Dodgers: Max Muncy’s 2019 season proves his breakout was legit

Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)
Max Muncy, Los Angeles Dodgers (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images) /

The Dodgers began the 2019 season wondering if Max Muncy’s breakout 2018 season could be repeated. It didn’t take long for Max to prove it was no fluke.

Max Muncy is for real.  After breaking out of nowhere in 2018 there were plenty of skeptics that he could put on a repeat performance.  For every Max Muncy that follows up a breakthrough performance with another strong year, there’s a Jesus Aguilar who posts a negative WAR after putting up a 3.1 in 2018.

Muncy’s 2019 season came with no guarantees.  Back in February, an article in Roto Baller expressed hopes for a strong follow-up season right alongside some doubts.  “The issue with Muncy is that all of his numbers scream regression.”

And there was some regression.  The batting average dropped a few points (from .263 to .251) along with the OBP (.391 to .374). But the homers stayed the same at 35, albeit in just over 100 more at-bats, and the RBIs actually jumped from 79 to 98 this year.

This wasn’t the kind of regression anyone feared.  Overall, a very solid sophomore year for the Dodgers’ second baseman who also spent time at 1st and 3rd throughout the year.  Going into 2020 Muncy has converted the skeptics into believers.

Out with their early rankings heading into next year, CBS’ Scott White ranks Muncy as the number seven 2nd baseman in the game in his Fantasy Baseball Today podcast (at 21:34).

That’s the identical rank Muncy gets from Paul Sporer of Rotographs in his list of “Top 30 Second Basemen for 2020”:  “Showed ’18 was no fluke w/33 HR, 89 RBI, and 94 R,” reads the brief blurb that accompanies his rank.

The added respect hasn’t gone unnoticed by Muncy.  Earlier this month he told reporter Ken Gurnick, “There is definitely a little more satisfaction because coming into this year, all I heard people talking about was, ‘Oh, teams are going to make the adjustment. You’re not going to be able to do what you did last year.’”

Muncy’s 2019 campaign provided the response.  Snubbed after a strong first half in 2018, Muncy made his first All-Star game this year as well.  But the value in Muncy goes beyond even the batting stats and is bolstered by his bargain annual salary for the Dodgers.

The Dodgers are fortunate to have one of baseball’s larger payrolls.  But even teams with money to spend need to hit on a Muncy or two to build a championship roster.  In 2019, the Dodgers’ second baseman took home a base salary of $575,000 for his 35 home runs.

Locking in Muncy’s 70 dingers over the past two seasons at such a bargain rate allowed the club to spend millions on production elsewhere.  Large payroll or not, that’s an incredible boost to any team.

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Arbitration eligible for the first time, Muncy’s pay is expected to jump to around $4.6 million next year. Still a bargain if he comes close to his projected numbers.  Heading into 2020 the early forecasts say Max should continue to be a power source for the Dodgers’ infield.

Depth Charts and Steamer project him for 30 and 29 home runs, respectively, although they foresee an identical AVG that slips to .240.  Defensively, Muncy is ranked as the Dodgers’ best option at first base with Cody Bellinger’s defense needed in the outfield.

In fact, early indications are he may wind up at first for most of the 2020 season.
Wherever the Dodgers decide to plug him in they should count on Muncy to power their quest for another postseason run.

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In two solid years, Muncy has displayed a strong combination of production and price tag that makes him a valuable asset for a team looking to bring home baseball’s biggest prize.