Whicker: Dodgers’ Muncy has taken this opportunity to the max

first_img“When I got this opportunity, I wasn’t going to do that again,” he said. “I’ve just been trying to enjoy every day up here. I’m not going to worry about what might happen. It’s been pretty exciting.”Sign up for our Inside the Dodgers newsletter. Be the best Dodger fan you can be by getting daily intel on your favorite team. Subscribe here.This was also the soundtrack to Chris Taylor’s career. Trapped in the Seattle system, dismissed after a small sample of major league work, Taylor was traded to the Dodgers even though he had once been the Mariners’ minor league player of the year. Taylor’s 2017 was good enough to earn him a major league bobblehead this week.The Dodgers did the same thing in 2016. They needed a lefty reliever with handcuffing stuff. They found Grant Dayton in the Marlins’ system and traded Chris Reed, a former first-round draft choice, to get him. Dayton had a gaudy 0.759 WHIP for the Dodgers and struck out 39 in 26 innings. He got hurt and was waived and is now healing with the Braves.But it again showed that, sometimes, the Dodgers front office knows its neighbors’ infrastructure better than the neighbors do.Andrew Toles, released by Tampa Bay and leading off for the Dodgers in the 2016 National League Championship Series, is on that list too.Farhan Zaidi, the Dodgers general manager, was in Oakland’s front office when Muncy’s name up. Scouting director Eric Kubota thought Muncy could go in the third round and wound up taking him in the fifth.“Eric really liked the bat and the approach,” Zaidi said via e-mail, “and identified him as a sneaky good athlete for a first baseman. The whole group was high on him.”At Baylor, Muncy set the freshman record for home runs (11) and had a .501 slugging percentage for his three-year career. He also hit a walk-off grand slam against Rice in a regular-season tournament. The victim was JT Chargois, who began this season in the Dodgers’ bullpen.“He could always hit, which is why he was so highly recruited in high school,” said Steve Smith, Muncy’s coach at Baylor and now an assistant coach at Auburn. “The question was always going to be what position he’d play.“I think he can be one of the best defensive first basemen around. And he’s battled to play third base. I remember one scout was asked where Max would play and he said, ‘As far away from the ball as possible.’ I don’t think that’s the case anymore.”Muncy grew up in Keller, Texas, near Fort Worth, and was coached almost exclusively by his father, Lee, a geologist.“Wiffle balls in the garage, you name it,” Muncy said. “He’s taught me what I know about hitting. But when I was in Oklahoma City last year, I tweaked a lot of things about my approach. It’s made me feel more comfortable.”The major tweak was in Muncy’s shoulder. It’s hard to hit when you’re looking over it. Through Tuesday, Muncy was 8-for-23 with Dodgers in scoring position. His OPS was a healthy .887. He had six home runs, and he had cashed his few opportunities against southpaw pitching (.364).“I’ve gone through this once before,” Muncy said. “And I think I learned my lesson.”Muncy was promoted by Oakland in 2015 and 2016. The first year, he got into 45 games and hit .206. The second year, he got into 51 games, hit .186 and compiled a puny OPS of .565.“It was the first time I’d had to deal with failure,” Muncy said. “I didn’t deal with it very well. I started second-guessing myself on a lot of things. I was too worried about being sent down, about what might happen.”The consequence came at the end of 2017 spring training. The Athletics welcomed new prospects into their infield. They released Muncy. Not until late April did he find a new gig with the Dodgers, but he spent the entirety of 2017 at Triple-A Oklahoma City. Newsroom GuidelinesNews TipsContact UsReport an Errorcenter_img LOS ANGELES — Every base hit delays the plane.Every time Max Muncy takes the short stride and delivers the authoritative stroke his father taught him, and every time it works, he puts off the second half of the round trip to Oklahoma City.He came up April 17, with Logan Forsythe freshly on the disabled list, with Justin Turner working his way through rehab.The Dodgers threw Muncy into the lineup without a great deal of choice. Most of the time, the stand-in serves his time and hesitates to send out his dry-cleaning. But when Forsythe came back and Turner came back, somebody else went down. Muncy is still there. He even batted leadoff Tuesday night. A live bat can change a lot of plans.last_img

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