In 2018, Max Muncy joined the likes of Justin Turner and Chris Taylor as an unheralded Los A Dodgers acquisition who transformed his swing and turned into a star. After he spent all of 2017 in the Minor Leagues, Muncy’s emergence became a big reason why the Dodgers reached their second straight World Series in 2018.
He hit 35 home runs last season after a call-up in April, which was a stunning pace for someone who had hit just five longballs in the Majors before then. Muncy’s first step towards an even better 2019 was realizing that he could not go in just expecting to replicate that same success.
“I think the biggest thing I did was understanding what kind of year I had (in 2018),” Muncy recently said.
“When you really kind of understand it, you realize that no matter how hard you work or how prepared you come in, you’re not going to do the exact same thing. I was hitting a home run every 10 at-bats or whatever it was. That’s probably never going to happen again.
“You just have to be realistic about it. So when I did that, it was, ‘Alright, let’s get back to work. Let’s act like nothing good happened before.’ I went through the whole offseason acting like last year never happened. For me, that kept me from getting complacent and made me hungry to go out there and work hard.”
This season, Muncy has cemented himself as a force in the middle of the Dodgers’ lineup. Manager Dave Roberts started placing him behind early MVP candidate Cody Bellinger in the batting order, ensuring that opposing pitchers would think twice before pitching around Bellinger.
Muncy has also become a much better hitter against left-handed pitching after being limited to a platoon role for much of 2018. Muncy sports an .888 on-base plus slugging percentage against lefties this year, and his improved defense at second base and third base.
While Turner first blossomed under former Dodgers manager Don Mattingly, both Taylor and Muncy saw their breakouts happen under Roberts. Muncy in particular credits Roberts for being there for him through every step of his ascent.
“It means a lot. Doc has been very supportive of me ever since I came up last year,” Muncy said. “Being able to have a guy like that behind you means the world and allows you to have a lot of confidence in yourself. It makes me more comfortable to be myself and go out there and play.”
Muncy was a late entry into the All-Star race last year, becoming a Final Vote nominee but ultimately losing to Jesus Aguilar of the Milwaukee Brewers. He initially missed the cut this year before being named to Roberts’ NL team as a replacement for Anthony Rendon.
Now he’s working to bounce back from a fractured right wrist that he returned from after missing just two weeks.