Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard of Gavin Lux and his exploits in the minors — more specifically, since being promoted to Triple-A Oklahoma City.
The 21-year-old middle infielder is hitting a ridiculously remarkable .487/.552/.961 in his first 87 plate appearances for OKC. That’s after hitting .313/.375/.521 in his second stint with Double-A Tulsa. He is the Dodgers’ top prospect and is pushing Dodger brass into a potentially difficult decision.
Or is he?
By comparison, Lux is doing things Corey Seager never did at any level of the minors. Seager posted a .349/.402/.602 batting line for High-A Rancho Cucamonga and Double-A Tulsa in 2014 as a 20-year-old. Lux had a still-great .324/.399/.514 line last season. This season, Lux’s numbers dwarf what Seager did in his age-21 season, but Seager’s age-21 season culminated in a promotion to Los Angeles and starting at shortstop in the postseason.
Many are clamoring for Lux’s promotion. Especially in those games when the Dodgers are struggling to score. I have a history of being conservative when it comes to promoting prospects to the majors, and this is no exception. Lux isn’t on the same level of prospect as Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger were. It’s weird to say that about the 20th overall selection in a draft, but Lux was never ranked as highly as those two were by many of the prospect-ranking publications. Baseball Prospectus and Keith Law recently ranked Lux at 11th and 5th, respectively, in its midseason Top 50 updates. That’s the highest ranking for Lux to date. When it comes to preseason rankings, Seager was No. 1 overall in 2016 (a year after being in firmly in the back-half of the Top 10) and Bellinger ranked 7th, 13th and 26th among Baseball America, MLB Pipeline and Baseball Prospectus. Lux’s first foray into Top 100 lists came before the season, when Baseball America ranked him at 40 and MLB Pipeline had him at 70.
What Lux has done this season is incredible. It’s not sustainable, but he’s showing he belongs in the Seager/Bellinger tier of prospect. But pedigree isn’t the only thing holding him back in my eyes: Where’s Lux going to play?
Lux is a shortstop by trade, but has played a strong second base in the minors. Some think second base is his ultimate home. But as it stands right now, the Dodgers intend to keep him at shortstop. With Seager back from injury, shortstop is out of the question. And even though Chris Taylor is still recovering from a fractured forearm, the combination of Max Muncy and Enrique Hernandez have done a nice job of holding down second base.
For Lux to get playing time — most likely at second base — it would have a ripple effect on the rest of the roster. Lux at second base means more Muncy at first base. It could mean less playing time for Joc Pederson there against righties (in favor of Muncy). That would, conversely, mean less playing time for either Alex Verdugo and A.J. Pollock. And with Muncy at first base, that would take away potential plate appearances from postseason performer David Freese. I just don’t see Andrew Friedman and Dave Roberts opting to give a 21-year-old rookie playing time — especially in October — over the veterans (and Verdugo) mentioned above.
As awesome as it would be to see Lux up this season and producing for the Dodgers, unless there are significant changes to the roster (be it trade, injury, etc.), I just don’t see a clear path to playing time for him. He’s not going to come up and be a platoon player. He’s not going to come up and be a bench player. And he’s probably not going to supplant the likes of Freese, Hernandez, Muncy and Seager in the search for playing time.
Lux doesn’t have to be on the 40-man roster until next winter, but I suspect he’ll be on it long before that — but maybe not this season.