Story contributed by Steve Lieberman
So far this season, Max “Mad Max” Muncy has been a pleasant surprise for the Los Angeles Dodgers.
On July 1, 2018, in a 6-4 win over the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium, Muncy, getting his fifth start at second base, reached base safely in all four plate appearances, going 2-for-2 with two walks and also scored two runs. He has reached base safely in 30 of his last 32 games since May 23, hitting .297 with 22 runs, three doubles, 12 home runs and 20 RBI. He’s ranked #18 in the majors, along with five other players, with 17 homers, ten of those coming in June.
Muncy is primarily a first and third baseman and started more games in the minors in left and right field than he did at second. At the moment, the Dodgers are willing to let him play second and learn how to defend at that position in order to keep a productive bat in the lineup. The Dodgers don’t mind that he didn’t play any games at second when he was in Triple A.
The 27-year-old Midland, Texas native was drafted by the Oakland Athletics in the fifth round of the 2012 MLB draft. After being released before the 2017 season, Muncy signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers on April 27, 2017 and assigned to Triple A Oklahoma City. In 109 games, he hit .309 with 12 homers and 44 RBI and then called up to the Dodgers on April 17, 2018.
The 2018 season found the Dodgers starting off injury-plagued, losing Corey Seager to a season-ending injury, Clayton Kershaw on the DL twice, Hyun-Jin Ryu hurt and slugger Justin Turner also starting the season on the shelf. The Dodgers record was 16-26 on May 16 and it seemed hopeless. Fans were doubting that they could recover.
And then there was Muncy to help save the day. Now, he’s the best power-hitter on a surging Dodgers team.
Muncy’s rise to the top has unfortunately moved veteran second-baseman and fan-favorite Chase Utley to the back burner. Utley recently returned from the DL and remains primarily a pinch-hitter. He’s batting .188 as a starter and .421 as a pinch-hitter.
Manager Dave Roberts has high hopes for Muncy and also wants to keep Utley active.
“Chase is going to go against a right-handed pitcher and trying to get him in on a once-a-week type thing,” Roberts said. “Understanding his value as a pinch-hitter to give us a good at-bat off of the bench, but you still need to get starts to kind of stay somewhat current, but I think that against right-handers, we want to make sure Muncy is up.”
* Steve Lieberman is a veteran sports/arts/entertainment journalist. He has covered entertainment and Los Angeles-based pro sports for over 14 years. In addition to covering the NHL, NBA and MLB, he also covers concerts, theatre, opera and other entertainment events.