The folks want more Gavin Lux! And how can you blame them? MLB’s former top prospect is coming to fruition before Los Angeles Dodgers‘ fans very eyes after the disappointing start to his career.
Lux, in 70 games this season, is hitting .286 with a .738 OPS (105 OPS+) and has cut back on his strikeouts (only 48 in 70 games). He was the catalyst in Sunday night’s epic comeback over the Atlanta Braves, battling Kenley Jansen down to the Dodgers’ last strike to start a two-out rally that resulted in an extra-inning triumph.
There’s a lot more to like here, too. Lux has a 0.6 dWAR overall and 2 Defensive Runs Saved at second base (where he should be playing). He’s got some nice clutch numbers, too, producing at a solid rate with two outs and runners in scoring position (.250 AVG and .774 OPS) as well as high-leverage situations (.282 AVG and .754 OPS).
That’s led to fans pleading for manager Dave Roberts to move Lux up in the batting order, with guys like Justin Turner, Cody Bellinger and Max Muncy still struggling mightily.
But is that the answer? Lux has been producing in the No. 8 and 9 spots (13 games batting eighth and 46 games batting ninth). Is that simply where he’s supposed to be? Isn’t a presence like that meant to ignite the bottom of the Dodgers’ order?
And does moving down struggling hitters in the lineup actually do anything? If they’re slumping, they’re still going to hurt the team in a big way as long as they’re playing. So what’s the answer here?
What should the Dodgers do with Gavin Lux amid offensive surge?
Lux simply cannot bat leadoff. Trea Turner has been a machine in that role, and Roberts will likely be stubborn and put Mookie Betts back there when he returns from the injured list.
OK, where else? Freddie Freeman isn’t going anywhere, and Will Smith has finally started to heat up. The first three spots in the lineup are booked at the moment, and it’ll be four once Betts is ready to return.
The question is, do fans trust Lux enough to drive in runs in the fourth, fifth or sixth spot? Or, do the Dodgers want to mess with Turner’s/Freeman’s mojo and bump them down in the lineup to make room for Lux toward the top?
Truth be told, Lux getting on base at the bottom of the lineup is key. In fact, though in smaller sample sizes, he’s been tested in various other spots in the lineup from 2019-2021. Here’s a quick snapshot:
Nobody’s saying Lux isn’t capable of doing better. After all, he seems to be a different kind of player now. However, he’s arguably been afforded that luxury because he’s dealt with less pressure at the bottom of the lineup after pitchers have gone through the gauntlet of hitters 1-7 … even if the aforementioned sluggers aren’t producing.
Would Muncy, Turner or Bellinger getting bumped further make that big of a difference, too? We must say, Muncy simply needs to get pushed beyond the fifth spot, but Turner and Bellinger have been equally ineffective regardless of their position in the lineup.
Additionally, Muncy’s lefty bat is utilized where it is to break up the righties, so it’s not like he’s being used where he is without reason.
In the end, it would be fun to see Lux get a more prominent role on the offense. But the Dodgers might prefer to take things a bit slower with a guy who really only started to come on in a promising manner over his last ~40 games after his first full season’s workload really wasn’t good at all.
There’s still developing that has to be done, and the future is more important, with the Dodgers looking at a very uncertain 2023. Therefore, it might be best to let Lux keep cooking where he is and hope for turnarounds with the various other regressing players who should hopefully normalize.