The 2018 baseball season began the same way it begins every year for Max Muncy: playing for a minor league team, this time with the Dodgers. Coming into the season, Muncy had less than 100 games of Major League experience, spending parts of 2015 and 2016 with the Oakland Athletics. In those two seasons, he posted a less-than-impressive .195/.290/.321 stat line.
Muncy signed with the Dodgers in 2017 and batted .309 with 12 home runs and 44 RBI in Triple-A Oklahoma City. Coming into the 2018 season, Muncy prepared to spend much of the season again in the minors.
Even with an injured Justin Turner out to open the season, the Dodgers roster was set. With Muncy playing the corner infield, the Dodgers had Logan Forsythe and Cody Bellinger manning those positions.
Then on April 15, Logan Forsythe landed on the DL with a shoulder inflammation. Still, they had Kike Hernandez and Kyle Farmer capable of playing third base. Then they called up recently acquired Breyvic Valera.
Finally on April 17, the Dodgers selected Muncy’s contract from triple-A. He had a pinch hit appearance that day, recording a single in his first at-bat as a Dodger. The next day, he homered in his first start with the ball club.
After a strong first impression, Muncy scuffled quite a bit, looking like his old self. Through 17 games, he owned a slashline of .190/.306/.357.
Despite the early struggles, Muncy has since picked up his production. After a hot couple of weeks, Muncy is batting .254 with five home runs and 15 RBI through just 28 games this year. While those numbers don’t exactly jump off the page, Muncy has been a valuable asset for the Dodgers.
He has been playing first base the last few games with Bellinger playing center field. This change in the lineup has worked fairly well thus far but the Dodgers have been rumored to upgrade at first base, possibly trading for Chicago White Sox first baseman, Jose Abreu.
The Dodgers are possibly keeping Cody Bellinger in CF and might be trading for White Sox 1B Jose Abreu pic.twitter.com/aELemdRewA
— Major Sports Alerts (@sports___alerts) May 22, 2018
While the slugging Abreu has a high upside, Muncy has produced as much as the White Sox first baseman this season.
Muncy has an on-base plus slugging percentage (OPS) of .907, which is higher than anyone else’s on the Dodgers active roster this year. The OPS stat measures not only one’s ability to reach base, but also the ability to hit for power. To put Muncy’s numbers into perspective, Abreu has an OPS of .902.
The OPS+ stat adjusts for player’s ballparks, with a league average player having an OPS+ of 100. Muncy has an OPS+ of 148 this season, meaning he is 48 percent better than league average. Abreu has an OPS+ of 147 this season. Those numbers are higher than the career OPS+ for Bryce Harper and Giancarlo Stanton.
Muncy is also making hard contact on 46 percent of batted balls, compared to Abreu’s 41 percent. Muncy’s hard hit percentage this season is higher than that of Bellinger, Harper, Stanton and Mike Trout.
Max Muncy has a .424 OBP and a 1.047 OPS since April 28 for the Dodgers. He is 16-for-53 (.302) with 5 doubles and 4 homers over those 20 games (15 starts).
— Ryan Walton (@RyanCPWalton) May 22, 2018
At 27-years-old, Muncy is also more than three years younger than Abreu. Abreu also comes at a higher price than Muncy, making $13 million this season, while Muncy makes less than $1 million. Keeping Muncy would allow the Dodgers to stay under the luxury tax threshold.
Max Muncy was not supposed to be the Dodgers first baseman in 2018. Despite beginning the year in the minor leagues, he has produced at a high level, filling in for injured players. He has held down the fort at first base, and the Dodgers would be better off keeping him than searching for trades to upgrade at first base. His numbers match up with the league’s best when you measure his OPS and his hard contact. While the Dodgers offense has scuffled, Muncy has been elite this season.
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