It’s hard to picture a high school draftee as a safe selection in the amateur draft, but the Dodgers may have found just that in shortstop Gavin Lux. While Lux may not flash one elite tool, his high baseball acumen and likelihood of staying at shortstop defensively should give Lux a greater likelihood of reaching the major league level over his prep counterparts. Whether or not Lux develops into a first-division regular will depend on how much the Dodgers can get out of his bat.
I won’t be making a habit of giving prep players a 50-grade risk score before they reach full-season ball, but Lux thus far has shown himself to be a prospect with few glaring flaws. While other higher-ceiling prep players were selected around the Lux pick, few were considered to have as good a chance of staying a shortstop as Lux. That he also made improvements offensively from the time he played on the showcase circuit to draft day help elevate his profile enough to be the highest ranking of any 2016 draftee on my list.
While I have yet to see game action of Lux defensively to make a better judgment on his future prospects, the actions he shows on film do back up the defensive reputation he’s received in other outlets. Lux shows soft, quick hands at shortstop and good lateral agility to make plays to either side. On the showcase circuit, Lux’s arm was more notable for the quickness of his release and accuracy, but he’s built up his arm strength to now be a plus in that category as well.
Lux is a solid all around athlete with room in his frame for more strength. He’s not a burner, but has above-average speed and should be an asset on the basepaths, as evidenced by his five triples in 2016. He’s not an explosive athlete, but is a fluid mover that looks natural taking ground balls and shouldn’t have any physical restrictions that would limit him staying at shortstop as he matures.
Where Lux has the most room for improvement is at the plate. Lux has ironed out a noticeable swing hitch that he displayed on the showcase circuit, but still has some consistency issues from at-bat to at-bat. Lux has above-average bat speed and good barrel control, though he will drift into contact on occasion. He appears quicker to the ball in cages compared to game film, but as a prep player, this should easily improve with in-game repetitions.
Lux doesn’t show much in-game power at the moment, and the biggest debate with him is just how much room he has for development here. He has the frame to add strength to pair with his bat speed for average pop, but despite a high leg kick he won’t always fully incorporate his lower half in his swing.
As a testament to his acumen, Lux’s short-season stat lines suggest a disciplined hitter, though walk rates can be deceiving at the lower levels. Lux’s barrel control and bat speed should allow him to adopt a more patient approach, and with above-average speed, he could hit near the top of a minor league batting order.
Where Lux ultimately fits in a major league lineup is less clear at the moment. Should the hit tool stay solid average but the power fail to develop, Lux’s future outlook is that of a bottom-of-the-lineup hitter or role player. However, Lux has already made offensive improvements from the summer circuit to the professional level that suggest he may be a quick study and a plus hit tool with average power isn’t out of the question.
While Lux displays more polish than the average prep player, that shouldn’t suggest he will be a quick mover through the minor leagues. Obviously, the Dodgers do not have an immediate need at shortstop, nor is Corey Seager looking like a move off of shortstop is imminent. In time, Lux might allow the Dodgers to make that move when Justin Turner departs, but forecasting four years in advance is unwise in a sport landscape that can shift in a season.
More importantly, the addition of Lux helps to fill a relative weakness in the organization. With little talent up the pipeline in arguably the toughest position to fill at the big league level, the Dodgers can at least boast a high-floor prospect with a first-round pedigree. Likewise, a solid-hitting shortstop with above-average defensive skills would be high currency in trade.
The next couple of seasons will help determine whether the Dodgers drafted a well-rounded up-the-middle talent that contributes in every key phase of the game, or a Zack Cozart type that gives you security on defense but leaves you wanting more with the bat. That type of player can still be worth a win or two per season, which speaks to the value of Lux’s floor. The hope is that Lux has more to offer offensively, and he will work to answer that challenge in 2017 at Great Lakes.