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2019 Dodgers First Baseman: Max Muncy?

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Jun 28, 2018; Los Angeles, CA, USA; Los Angeles Dodgers first baseman Max Muncy (13) runs in a solo home run against the Chicago Cubs in the third inning at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports

So, I think it’s getting pretty safe to say that Max Muncy will be the primary first baseman for the Dodgers in 2019. And while that’s not really a bad thing, I still really did not expect it.

Going into the offseason, I had little doubt that Muncy would be traded. At the time, he just didn’t look like he fit the roster, Moreover, he was coming off of a season where he saw a greatly reduced role down the stretch.

Now, months later, Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp are Cincinnati Reds, Bryce Harper still isn’t a Dodger, and Cody Bellinger is number 1 on the depth chart in center field.

The Cody Bellinger Addendum

I’ll put this out there: I’m a first baseman. Yes, it’s mostly in slow pitch softball, but still. So with that said, I understand and respect what a good-to-elite 1B can do for an infield. Now with that said, I strongly prefer Cody Bellinger over Max Muncy at first base. When you can put a Gold-Glove caliber player at a position, you usually do that. However, with the now depleted outfield, you almost have to play Cody in center field.

I’ve been known to have called Cody a “wishy washy” player often enough — just listen to any one of more than a handful of episodes of the Blue Heaven Podcast — and I stand by that statement (or assessment, if you’re a less-than-professional scout like myself). Of course, Belli can be, and is, an elite outfielder… when he’s engaged. You will see the lapses in concentration from time to time. However, you will never see Cody “take a play off” at first base. That means something to a team. – my 2 cents –

Back to Max

Now with Mr. Muncy, I feel that everyone knows he’s not the most adept fielder on the team. While we saw improvement in his defense as the 2018 season progressed, he’s still no Cody at 1B. For what it’s worth, I’m basing that statement on my “eye test”. Fangraphs will tell you that Muncy had a UZR/150 of -0.6, which is less than good (Bellinger: 2.3 UZR/150).

With all of that said — like I said at the start of this, it’s still not really a bad thing that Max is around, or that he will be the team’s primary first baseman in 2019.

Because he can hit.

18th inning heroics aside, we’re talking about a guy that led the team in homeruns in 2018, and is already (boldly) predicted to lead the team in HRs again in 2019. From our Brian Robitaille’s latest article, which is a good piece you should read:

Personally, I don’t think Muncy will succumb to a drastic fall-off in 2019. His approach really seems to indicate he has turned into a legit major league hitter, and one that can hit for power. I like his chances to lead the team in homeruns if he can get regular playing time, which he certainly should.

Potential Fall Off

A while back, I asked Twitter this question:

There is plenty of Muncy love to go around on the internet, and in this case, a clear majority feel that Max will be as good, or better, in 2019.

Compared to his career stats, 2018 on paper looks like a fluke season.

 

However, visually you see the sustainability in the mechanical change from those early years. (Eye test coming at you!)

Given that the Dodgers have plenty of fallback plans if Muncy falters…

 

…I’m fine with Max Muncy, 2019 Dodgers first baseman.

[button link=”https://www.dodgersnation.com/dodgers-2019-spring-training-tickets-on-sale-monday/2019/01/05/” type=”big” color=”red”] Spring Training tickets on sale starting Monday![/button]

Written by Clint Pasillas

Clint is the lead editor of Dodgers Nation, and a host and analyst on Dodgers Nation's own Blue Heaven podcast live stream. He is also 1/2 of the occasional "Clint and Clint #DNpregame" show.

He's been writing, blogging, and podcasting Dodgers since about 2008. He was there for Nomar, Greg Maddux, and Blake DeWitt, and he'll be there for Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo, Dustin May, and any Dodgers of the future.

He's also a sandwich enthusiast, a consummate athlete, and a friend.

Go bug him on the Twitter machine for funsies.

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  1. Max at first is not a bad option. But, since you prefer Cody at first base, how about the Dodgers giving Mad Max a chance to take over a potential hole at second base, a position at which he played his most games in his second year with the A’s. And a position in which he played more than 10 games with the Dodgers last year. Let him try that in spring training, unless something awesome comes to us between now and then, and see how he does. Hopefully, it will not take away from what he does at the plate, since some players struggle more offensively when they get too challenged defensively. But we might have enough outfielders now (Pederson, Taylor, Hernandez, Verdugo, Toles, and occasionally Bellinger, to get Freese in the lineup). Cody at first, and Max at second might be the play. And if Max is superior at the plate, and even just average in the field at second base (look at his defensive stats at baseball-reference.com) that could be the ticket for the Dodgers in 2019.

    Mad Max Beyond Homerdome is the ticket for teh Dodgers in 2019 for me.

    • No doubt that we will see that alignment at least a couple dozen times during the season. Dave Roberts has said that he expects Muncy to see a good number of innings at 2B, and David Freese can’t be not getting starts against LHP.

      There will be a lot of moving around the field with the players, but hopefully that doesn’t mean a bunch of platooning again.

      • With this team version, expect to see Freese often since we will be looking at everybody’s left hander almost every day. Team is unbalanced and will be more so with the addition of Harper. (Not going to happen either)

  2. I agree with Michael, I like Max at second base and hope the team gives him a shot there to start. I have read he is working hard on his fielding. Bellinger is an outstanding Gold Glove caliber 1st baseman I completely agree with you Clint. So why not 2nd base until Muncy shows he cannot play there? I also agree Muncy should have a solid offensive year as he has matured and fixed his swing. He is very pitch selective and is willing to take the walk. Look at his OBP.

    I think there is a very good possibility they try Verdugo in center first. Rumors say the FO is very high on him and he is a solid defender with a rifle arm. It just depends if the kid can hit. I think he can. i agree Bellinger is an excellent CF guy but I love him at First.

    Also lets all realize we should have it easy this year as the Rockies are the only team in the NL West not rebuilding. The Snakes say they are not but trading Goldschmidt and so far not signing Pollock tells us a different story. And the rumors say they are shopping Greinke with no takers for that bloated contract.

    The Dodgers should have an easy run this year, barring key injuries, to the NL West title. With the offense of Turner, Seager and Muncy to start the year they should be able to give Barnes and Verdugo time to find their offense as the Dodger pitching should be phenomenal.

    Go Blue….

  3. I’m torn on Max Muncy. I definitely think he is a much better hitter now than he was with Oakland, but I don’t think he’s as good as he played last year. That said, I don’t think he’s irreplaceable in any way. If I was the Dodger’s front office, I would shop him on the trade market and see what teams might give you for him (I hear the Yankees have an opening at first base and the need for a lefty bat). If he were traded, I would put Bellinger at first and Chris Taylor in center. Both players played much better in 2017 than in 2018, and I think that might be due in part to where they played on the field. In 2017, Bellinger was the Dodger’s everyday first baseman and Taylor was their everyday center fielder. Maybe returning to these roles could bring back some of the offensive production that seemingly disappeared from both of them last year. I could be wrong, but I think the Dodgers need more everyday players anyway.

    • Like I mentioned above, after the season, I figured Max would be one of the first 3-5 players traded by the Dodgers. The team is better with Bellinger at 1B, and in the long run, they want him there. Muncy blocks him at 1B.

      There’s still some offseason left, so maybe we’ll still turn out correct.

    • Spot on about needed more EVERYDAY players. Muncy most likely won’t be the hitter he was in 2018 AND he’s just another LH batter. I too would rather see Bellinger back at first and I also like your idea of returning Taylor to CF daily.

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