Since Andrew Friedman took over as President of Baseball Operations in 2014, building a roster with versatility has been one of his biggest priorities. While some positional switches have failed, like moving Joc Pederson to first base, some have been instrumental to the Dodgers’ success, such as putting Cody Bellinger in center and sliding Max Muncy from first to second base.
This play was AMAZING!
Max Muncy and Pete Alonso somehow got Carlos Santana out at first. pic.twitter.com/zkQmtcEgej
— Pitcher List (@PitcherList) July 10, 2019
His next potential experiment: moving Gavin Lux to the outfield.
With Max Muncy, Corey Seager, and Justin Turner penciled in as infield starters next year, only one spot is left open on the diamond. And with Cody Bellinger and Matt Beaty getting occasional starts at first, along with the Dodgers’ possible pursuit of free agent Anthony Rendon, it may pique the Dodgers’ interest to get Gavin Lux playing some outfield.
Lux has no outfield experience across any level in the minor leagues, but he does have an unteachable skill that would greatly help him out there: speed. Lux ranked in the 90th percentile in BaseballSavant’s Sprint Speed, at 28.8 feet per second.
This innate trait could help Gavin cover plenty of outfield ground, making him an upgrade over slower outfielders, such as AJ Pollock and Joc Pederson.
However, speed by itself does not automatically make for a good defensive outfielder. Just ask the Nationals or the Mariners, who tried converting speedy middle infielders Trea Turner and Dee Gordon into center fielders. The hope was that their elite speed would mask their poor jumps, but both experiments ended miserably. No matter how fast you are, if the route to the ball being taken is so poor, it will not matter.
This is the concern for Lux: instincts. Being someone with no outfield experience, it would be difficult for him to immediately start getting good jumps and running down balls that require perfect routes to get to. Lifelong outfielders still struggle with this.
That being said, it absolutely can be done. Ian Desmond was a lifelong shortstop until the Rangers switched him in 2016. While he has had his ups and downs, he has been about league average as a defender in left field, a mark the Dodgers would gladly take from Lux. In a more extreme example, Red Sox star Mookie Betts came up initially as a second basemen, but is now seen as one of the best defensive outfielders in the game.
Simply put, some players are able to adjust almost seamlessly and the instincts come naturally, while some struggle. If Lux is one of the former, the Dodgers would greatly benefit from having the ability to move him to the outfield if the situation calls for it. Do not be surprised to see him getting some reps there this Spring.