Andrew Toles came out of nowhere to be a surprise contributor for the Dodgers in 2016. Unfortunately, he had his season end early on in 2017 due to a knee injury.
Andrew Toles is one of those stories you can’t help but root for. After being a former top prospect and falling out of professional baseball, he worked his way back to the big leagues in 2016. Toles and Andrew Friedman had a reunion of sorts since Friedman drafted Toles in the third round of the 2012 amateur draft.
After battling through all three levels of the minor leagues, Toles came up in 2016 and hit .314 for the Dodgers in 48 games. The Dodgers were almost counting on Toles to be a contributor in 2017, and he got off to a hot start slugging five home runs in only 31 games but his season came to an abrupt end after diving for a ball in left field. Toles would be diagnosed with a torn ACL and was lost for the rest of the 2017 season.
It is safe to say that the Dodgers didn’t miss Andrew Toles too much as they came within one game of a World Series championship, but he can still be an important part of the 2018 Dodgers team. Toles is the one true leadoff option that the Dodgers have besides Alex Verdugo. Toles can hit for a decent average and steal bases when he gets on base. While Chris Taylor hit at the top of the order last season, he could drive in more runs and lengthen the lineup if he hits lower in the order.
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Despite what Toles is capable of, the Dodgers would be better off starting Toles in Triple-A Oklahoma City for the beginning of the 2018 season. The Dodgers are reportedly going to take things slow with Toles and that makes sense since he is less than ten months removed from surgery for a torn ACL. While ACL surgery is almost as common as Tommy John surgery in baseball nowadays, it is still a grueling recovery both physically and mentally.
In order for Andrew Toles to be the spark plug the Dodgers need him to be, they need to start him in Triple-A this year. Let him get back into the rhythm of playing the game, after all, baseball is all about timing. Toles when healthy is capable of playing all three outfield positions and possesses the speed to steal 20-30 bases in a season.
The problem is that most athletes have a mental roadblock coming back from a big injury that keeps them from giving 110% effort in fear of re-aggravating their injury. The Dodgers could start Toles out slow in the minor leagues with no pressure and let him get his timing back hitting. On top of that, the club could keep him in left field before letting him play centerfield in the minors to show that he is truly back to form and one hundred percent healthy. The Dodgers love versatility and once Toles shows he is all the way back, he could play all three outfield positions.
The added benefit of letting Toles work his way back is that the Dodgers can figure out if Matt Kemp can give them anything in left field. Kike Hernandez will draw the starts against southpaws, but against right-handers, the Dodgers will have to sort through their various outfield options. Matt Kemp actually hits right-handed pitchers better, so he could fill the main role against righties. If Kemp struggles then the Dodgers can let Joc Pederson and Andrew Toles battle it out.
There is no doubt that Andrew Toles will contribute to the Dodgers at some point in the 2018 season. To ensure that he is fully healthy and give him a better path at contributing long-term, the Dodgers should start him off in Triple-A.