After losing much of the 2017 season to major knee surgery, it was expected that Andrew Toles would play a significant role in 2018. After a spring training in which he batted .283 with 3 home runs, 10 runs batted in and a slugging percentage of .566 it looked like he would make the big league club out of spring training. Instead, he fell victim to a numbers game. Matt Kemp had a great spring and earned a starting spot. The Dodgers also decided to keep Joc Pederson over Toles despite him having a terrible spring.

What was most important about spring training for Andrew Toles was that he looked fully recovered from his injury. By the end of spring training we saw the speed that we were used to seeing from him. Many of us were disappointed that Toles didn’t make it out of spring training. It is evident he thought he’d be with the Dodgers as he left his Dodge Challenger in the parking lot at Dodger Stadium in late March (more on that later).

Hot Start in OKC

In his first 6 games for the Oklahoma City Dodgers he was slashing .462/.500/.731 (that’s batting average/on base percentage/slugging percentage). I even spoke with Dave Roberts during that time and he told me he expected “Tolesy” back soon. Pretty much the next day, Toles got hurt. It seemed to be just a slight leg issue and we all thought he’d be back on the field 10 days or so. That did not occur as he hurt his hamstring pretty bad and didn’t get back on the field until June 5th.

Because of the injury he missed out on getting called up to the Dodgers in April when injuries hit hard. Instead, Alex Verdugo got the call and did well. Toles did start a little slow when he came back and didn’t hit his next home run until June 30th. By that time the bat started to come alive again and he started to tear apart AAA pitching. He was finally healthy and had shaken off the rust from missing most of 2017.

July Call Up

First Game Back

Yasiel Puig got hurt in early July and Alex Verdugo, a prime call up candidate, was also injured so Andrew Toles finally got called up. His first game back was on July 9, against the Padres in San Diego. Fortunately, I was able to see his 2018 debut from up close and saw his hit of 2018, a double.

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My man, @andrew_toles

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First Post-Game Interview

For his debut Toles was 2 for 3 with 2 runs scored, a double and 2 RBI. Surprisingly, he even had a walk. His stellar game earned him a post-game interview with Alanna Rizzo.

Dodge Challenger

We also learned that the Dodge Challenger that parked at Dodger Stadium in late March was still in the parking lot.

Back To OKC

Toles was sent back to OKC on July 19thafter the All-Star break due to a roster crunch. He ended his 10 day stint with the Dodgers with just 7 games played and 23 at bats in which he only hit .261/.292/.348. He continued to hit well in AAA and finished with a slash line of .306/.345/.461. In 258 at bats he had 17 doubles, 7 home runs, 39 RBI and scored 43 runs. He mostly batted at the top of the order and played a majority of his games in left field. Toles also struck out 51 times and walked 13 times.

September Call Up

Along with a few others, Toles was recalled on September 1stwhen the rosters expanded to 40. He barely played in the last month of the season with just 8 plate appearances that included 4 strikeouts. The Dodgers were in a pennant race and they must have thought Toles wouldn’t be of help. Given so few opportunities, Toles was not able to earn a post-season roster spot. He was on their taxi squad in case of an emergency.

The Positives

Toles was able to get a little over 300 plate appearances in 2018 and looked to have regained his speed. His sprint speed was the same between 2017 and 2018. According to Baseball Savant his average exit velocity off the bat was 88.6 MPH which means Toles still hits the ball hard. It is a very small sample size as he only saw 101 pitches during the 2018 season with the Dodgers. His hard hit percentage of 36.4% was his best in his three seasons.

The Negatives

Toles doesn’t get on base enough and it’s because he doesn’t walk much. 13 walks in around 270 plate appearances in AAA is a bad sign. His approach in 2018 changed a bit as he swung at the 1stpitch 59.4% of the time. In 2016 it was 42.6% an in 2017 it was 31.4%. His contact on pitches in the strike zone also went down from previous years. However, this is a small sample size.

The biggest negative was the injury that cost him almost two months of action. He admitted that he needs to take better care of himself.

“On his first day back with the Dodgers, he attributed the hamstring injury that cost him seven weeks of 2018 to his own laziness. He volunteered that he had not stayed on top of his workouts and vowed to do so.”The Athletic, Pedro Moura, July 15, 2018

Outlook for 2019

The lost opportunities for Andrew Toles in 2018 may have caused the Dodgers to lose a little faith in him. I hope not as I believe the Dodgers need his speed, his outfield versatility and offensive pop on the team. If he makes the roster to start the season he will be given opportunities. In both 2016 and 2017 he took advantage of those opportunities and earned a lot of playing time, especially as a left handed part of a platoon.

Bonus – Why Toles Is Popular?

Andrew Toles is a very popular figure on the Dodgers. The fans really like him and the other Dodgers love him.  One of the reasons is that he is so authentic.

Listen to the first part of this interview with Dave Roberts as he talks about Andrew Toles.

“He’s pretty comfortable, and everyone in here embraces him and tells him how much they enjoy his company,” Justin Turner said. – The Athletic, Pedro Moura, July 15, 2018

I will admit it, I am a huge fan of Andrew Toles. For all the reasons above about his authenticity but also his style of play. He just brings something different to the Dodgers.

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