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2021 Dodgers in review: Gavin Lux

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Up & down year at the plate, new positions in the field

NLDS: LA Dodgers vs. San Francisco Giants Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

Gavin Lux got his first extended runway at regular playing time in 2021 and the results were mixed. The future of the former top prospect is still waiting to be written, but this year at the very least opened up some new possibilities.

Lux made his first opening day roster this year, and getting the nod on April 1 at Coors Field became the Dodgers’ 14th different starting second baseman on opening day in the 22 years of the 2000s*.

“Giving him a runway to play second base, I think, is a good thing for him, and a good thing for the Dodgers,” manager Dave Roberts said early in spring training. “We have some other guys that can help support, but I do like the idea of Gavin seeing a good bit of time at second base, and potentially shortstop too on days Corey might have a day off.”

Before suffering a hamstring injury in July, Lux started 75 of 84 games while on the active roster. Lux was, by any definition, a regular, and before straining his hamstring just after the All-Star break ranked fifth on the team in plate appearances. His season began at second base but shifted to shortstop after a fastball broke Corey Seager’s hand in May.

By the time Lux returned from the IL in August, Seager was back and at shortstop, and Trea Turner joined the team and took over second base. Lux was a player without a position. There wasn’t necessarily a hurry to force Lux back into a lineup somewhere, because his offensive production was inconsistent throughout the year. He was markedly worse against left-handed pitching.

Gavin Lux 2021 splits

Pitcher PA BB rate K rate BA/OBP/SLG xBA xSLG wRC+
Pitcher PA BB rate K rate BA/OBP/SLG xBA xSLG wRC+
vs. RHP 283 10.2% 20.8% .260/.343/.404 .281 .425 104
vs. LHP 98 12.2% 24.5% .188/.286/.247 .198 .272 54
Sources: FanGraphs & Baseball Savant

It’s hard to draw too many conclusions from just under 100 plate appearances, especially for someone who just turned 24 years old the week before Thanksgiving. But Lux also struggled relatively against lefties in the minors, in a larger sample size. From 2017-19, his years from Low-A to Triple-A, Lux hit .232/.300/.327 against lefties and .326/.406/.542 against right-handers.

Without a position, and without regular playing time, Lux was optioned to Oklahoma City at the end of August. During his time in Triple-A, he started games in left field and center field, the first time in his life Lux played in the outfield.

“It’s been a pretty big adjustment. I’ve never really played out there before, so a lot of early work and I got a lot of early work in OKC too,” Lux said during the NLDS. “So it’s been a little bit of a grind but it’s been fun. Kind of look at it as like a process almost.”

With AJ Pollock on the injured list, Lux was called back up to the majors in September and got another runway, this time in the outfield. He started 16 of 17 games, including 10 times in left field and six times in center. Lux’s learning curve was steep. Playing a brand new position, he crashed into centerfielder Cody Bellinger, who cracked his ribs and missed time on the IL. Lux’s own playing time run ended when he crashed face first into the center field wall, which provided a hilarious moment from Lux’s teammates the next day.

San Diego Padres v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Harry How/Getty Images

Lux started five times during the postseason, all in center.

His defensive numbers at second base were well above average by Defensive Runs Saved, Total Zone Rating, and Outs Above Average. At shortstop, his defensive numbers were equally terrible across the board. He was slightly below average in minuscule playing time in left field, center field, and third base (where he started one game). Lux is young enough, athletic and fast, so perhaps he can improve at these new positions with time.

Where Lux settles in defensively remains to be seen. Chris Taylor re-signing gives the Dodgers their coveted jack of all trades, able to fill in at multiple positions. Maybe Lux can do the same, starting at multiple positions depending on need. But how he hits will likely determine his playing time going forward. If the offense is there, the Dodgers will find a place in the field for him.

*Dodgers opening day starting second baseman during the 2000s: Mark Grudzielanek (2000-02), Jolbert Cabrera (2003), Alex Cora (2004), Jeff Kent (2005-08), Orlando Hudson (2009), Blake DeWitt (2010), Jamey Carroll (2011), Mark Ellis (2012-13), Justin Turner (2014), Howie Kendrick (2015), Chase Utley (2016), Logan Forsythe (2017), Enrique Hernández (2018-20), Gavin Lux (2021).

2021 particulars

Age: 23

Stats: .242/.328/.364, 91 wRC+, 7 HR, 1.6 bWAR, 1.0 fWAR

Salary: $580,500

Game of the year

After their worst stretch of the season, losing 15 of 20 games, the Dodgers found themselves trailing Seattle 4-1 late on May 11 at Dodger Stadium, staring a .500 record in the face after a 13-2 start. Lux singled and scored in the seventh when Los Angeles pulled to within a run. One inning later, after a single and hit by pitch with two outs, Lux hit a three-run home run off Rafael Montero to turn the game around.

Lux in May hit .286/.346/.490 with five home runs and a 124 wRC+, a stark turnaround from a slumping April. Starting with that May 11 win, the Dodgers won 12 of their next 13 games.

Roster status

With one year, 114 days of major league service time, Lux isn’t yet eligible for salary arbitration. He has two option years remaining.