Max Muncy Got His Groove Back

Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

In the final game of the 2021 regular season, Max Muncy injured his left elbow after a collision with Jace Peterson as Muncy tried to catch a throw while Peterson ran through first base. It cost Muncy all of the 2021 postseason and in November of 2021, we learned that Muncy’s injury was indeed the torn UCL that many feared it was when it happened. In January of 2022, we learned he wouldn’t need surgery, but there were concerns about how it might impact at least the start of his 2022 season.

While he made it through spring and was ready for Opening Day, it was clear early on that the elbow was still bothering him. He hit a brutal .136/.313/.273 in 83 April plate appearances and while it was reasonable to believe the .149 BABIP would regress back toward his career .256 mark, there was still trouble brewing. It wouldn’t get much better in the following months with a .595 OPS in May, .675 in June, and .597 in July, all with sub-.200 AVGs and just 9 HR in his 339 PA. With just a .150/.327/.263 line through May 25th, Muncy hit the IL. He didn’t want to blame his struggles on the elbow, but I mean… c’mon, it was the elbow. He did eventually acknowledge that he rushed back from the injury and should’ve taken some time.

Muncy returned from the injury with a 2-for-5 game that included a double, homer, and 5 RBIs. He’s back!! Not so fast, my friend (shouts to Corso)! June was his best month to date as I mentioned above with the .675 OPS, but obviously still a far cry from the star power hitter he had developed into with the Dodgers (.890 OPS in 1910 PA with them coming into 2022). He would only hit 2 more homers with a .601 OPS in his remaining 72 June PA.

Throughout all these struggles, there were elements of his game that hinted at the Muncy of old. His 12% Barrel Rate was 28th among 168 pitchers with at least 300 PA. He was still toting a 17% BB rate, 2nd only to Juan Soto, and his 25% K rate was just 1 point north of his career mark coming into 2022. The status quo just wasn’t working, though. His elbow was feeling better, but the results still weren’t there.

Until a trip to Colorado.

As Fabian Ardaya highlighted this mid-August piece at The Athletic ($), Muncy made a mechanical change that involved him taking a literal step back to better position himself as the pitch comes which you can see in this video posted by Chad Moriyama:

He had hit in 3 of 4 games at Colorado to finish off July before an excellent August (.906 OPS) and solid September (.813) that saw him hit 12 HR with 38 RBIs and 31 R in 244 PA – a full season pace of 34 HR/108 RBI/88 R. The Dodgers were 1-and-done in the playoffs but not because of Muncy, who stayed hot with a .286/.375/.571 line including a homer and double among his 4 hits in the series against the Padres.

Muncy’s StatCast Power Metrics
Date Events EV maxEV LA Barrel% HardHit%
Apr-Jul 193 88.9 111.2 20.7 12% 40%
Aug-Oct 136 92.3 109.7 21.2 15% 51%
2018-2021 1131 90.2 112.3 15.6 14% 44%

Under the hood, Muncy saw his Exit Velocity jump over 3 mph from 88.9 to 92.3, fostering a 2-point jump in Barrel Rate to 15% which was good 12th in August-September (min. 200 PA). And unsurprisingly given the other two factors mentioned, his Hard-Hit rate surged 10 points to 51%, ranking 15th but tied for the 8th-highest total when rounding and accounting for ties. Those three metrics do contain a good bit of overlap and are essentially multiple ways of saying he was crushing the ball. Muncy got his groove back, but it might not be noticed by those who didn’t have him on their fantasy team at the time as his season line is still uninspiring at just .196/.329/.384 with 21 HR in 565 PA. Hey, it’s hard to work four bad months off a stat line!

Muncy is going at a very fair price in winter drafts, sitting at pick 149 in eight Draft Champions (15-team, 50-round Draft & Hold) leagues since the New Year at the NFBC. That makes him the 9th 3B (he also qualifies at 2B) off the board and given the lack of depth at the Hot Corner (definitely read this piece by Jeff), that feels like a bargain. I like Muncy to return to his 30-HR hitting ways with plenty of runs and RBIs in the Dodgers lineup. He averaged 35 HR per year in 2018, 2019, and 2021, needing just 554 PA to do so. As long as the elbow injury doesn’t flare back up, I see no reason he can’t once again be a power stud at either 3B or 2B. Muncy is my 8th ranked 3B with a .245 AVG, 33 HR, 88 R, 91 RBI, and 2 SB (those steals are the key!!!) While that is only a 1 spot difference at the position, the current 8th ranked 3B – Gunnar Henderson – goes 56 picks earlier than Muncy so I am still quite a bit higher than the market. I won’t take him unnecessarily early, but if Muncy’s price starts to surge, I will beat the 139 minimum pick he currently has in those 8 leagues since January 1st.

How do you feel about Muncy and 3B at large? Are you trying to secure one of the studs or are you willing to chance in the unsettled middle tier?

Paul is the Editor of Rotographs and contributes to ESPN's Daily Notes. Follow Paul on Twitter @sporer and on Twitch at sporer.

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Nate Gardnermember
2 months ago

Just drafted Muncy in the 13th in an NFBC 50s. This article was exactly the confirmation bias I was hoping to find!

Jokes aside…at that point in a draft, it seems like a good time to bet on a bounce back. Though, admittedly, I’m hoping to play him as MI/CI and drafted as such.