Monday, July 8, 2024

Newsletter Excerpt, July 8, 2024 -- "NL West Notes"


This is a preview of the Joe Sheehan Baseball Newsletter, an e-mail newsletter about all things baseball, featuring analysis and opinion about the game on and off the field from the perspective of the informed outsider.

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Los Angeles Dodgers

The Dodgers have given at least 50 plate appearances to 15 players this year. Five have been absolute zeros, just dead roster spots.

                       PA    AVG   OBP   SLG   OPS+
Gavin Lux             259   .207  .263  .282    56
Enrique Hernandez     200   .197  .260  .295    59
Chris Taylor          150   .155  .262  .256    49
James Outman          129   .167  .264  .281    56
Austin Barnes          85   .213  .289  .240    54

If you’d like to make an argument for these players based on something other than offense, you’re welcome to do so, but note that they have combined for -0.7 bWAR, with none better than 0.2 bWAR. 

There’s not much the Dodgers can do for the moment. A third of their starting lineup is out with injuries, and the team won’t be completely healthy until August, when Mookie Betts returns from a broken hand. The inevitable roster crunch when Betts, Jason Heyward, and Max Muncy return makes it hard for the Dodgers to go outside the organization for help in the short term. Flyers taken on Taylor Trammell and Cavan Biggio have not paid off. 

The positive, however, is that the injuries have created opportunities for two homegrown Dodgers to stake their claim to roster spots. Rookie Andy Pages has a lot of swing-and-miss in his game. When he swing-and-hits, though, it’s with authority, including a 10.7% barrel rate and a solid 11.6% pulled-flyball rate. Pages has been a surprisingly good outfielder while showing off one of the best throwing arms in the game. He’s even become more disciplined; Pages went the first 76 plate appearances of his career before drawing his first walk; since then, he has a reasonable 53/16 K/BB with a 7.5% walk rate that’s not far below the league average. 

Better news of late has come from Miguel Vargas, whom the Dodgers have handled poorly the last couple of seasons. He’s been up and down to Triple-A, and after struggling to play second base last year doesn’t seem to have the team’s confidence at any spot. He’s only played left field this season, and not all that well. But in 53 PA, he has a .319/.377/.596 line with just nine strikeouts against five walks. An 0-for-4 Sunday snapped a streak of 11 starts in which Vargas hit safely. The ability to hit has always been there, and given the state of the Dodgers’ outfield, he should get regular run. As with all young players, regular playing time is the key to success.

Heyward’s return will create a logjam, perhaps force a rotating platoon situation with the three right-handed-hitting outfielders. The Dodgers, though, do not have to go outside the organization right now. Andy Pages and Miguel Vargas, left alone to play regularly, will solve their lineup depth problem.