Dodgers: Zach McKinstry needs to prove he’s ready to take over for Chris Taylor

Zach McKinstry - Los Angeles Dodgers(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images)
Zach McKinstry - Los Angeles Dodgers(Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images) /

At this very moment, Chris Taylor will be serving as the Los Angeles Dodgers‘ Swiss Army knife and will be the primary option after Kiké Hernández left for the Boston Red Sox.

But Taylor’s time in LA may not be for much longer. He’s a free agent after this season, and come November, he might be among the departed since the Dodgers will likely need to prioritize guys like Corey Seager, Clayton Kershaw, and, if they feel like it, Kenley Jansen and Corey Knebel, depending on how they perform in 2021.

Taylor’s been a rock solid versatile bench option ever since coming over from the Seattle Mariners in 2016, but we’d be willing to bet Andrew Friedman probably won’t be paying Taylor — especially if he has another productive year — big money as he enters his age-31 campaign.

That’s what makes Zach McKinstry so important.

Zach McKinstry will be very important on the Dodgers Opening Day roster.

McKinstry, who is among the Dodgers’ top prospects, excitedly talked about filling the role Hernandez left behind if he got the opportunity to do so. Now that he’ll be on the Opening Day roster, he’ll certainly get some chances to prove he’s worthy of reps this year and/or taking over for Taylor if the veteran departs in 2022.

Just like fellow youngster Gavin Lux, McKinstry will be tasked with proving himself from the jump. His solid spring training (.279 with a .683 OPS while playing multiple positions) was a decent start, but the only reps that matter come between April and November.

The 25-year-old is already on the right track, however. He made his debut in the shortened 2020 (though he didn’t play much) but in 2019 he was utilized at second base, shortstop, third base and all three outfield spots between Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City. His lefty bat seems to be up to the occasion, but what about the defense?

McKinstry has mostly played second, short and third throughout his minor league career and has logged fielding percentages of .970, .944 and .933. Taylor, across his MLB career at those three positions, has registered fielding percentages of .982, .973 and .960. Taylor’s .985 fielding percentage in the outfield also trumps McKinstry’s .926.

Taylor’s entrenched in the primary do-it-all role at this very moment. McKinstry doesn’t have to blow everyone away overnight, but he does need to instill some confidence that he can adequately hold down multiple defensive positions at the major league level and continue on his current trajectory with the bat (he upped his home run total to 19 across 121 games in 2019 after hitting just 11 in his previous 190 games).

It’s all right there for McKinstry, who could seize the moment and make the most of his playing time in 2021 to carve himself out a more defined, full-time role in 2022.