The Dodgers, seemingly, dodged a huge bullet on Wednesday night in San Diego.
Max Muncy was hit on the wrist by a 94 MPH fastball. He didn’t stay in the game which was the first sign that something might really be wrong.
From Dodgers PR: Right wrist contusion for Max Muncy.— Alanna Rizzo (@alannarizzo) August 29, 2019
That could have been worse. Still, a contusion could keep Muncy out for a little bit. Some similar injuries have put players on the injured list. Some have seen players miss a few days. It really depends on the severity. The main priority, though, is making sure he’s healthy and ready for the postseason.
Muncy has proven to be quite the valuable player this season. He has followed up his breakout 2018 season (.263/.391/.582, 35 HR, 162 wRC+, 5.2 fWAR) with a very strong second season with LA. He’s hitting .253/.375/.527 with 33 home runs, a 136 wRC+ and 4.3 WAR. Not only that, he has proven to be a capable defender at second- and third base this season — something he didn’t show last season.
But the Dodgers are always prepared for anyone — almost anyone — to miss time. They covet versatility and have plenty of bodies to cover Muncy’s absence. The duration of his absence should determine how the Dodgers make up for losing him.
If he’s not out very long — say a couple of weeks — then they’ll use some combination of Kike Hernández, Chris Taylor and maybe even Jedd Gyorko. When Kristopher Negrón comes off the IL, he could also fill in at second base. And if they get really desperate, Austin Barnes could also get some reps at the pivot. There are more than enough players who can handle the position, even if they probably won’t come close to producing how Muncy does with the bat — that’s to be expected.
But I know why you’re really here. You want me to talk about Gavin Lux. There is no doubt he’s going to be coming up soon, but the capacity in which he’s expected to join the Dodgers is still to be determined. My guess is the plan was for him to come up and get some seasoning like Will Smith did last year. Smith wasn’t actually on the roster, but he traveled with the team and got familiar with the MLB clubhouse. Ideally, that’s what the Dodgers want to do with Lux. But Muncy’s injury could force the front office’s hand.
Lux has been tearing through Double- and (especially) Triple-A this season. He’s hitting .350/.423/.616 with 26 home runs, 25 doubles and 8 triples*. The kid is having one of the best minor-league seasons by a Dodgers prospect in recent memory. While he has played mostly shortstop this season, he’s probably a better second baseman going forward.
I wrote here about a little more than month ago that I didn’t think Lux would be up because there wasn’t going to be a spot for him. Well, if Muncy’s injury turns out to be more than just a contusion — a non-zero chance of that happening — there might very well be room for the Dodgers’ top prospect. But if Muncy is only out for a couple weeks (or even the rest of the regular season), I’m not sure that’s enough to get Lux onto the active roster.
I’m pretty conservative when it comes to promoting prospects to the majors. Lux is no exception. When the Dodgers promoted Corey Seager for the stretch run in 2015, it made sense. Jimmy Rollins was wearing down and Seager assumed the starting position. This isn’t the same kind of situation because of the players ahead of Lux on the depth chart.
As awesome as it would be to see Lux play in September for the big league club, I just don’t see it happening unless Muncy’s injury is worse than initially reported.
The best-case scenario here is Muncy rests for a couple weeks and comes back 100 percent healthy. While the Dodgers could withstand his loss because of the number of good options they have on the roster, it’d be preferred much more if everyone’s favorite rectangular man were healthy for October.
*Double and Triple-A combined