shrewdest pickups.
After destroying minor league pitching to the tune of .331/.374/.511, Toles was promoted about midway through the season. In 48 games, he slashed .314/.365/.505 while becoming arguably the team’s go-to clutch player. In every epic moment that propelled the Dodgers past the San Francisco Giants in the West race, it felt as though Toles was in the middle of it. Most memorably, Toles hammered a grand slam to rally the Dodgers past Colorado in late August. He started eight games for L.A. in the playoffs.
With fans and front offices alike obsessing over potential acquisitions during the holiday season, it’s easy to forget who is in place, or who could take the next step.
It remains to be seen if Toles is an every day player. He struggled mightily against left-handed pitching last season. The Dodgers lineup is still imbalanced, so a platoon role shouldn’t hold Toles’ development back.
Was Andrew Toles the surprise of the season for the #Dodgers in 2016?
Let’s look back at some of his numbers. pic.twitter.com/6L2CMMPGtH
— SportsNet LA (@SportsNetLA) November 28, 2016
Toles turns 25 in May, and while he was inconsistent, there’s no reason to believe he can’t improve. The Dodgers have a glut of outfielders, but Toles has the two major aforementioned advantages: the ability to hit right-handed pitching and upside. Toles may never become a true starter, but it could be worth L.A.’s time to figure it out. Athletes with his knack for the timely play are rare. If Toles went from Class-A to the MLB playoffs in one season, it’s too early to declare his ceiling.
As Hollywood becomes stale with remakes and unoriginal fabrications, Toles might be writing a script deserving of the red carpet.