This is really a two-pronged question – will he perform and when will the Dodgers allow him to play in the majors? In neither case is the answer entirely clear.
Entering 2019, Lux was a well-regarded but not-quite-premium prospect. After once again posting a 147 wRC+ in Double-A*, he completely stomped upon Triple-A competition. His prospect status soared into the stratosphere.
Granted, the PCL is not exactly a repository for quality competition – especially in the second half of a season when the more passable pitchers have mostly moved onto the majors (or injured list). Still, his .392/.478/.719 batting line in 232 plate appearances is something to behold.
A late-season call up yielded less spectacular results – a .240/.305/.400 triple slash in 82 plate appearances. There are a few interesting small sample artifacts, most of which were positive. Over 50 percent of his balls in play were “hard.” If you’re an XwOBACON fan, his .456 rating was far above the league average of .371. He showed excellent plate discipline, swinging at only 21 percent of offerings out of the strike zone (league average was 31 percent).
The biggest disappointment was his 29.3 percent strikeout rate. As an apparently patient hitter with an 11.4 percent swinging strike rate, it’s entirely possible this represents a typical outcome for Lux. However, it’s worth noting he frequently posted below-20 percent strikeout rates in the minors. He’ll likely learn to be a little less selective to shave a considerable margin off his major league strikeout rate. He also had more success making contact in the minors. His swinging strike rate was consistently at or below 9.0 percent.
For those keeping score at home, we’re also hoping Cavan Biggio (133 ADP) makes the exact same adjustments. He has the same high strikeout rate, low SwStr%, and elite patience (verging on passivity) as Lux.
What Might Happen
I don’t think there’s any question Lux can be a passable Major League second baseman right now. But will he be superb out of the gate? From a fantasy perspective, his 157 ADP – right around Corey Seager, Jorge Polanco, Lourdes Gurriel Jr., and Scott Kingery – leaves some margin for error. So if you’re selecting him at the public valuation, you’re expecting “good,” hoping for “great,” and can probably handle a little disappointment.
Big league clubs are keen on asset management, and the Andrew Friedman-led Dodgers are no different. I’ve yet to see the ol’ “club control” narrative emerge this winter, yet it’s all too obvious as a potential outcome.
Lux is a 22-year-old with a modest offensive projection – roughly a 100 wRC+ by multiple sources. He’s not know for elite or even above average defense. The Dodgers 40-man roster is crowded with Max Muncy, Enrique Hernandez, Chris Taylor, and Zach McKinstry* all representing alternative second basemen. Lux has only 28 days of Major League service, meaning an extra year of club control is only about five to six weeks away. Los Angeles can certainly afford to play service time games, especially since the alternatives can arguably be expected to outperform him.
*McKinstry, seemingly, is not a threat. Yet the Dodgers always seem to find ways to use these types of players.
As of this writing, the Dodgers also have a surplus of outfielders – Mookie Betts, Joc Pederson, Cody Bellinger, A.J. Pollock, Taylor, and Hernandez. One way to take the pressure off is to temporarily shunt Cody Bellinger to first base on at least a part time basis. Muncy slides to second base most days. Defensive moves can be pondered later in the game.
Lux could render all of this handwringing irrelevant by having a huge Spring Training. He may be competing against himself for the second base job. If he comes up small against relatively easy spring competition, then he’s at risk of spending a quarter-season at Triple-A.
So… is Gavin Lux safe?
Which Gavin Lux scenario is likeliest?
— Brad Johnson (@BaseballATeam) February 12, 2020
You can follow me on twitter @BaseballATeam