The Dodgers, Rays, and other savvy organizations have built a reputation in the industry. Whenever you hear that the Rays made a trade, you always react with a sense of worry for the other side, and that usually doesn’t change after finding out the details.
We all think for ourselves, but it’d be foolish to assume that such a long track record of success wouldn’t change your perception, even if just a little bit. Because of this phenomenon, it pays to be aware of what they’re doing and to try and figure out why.
The Rays recently traded Austin Meadows for Isaac Paredes and a draft pick. Tampa Bay may see something with Paredes, but their infield depth is solid, and although draft capital is always worth adding, the main thing I take away from that deal is that the organization believes in Josh Lowe and also wouldn’t mind giving Harold Ramirez some at-bats.
Meadows is a fine bat and will help out the Tigers, but his struggles against left-handed pitching limit his value, and the Rays aren’t shy about getting ahead of things. Lowe was ready but didn’t have a spot so the organization manufactured one for him.
The Dodgers made a similar move also, and whether we agree with it or not, there’s a clear indication of what Andrew Friedman is trying to do. The team shipped off outfielder AJ Pollock for closer Craig Kimbrel in a rather shocking turn of events.
While his tenure with Los Angeles didn’t have the best of starts, Pollock became an integral part of this lineup over the last two seasons. In 2021 the former D-back was second on the roster in slugging percentage, ahead of stars like Mookie Betts, Justin Turner, and Max Muncy.
Kimbrel solves the closer situation, but it wasn’t a lingering question. Los Angeles had a bullpen well-equipped to handle Kenley Jansen’s exit. Even if the Dodgers wanted to maintain Blake Treinen in a relief ace role, between Daniel Hudson and Brusdar Graterol the team already had two adequate closer options, even if unspectacular.
You make this move if you believe in your organizational depth to fill those outfield at-bats without a loss in production. The main player behind that is Gavin Lux. Chris Taylor was always getting his share of plate appearances, and although we could get into Cody Bellinger and what a slow start may mean for him, the odd man out was always going to be Lux.
The prospect hype has worn off, but we must remember a few things:
- Gavin Lux was rated as a 70-future-value prospect at the time of his call-up. That goes above the usual level of a top prospect. Adley Rutschman is the only 70-FV in the minors right now (according to FanGraphs).
- Gavin Lux has 532 plate appearances in the big leagues. That’s not nearly enough to provide any sort of definitive answer.
Some prospects hit the ground running, others do not. Vladdy Guerrero Jr. for instance was only slightly above average as a hitter over his first two seasons, and although that’s significantly better than Gavin Lux, the latter was more valuable looking at the full body of work.
This is not an exercise of comparison, but merely to acknowledge that early struggles don’t necessarily define a player.
Small sample sizes in 2019 and 2020 don’t even register all that much in future evaluations, and during last season, Lux took strides forward despite a poor start and ended the year being on a high note with a .413 wOBA in September (albeit on a very small sample size)
I don’t have the secret data that shows exactly why Gavin Lux will shock the world with a massive breakout campaign, it simply isn’t out there, What I can tell you though is that the former top prospect cut down his strikeout rate to a reasonable 21.9 percent and upped his walk rate to a good 10.8-percent mark.
Lux doesn’t have a full season under his belt and 500 or so plate appearances distributed over three seasons aren’t enough to label what he is moving forward.
The Dodgers gave up one of their better hitters in 2020 and 2021 for a helpful bullpen upgrade but not an urgent one. They did so looking at, among other things, to give Lux a chance to play more regularly.
Put all of that together, one can reasonably expect steps forward for Gavin Lux in 2022, even if he still falls short of the lofty expectations once bestowed upon him;