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Finding value in positional versatility

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Divisional Series - Los Angeles Dodgers v Washington Nationals - Game Three Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Russell Carleton at Baseball Prospectus took further examined the definition of replacement player, specifically how it handles an ever-growing group of multi-position players, which is highly applicable to the Dodgers of the last few seasons.

From Carleton:

The ability to play more than one position is a skill unto itself, one that WAR massively under-accounts for. WAR assumes that all players are infinitely fungible across the defensive spectrum and that a third baseman who has never played shortstop or second or right field would have the same adjustment to those spots that a guy who’s been pulling utility duty for five years now would. That’s not supported by the evidence and I think it’s a bigger hole in the metric that we generally acknowledge.

Kiké Hernandez and Chris Taylor have epitomized versatility for the Dodgers in recent years, playing several positions in the infield and outfield, depending on the team’s need. Cody Bellinger came up as a highly-touted first baseman, and he just won a Gold Glove in right field.

They aren’t alone. Six Dodgers in 2019 played at least 20 games at multiple positions, and that doesn’t even include the outfield-only A.J. Pollock and Alex Verdugo.

Dodgers defensive versatility

Player 1B 2B 3B SS LF CF RF
Player 1B 2B 3B SS LF CF RF
Hernandez 2 85 1 11 10 20 17
Taylor 20 39 56 20 3
Muncy 65 70 35
Bellinger 36 25 115
Beaty 35 9 34 2
Pederson 20 84 39
Verdugo 22 61 25
Pollock 18 62
Games at each position, 2019 season

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