Matt Beaty did everything the Dodgers asked of him over his three major league seasons, but he fell victim of the depth chart in getting designated for assignment on Wednesday. Somewhat counterintuitively, though Beaty’s bat is his best weapon, the National League adopting the designated hitter helped end Beaty’s time in Los Angeles.
The big move was the Dodgers signing Freddie Freeman, locking in a star player at first base, the position Beaty is best suited for. Freeman helped restore a lineup the Dodgers crave, and pushed everyone else down the depth chart. Max Muncy, the mostly regular first baseman the last few years, will see most of his time at second base, third base, and designated hitter.
Beaty has played corner outfield spots, and has started more major league games in left field (46) than at first base (45). But he’s considered below average defensively in the outfield. Dave Roberts will never throw a player under the bus, but last June after a ball got by Beaty in right field in San Diego with Mookie Betts out, the Dodgers manager conceded defense wasn’t Beaty’s strong suit.
“Mookie’s an elite defender, and Matt’s not,” Roberts said at the time. “[Matt]’s doing the best he can.”
Beaty himself said multiple times the last few years that his best position was in the batters box, and the numbers bore that out. He hit .262/.333/.425 with a 104 wRC+ in three major league seasons, including a 109 wRC+ (.267/.339/.440) against right-handed pitchers.
Roberts trusted Beaty as a key weapon off the bench. As a rookie in 2019, Beaty tied for second on the team with 32 pinch-hitting appearances, and in 2021 Beaty had far and away the most pinch-hit PA (59), 18 more than any other Dodger.
Pinch-hit PA per game
But in 2020, Beaty only pinch hit three times. He barely played that season, felled by the universal DH and an uncommonly healthy run for Dodgers position players during the short season.
The Dodgers pinch hit only 0.68 times per game in 2020, when the National League had a designated hitter all season. That’s a full plate appearance less than in 2021, when the Dodgers averaged 1.69 pinch-hit appearances per game, which makes sense considering pitchers needing to get pinch-hit for. The numbers were similar in the National League as a whole, with 0.73 pinch-hit appearances per game in 2020, and 1.83 last year.
Pinch-hitting, the job the Dodgers have trusted Beaty with the most, has essentially been neutered. That’s one strike.
Adding Freeman gives the Dodgers essentially nine regular position players, and that’s before considering Gavin Lux, who will need to move around between second base and the outfield to find at-bats. Edwin Ríos is also back after shoulder surgery, a left-handed hitter that figures to take many of the at-bats Beaty might have gotten, or maybe it’s non-roster invitee Jake Lamb, a third baseman who’s played first base and right field this spring.
With catcher Austin Barnes and utility infielder Hanser Alberto locked in, there are essentially only two bench spots to fight for, at least from May on when a 13-pitcher limit guarantees at least (and likely often at most) 13 position players.
Beaty just was the odd man out. The position he’s used in most barely exists, and several other Dodgers are in the mix for coveted bench spots. He’ll catch on somewhere, and will probably hit there, too.