In my last article, I outlined the reasons third base is such a focus for the Dodgers to upgrade. Justin Turner’s defense has waned; his offense is good, but not great; and the Dodgers would like another power hitting right-handed batter in the line-up. While he’s not a right-handed hitter, moving Max Muncy to third could be a viable option.
A look at the defensive stats of all third basemen to play 200+ innings last year, Turner wins out over Muncy in some of the classic analysis methods. For example, Muncy committed 6 errors at third. Turner committed 8. The difference though, is Turner’s 8 came over the course of 1,023 innings at the position. Muncy’s 6 errors came over the course of just 234 innings. Furthermore, Muncy’s fielding percentage for those few innings at third was .929 while Turner’s was .973.
Even though errors committed and fielding percentage leans in Turner’s favor, defensively there’s definitely a case to be made for shifting Muncy to third. Muncy’s DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) was 5 to Turner’s -7. Muncy’s UZR (Ultimate Zone Rating) was 0.2, Turner’s was -6.7. Before the previous two statistics were used for defensive analysis, their predecessor RZR (Revised Zone Rating) also went in Muncy’s favor. RZR has been described by Fangraphs as “the proportion of balls hit to the fielder’s zone that he successfully converted into an out”. Muncy’s RZR actually led all 57 players to log 200+ innings at third, with a .831 RZR. Justin Turner’s was 36th at .703.
Max Muncy has 15 defensive runs saved this season across three positions (2 at first base, 7 at second base, and 6 at third base).
Remember when we were scared about his defense coming into the year? He shut us up.
— Daniel Preciado (@DanJPreciado) August 20, 2019
Granted Max Muncy didn’t even log a quarter of the time Turner did at third, but the new analytics do favor him. Also, given his improved overall defense in 2019, it can be expected that regular time at 3rd could reflect similar stats.
I won’t go into a comparative stat rant between Max and JT, they both produce offensively. Moving either one shouldn’t impact that. In 2019, Max Muncy put to rest any notion that his 2018 was a fluke. The slugger slashed .251/.374/.515 while hitting 35 home runs to go with 98 RBIs. His 90 walks were second most on the Dodgers and same goes for his .889 among the players who played in 80+ games. In fact, in the National League, Muncy ranked seventh in walks, 12th(T5) in HR, 13th in RBIs, 14th in OBP, and 17th in OPS in 2019. That’s top 17 in 5 major offensive categories amongst all NL players and certainly the kind of offense the Dodgers are hoping to acquire at third base. The problem is, Muncy is not a right-handed batter, or is it?
Who are the only players with better offensive production over the last two years than Anthony Rendon and Max Muncy? Mike Trout, Christian Yelich, Alex Bregman, Mookie Betts, and JD Martinez. Max Muncy is a miracle.
— Choice Fielder (@choice_fielder) December 4, 2019
Shifting Muncy to third has the potential to open up other possibilities. Primarily, it allows the Dodgers to seek that right-handed bat in other ways. While I’m personally against it, trading Corey Seager for Francisco Lindor who hits from either side of the plate, becomes more of an option for the adding right-handed power. It also, opens up the outfield for improvement. Moving AJ Pollock for a younger, less injury prone outfielder like a Mookie Betts or Nicholas Castellanos could be a nice focus. Even swapping Pederson for one of them could be an upgrade since they hit both righty’s and lefty’s well. Best yet, move both of them to relieve some of the outfield surplus.
What pieces would you trade to get Mookie Betts with the Dodgers?
— Dodgers Nation (@DodgersNation) December 4, 2019
A beneficiary of shifting Muncy to third would be Gavin Lux. By the end of 2019, Gavin Lux appeared to have done all there was to be done in the minors. If the “2019 Minor League Player of the Year” is continue developing the Dodgers need him to be playing regularly against the best. Without moving Muncy to third and Turner to first, it creates a log jam at second base and will limit the playing time of Lux.
While there is a defensive benefit to shifting Max Muncy to third as well as the added bonus of the aforementioned ripple effects, it’s not the answer. Offensively it only relocates the power numbers, it does not add to them. Additionally, the Dodgers do not GAIN a right-handed bat out of it. That has to come by way of a trade or free agent signing. Signing a free agent alone, only adds to the Dodgers bottle neck at nearly any position. Although painful, a trade will still be necessary.
THIS winter, Andrew Friedman MUST go big with the #Dodgers.. Given a choice, do you want…
an ace like Strasburg or Cole?
A bat like Rendon, Lindor or Betts?
— Steve Mason (@VeniceMase) December 5, 2019
So who goes?
The gracefully, yet unfortunately aging, Turner? The “not really his fault, but still always injured”, Pollock? The right-handed pitching clubber, Pederson? The highly sought after talents, Verdugo or Lux? One or both of the super-utility’s, Kiké or Taylor? Seager?
The Dodgers are notorious depth hoarders and in recent years very frugal. They want to keep their young talent, but are also seemingly attached to their veterans and players who have been clutch for them in the past. That being said, they also want to improve. Well, in the words of Earl Smooter,