When the story of the 2018 Los Angeles Dodgers is told, it’s hard to imagine you’d get past the first couple of sentences without mention of Max Muncy.
What has been amazing about the franchise is their ability to find diamonds in the rough that don’t just morph into contributors, but bonafide stars. And in 2018, Muncy was one of those stars.
Heading into the season, he had played 96 total games in the Major Leagues — and those came in 2015 and 2016 with the Oakland Athletics. After signing with the Dodgers in 2017, Muncy spent the entire season in the Minors where he posted career highs in batting average, on-base percentage, slugging and home runs.
Still, at 27, he wasn’t on anyone’s radar heading into this season. Don’t believe me? Remember that Muncy actually started the season back in the minors until Logan Forsythe — who was filling in for the injured Justin Turner at third base — was put on the disabled list himself.
Once called up, however, Muncy never looked back — mashing his way to a team-high 35 home runs while posting a batting line of .263/.391/.582 as a first baseman, second baseman and third baseman.
By the end of the season, Muncy was the team leader in home runs, slugging percentage and WAR.
While it seems like there are so many to choose from, there are two that stand out.
The first is obviously from the World Series, when Muncy ended the-game-that-would-never-end with an 18th inning walk-off home run to keep the Dodgers’ championship hopes alive. The win prevented the Dodgers from facing a seemingly insurmountable 3-0 deficit in the World Series.
If we’re talking regular season, however, it’s hard to pick anything other than the Home Run Derby. While not chosen to the All-Star Game itself, Muncy stole the show in the first round of the Derby by clubbing an event-high 17 homers to rally past Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez.
In the semifinals, Muncy hit 12 more before falling to eventual champion Bryce Harper.
Let’s address the elephant in the room: is this all repeatable? In the case of Justin Turner’s late breakout, the answer was a resounding yes. In the case of Chris Taylor, however, we saw some serious regression.
In the second half of this season Muncy did slow down a bit — hitting “just” 13 home runs and seeing his slash line go from .271/.409/.604 (first half) to .253/.366/.553.
Heading into 2019, Muncy will be penciled in as the team’s primary first baseman and will have every opportunity to establish himself as an everyday option moving forward.
While 35 home runs and a .973 OPS may not be entirely repeatable, there was enough to believe 2018 wasn’t a complete fluke either.