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2023 Dodgers in review: Michael Busch

Arizona Diamondbacks v Los Angeles Dodgers Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

Michael Busch made his major league debut for the Dodgers in 2023 and won the Pacific Coast League MVP, so it’s hard to think of his season as anything but a success. But how we view such things depends on perspective.

The Dodgers added Busch to the 40-man roster last November, moving him one step closer to the majors, and he got his first chance in late April when third baseman Max Muncy went on paternity leave. Busch’s first major league hit came in his first major league game, in his third at-bat on April 25, a single against Pirates right-hander Johan Oviedo to drive home a run.

Busch’s first stint in the majors was extended until J.D. Martinez returned from back tightness, lasting about two weeks. In each of Busch’s three stints, Busch played a decent amount, playing in 27 of his 39 games while active, and started 18. But in each stint, Busch didn’t do much at the plate:

  • April-May: 4 for 19, 4 walks (.211 average, .558 OPS)
  • June: 5 for 26, 3 doubles, 2 walks (.192, .558)
  • August-September: 3 for 27, 2 HR, 2 walks (.111, .500)

Short stints might not be fair, but you have to produce to stick around, and sometimes even that isn’t enough depending on the rest of the roster. That sounds a lot like how playoff baseball works, where if you don’t produce immediately, your season might be over in a hurry. Just ask the Dodgers of the last two postseasons.

But despite the major league struggles — including striking out in a third of his plate appearances — Busch did show improvement through the season, with Triple-A Oklahoma City.

Busch hit .323/.431/.618 with 27 home runs in 98 games and a 150 wRC+ for Oklahoma City, and was named Pacific Coast League MVP, the Dodgers’ first Triple-A MVP since Joc Pederson in 2014.

After getting optioned in late June, Busch was on fire for Oklahoma City, hitting .332/.430/.682 with 21 home runs in his final 55 games of the regular season. He followed that up with a home run in the PCL championship clincher, and hit another home run in the Triple-A title game that Oklahoma City lost to Norfolk.

Just because Busch didn’t have success in the majors during his first season doesn’t mean he won’t, eventually. It took Gavin Lux a couple of seasons before finding his groove, for instance.

In 2023, the Dodgers showed patience with their two opening day rookie starters. James Outman was great right away in April, but had a terrible time at the plate in May and June. He kept playing in part because of his above-average defense in center field, and ended up having a fine year, and will be named on some Rookie of the Year ballots.

Vargas didn’t have the defense, and for a good three months didn’t have the offense either. That got him sent back to Oklahoma City at the All-Star break.

Though three years older than where Vargas was to start 2023, Busch is kind of in the same spot going into 2024. Busch was named to five national top-100 prospect lists in both 2022 and in 2023 on the strength of his bat.

In the majors this year, Busch started 10 games at third base and once at second base, in addition to seven starts at designated hitter. In Oklahoma City, he started 61 times at third base, 26 times at second base, and seven games at first base. Over the last two years, Busch started 15 minor league games in left field, and played all of one inning there in the majors with the Dodgers this season.

Going forward, if Busch keeps hitting and does so during his major league chances, the Dodgers will probably find a place to play him.

2023 particulars

Age: 25

Stats: .167/.247/.292, 2 HR, 3 doubles, 49 wRC+, 81 PA

Salary: $720,000

Game of the year

Busch’s first major league home run came in an important spot in a game.

In the fourth inning of a 2-2 tie against the Guardians on August 24 in Cleveland, Busch took right-hander Gavin Williams deep out to center field for the Dodgers’ first lead of the game.

Roster status

Busch has 45 days of major league service time. He’ll make somewhere a little above the major league minimum salary of $740,000 in 2024.