The Dodgers aren’t like a lot of teams. They have multiple players who can play multiple positions. As such, they have a number of different players playing significant innings at multiple spots.
Before taking too much stock into the numbers below (many of which are relatively small sample sizes), this and its follow-up post covering the outfield are mostly just to recap the Dodgers’ season by taking a look at who spent how much time at each position in 2019 (as well as letting me gain some comfort with my first posts on here).
With the Dodgers’ notable preference for positional versatility, just three of the eight positions had a single player spend at least 600 innings in a specific spot.
Much of the offensive production (which is mostly the focus here rather than anyone’s actual prowess at a spot defensively) by position was obvious to the naked eye, led by Cody Bellinger’s above-average OPS regardless of which of his three positions he was at on a given day. Max Muncy achieved similar results wherever he was at in the infield, while Kiké Hernández for example mostly struggled at the plate regardless of position.
Meanwhile among the odder notes discovered in looking through these numbers, Chris Taylor hit much better while at shortstop than he did while in left field and Matt Beaty’s offensive came with an uptick while in left than at first base.
(.228/.322/.412/.734 in 649 plate appearances)
Austin Barnes managed to lead the Dodgers in innings played (524 2/3) and plate appearances (228) at catcher in 2019, doing so with a .644 OPS and a 70 wRC+.
Barnes’ struggles for more than a third of the position’s plate appearances left the Dodgers just above the league’s average production at catcher. Given Will Smith’s emergence, regardless of who his backup is in 2020, it stands to reason the position will see an uptick on offense next year.
Smith finished his 403 innings and 186 plate appearances with a .907 OPS/132 wRC+, while Russell Martin rounded out the position with a .712 OPS/93 wRC+ in 221 plate appearances and 486 innings. It is worth noting Smith finished 2019 with a pretty significant reverse platoon split across both AAA and the majors. In OKC, Smith held a 1.001 OPS against righties and an .848 OPS against lefties. Once in the majors, it continued with a 1.019 OPS against righties and a .685 OPS against lefties (though that came in only 64 plate appearances).
Random appearance note: Somehow Rocky Gale snuck in four games at catcher in 2019, resulting in two hits across 14 plate appearances and a staggeringly low -28 wRC+ in such a short time.
(.268/.362/.509/.871 in 694 PAs)
Five different Dodgers recorded at least 10% of the team’s plate appearances at first base, with Muncy leading the way with 195 PAs in 402 2/3 innings. The top three, Muncy, David Freese and Bellinger, all hit well above the league’s average while at first, with the position dragged down due to both Beaty and Joc Pederson’s struggles.
Muncy (.968 OPS/153 wRC+) did so with no platoon split (.887 OPS vs. righties and .893 OPS vs. lefties). Bellinger (1.016 OPS/157 wRC+ in 119 PAs and 230 innings) and Freese (.982 OPS/156 wRC+ in 139 PAs and 294 1/3 innings) provided the Dodgers with three strong options at first base during 2019, with the only drawbacks coming from Beaty (.685 OPS/83 wRC+ in 92 PAs) and Pederson (.629 OPS/65 wRC+ in 78 PAs).
Who the Dodgers turn to as the primary first baseman in 2020 is likely to come as a result of free agency. To make room for Gavin Lux full time (possibly unlikely if the Dodgers decide to manipulate his service time), Muncy could be the main candidate. On the off chance the Dodgers acquire a new third baseman in Anthony Rendon (who spent all 646 plate appearances at third for the Nationals in 2019), it could be Justin Turner landing at first.
Should the Dodgers elect to keep a similar split between Muncy, Bellinger and possibly Beaty, a minimum of 250 PAs will open up at the position from 2019. With Freese retired and assuming the Pederson experiment is on hold/over (while throwing in the wasted 34 PAs from Tyler White and Jedd Gyorko), there will be room for someone to take on a larger role at first.
Random appearance note: While White and Gyorko mostly wasted 34 PAs (more so due to the former rather than the latter), Edwin Rios managed to put up a .997 OPS in 28 PAs thanks to a double, triple and a pair of home runs.
(.239/.327/.440/.767 in 695 PAs)
A more even split between two players, second base was primarily filled by Muncy and Hernández in 2019 until the promotion of Lux late in the year.
Muncy’s numbers at second (.858 OPS/126 wRC+ in 264 PAs and 520 1/3 innings) pretty much mirrored his production at first while doing so in more opportunities. However, Hernández brought the position’s overall totals down due to a .687 OPS/83 wRC+ in a team-leading 277 plate appearances. Taylor (.806 OPS/112 wRC+ in 59 PAs) and Lux (.724 OPS/ 91 wRC+ in 78 PAs) were the only other Dodgers to see significant playing time at second in 2019.
As is customary at this point in his career, Hernández finished 2019 with a much stronger result against lefties (.758 OPS in 176 PAs) than against righties (.688 OPS in 284 PAs).
The status of second is much like that of first looking ahead to 2020. Should Hernández return to more of a part-time role, Muncy remains an option to continue to see significant time depending on the need for a first baseman and the Dodgers’ decision on how when Lux returns to Los Angeles. All 178 major league innings for Lux came at second in 2019, though should an opening occur at shortstop, Lux slides over.
Random appearance note: While the playing time was much more centered on the top two, Kristopher Negron managed to put up a 1.152 OPS in 12 PAs as he hit two home runs at the position.
(.275/.363/.486/.849 in 724 PAs)
With a little more than 70% of the plate appearances at third base in 2019, most of the Dodgers’ offensive production at third came from Justin Turner. Posting a .887 OPS/133 wRC+ in his 521 PAs and 1,023 2/3 innings at third, Turner turned in yet another strong season with his splits against righties (.852 OPS) and lefities (.939 OPS) keeping him valuable against each.
For the third straight position in the infield, Muncy put up another similar stat line with a .886 OPS/136 wRC+ in 121 PAs while filling in for Turner, with no other Dodger finished with more than 26 PAs while playing at third.
Random appearance note: There’s little else of note at third thanks to Turner’s stranglehold on the position, though Beaty’s 26 PAs resulted in four extra-base hits including two homers.
(.278/.343/.491/.834 in 700 PAs)
Another mostly self-explanatory position, shortstop was led by Corey Seager’s .820 OPS/114 wRC+ in 534 PAs. Spending 1,082 2/3 innings at shortstop, no Dodger spent more time at a single position than Seager did at shortstop.
With Seager missing about a month of time between mid-June to mid-July, Taylor served as the primary fill-in at short with impressive results. Recording an .812 OPS/115 wRC+ in 133 PAs, Taylor effectively replicated Seager’s offensive production, only trading a bit of the slugging for a slightly improved on-base percentage. Taylor recorded more plate appearances at short than anywhere else in the field in 2019 and only hitting better while in center field in less than half the PAs.
Seager’s platoon split (.876 OPS vs. righties, .703 vs. lefties) returned to a similar level to 2016 (.948/.722) than that of 2017 (.826/.916). Taylor’s unsurprisingly flipped the other way (.753 vs. righties, .859 vs. lefties.).
Random appearance note: Only four Dodgers played at shortstop in 2019, with Hernández getting 28 PAs at short (leading to a 1.098 OPS with three home runs and two doubles) and the recently retired Negron adding a mere 5 PAs.