Max Muncy has gone from fringe player to batting in the second spot

Every year there’s a handful of players that come from out of nowhere and play a big part in their team’s success. Last year, Chris Taylor and Cody Bellinger established themselves as Major Leaguers to help the Los Angeles Dodgers capture another division title. This year, the Dodgers have found another player who has started to steal playing time from the regulars. Max Muncy is a 27-year old drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the fifth round and struggled to become an everyday player for them. Now with the Dodgers, Muncy started the year in AAA and has worked his way into the second spot of the batting order. Muncy has become increasingly better with each month and has five home runs with a .370 average so far in June. If you haven’t heard about Max Muncy you will now as we take a look at some of his past seasons.

What stands out is his great plate discipline.  His walk rates were always in the double digits throughout his minor league career and he’s brought that discipline to the majors, walking at a 16.4% rate this year. He’s never been a home run hitter and this is another case of a player who develops power later in their career. Let’s see if his plate discipline is as great as the percentage shows.

We can see that he’s always had a good eye for the strike zone as his o-swing is 20% and below. The biggest difference is he’s not making contact on pitches off the plate like he did in 2016 as it’s decreased from 64.1% to 55.7%. This has resulted in his swinging strike percentage increasing to 7.9% and overall a higher strikeout rate. This profile is still really good as he doesn’t chase pitches off the plate that often. Now let’s see how he’s hitting the ball to see if the home runs are for real.

The first thing we notice is that Muncy’s approach is different from two years ago. He’s now hitting more fly balls at a 48.3% rate and ground balls have decreased to 32.6%. Other factors that help his home run surge are his hard contact, which is up at 43.8%, and he’s pulling the ball 44.9% of the time. Unfortunately, the home run to fly ball percentage is very high so expect regression and don’t expect him to hit home runs so often. Statcast shows an xAVG of .283 which helps confirm he’s hitting the ball well. His average exit velocity has increased from 83.2MPH in 2016 to 91.6MPH in 2018 while average launch angle has increased from 10.4° to 16.8°. The increase in velocity and launch angle show why he’s hit so many home runs this season.

Max Muncy has gone from a fringe player with Oakland to becoming a solid contributor for the LA Dodgers. His plate discipline was always a strength but now has added power to his game. Muncy can play all over the diamond and is multi-positional eligible which helps any fantasy team. It will be interesting to see how pitchers adjust to him, but until then, hitting in the second spot of the order is excellent.

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