Player Profile: Max Muncy
Max Muncy entered the 2018 season with 96 games of big league experience under his belt in 2015-16, and not a single at-bat in 2017. Yet somehow, after a deal to the Dodgers, he clawed his way to the big leagues, is blasting homers like he’s a superstar, and has been named an NL participant in the 2018 Home Run Derby to be held at the All-Star Game. Will the wild ride continue?
27 years old
Height/Weight: 6’0”, 210 lbs
Position: First/Third Base
He was drafted in the 41st round of the 2009 Entry Draft by the Indians. He didn’t sign.
A few years later, in 2012, he was drafted by the Athletics in the 5th round of the 2012 Entry Draft by the Athletics.
In 2015-16, Muncy saw enough action to pick up 245 plate appearances. He hit .195/.290/.321 for a .611 OPS, and as a terribly deficient player, he was returned full-time to the minors in 2017. This, of course, was after he was released by the Athletics on March 31st, 2017. It took nearly a full month for an organization to sign him as the Dodgers picked up the free agent on April 28th, 2017. Over the course of 109 games at Triple-A he hit a solid .309 with a .414 OBP and a .905 OPS to once again regain his prospect status. Note that he only hit 12 homers, but at least the bat was alive. Flash forward to 2018, the Dodgers were dealing with injuries, and Muncy was hitting impressively through nine games on the farm with a .984 OPS. Welcome to the show Mr. Muncy.
Before digging in too deeply, let’s compare his first two seasons with his work this season in virtually the same amount of plate appearances.
Remember, this guy was a total failure in the big leagues, was released by his team as a result, and it took a full month for any big-league team to sign Muncy to a contract.
So, the obvious question is, what the hell is going on this season?
You can look at video of Muncy and notice that he’s lowered his hands a bit in the setup, and that he has a leg kick now. Not major changes, but minor ones.
I’ll get to the homers in a second, but first I want to discuss batted balls.
Muncy has an average exit velocity of 91.2 mph. Amongst the players with 100 batted ball events, there are 296, that mark comes in 42nd. He also ranks 19th in that group with a 49.0 percent hard-hit ball rate (defined as 95 mph or more). Finally, he’s 5th in baseball with a 10.3 percent barrel rate (defined as an exit velocity of 98 mph with a launch angle of 26-30 percent, and for every mph above 98 the launch angle expands). Muncy is hitting the ball hard, very hard in fact.
As of this writing, there are 17 men in baseball who have hit 20 homers, including Muncy.
His averaged distances of 400.5 fee rank 8th.
His 103.2 speed off the bat ranks 14th.
His total of four no-doubt homers is tied for second to last.
His total of six just enough homers leaves six above him and seven below (tied with three).
All of that data suggests that Muncy’s performance to date is pretty legit, so why the nagging concern in the back of my noggin’?
First off, the guy failed out of gate in the bigs. That happens to a lot of guys at the start of their career, so it’s not something that wins any argument, but it’s worth pointing out that he went from abject failure to virtual all-star overnight.
Second, there’s the fact that the last time he displayed any power before this season was in 2013. That’s EONS ago. He hit 25 homers that season in 140 games at High-A and Double-A ball. However, from 2014-18, looking only at his minor league numbers, we have a total of 33 homers in 364 games. That’s hardly him taking the minors by storm.
Third, Muncy has a 30.3 percent HR/FB ratio with the Dodgers. As I wrote this preseason, there are fourteen seasons with a HR/FB ratio of 30 percent… ever. Pretty sure that Muncy isn’t one of the all-time greats. Even with his 46 percent fly ball rate, there’s just no way anyone can expect this power pace to be sustained. It’s just not going to happen.
Muncy owns a .601 SLG right now.
Last season four men in baseball hit that mark.
In 2016 one did.
Muncy owns a .335 Isolated Power mark.
Last season two men in baseball hit that mark.
In 2016 no one did.
Is Muncy really that good?
We can all accept the answer is no, right? Please tell me you agree.
Muncy does have a 46 percent fly ball rate, which will aid the homers, but it will also be detrimental to his batting average. You hit that many balls in the air, and you struggle to produce base hits. Even with all those hard-hit balls, you just don’t produce base hits with fly balls. In fact, the league average on fly balls this season is .229. Recall that Muncy hits nearly half his balls in the air and he owns a HR/FB ratio that isn’t sustainable meaning he will be losing some of the hits he’s currently producing on the fly ball. Even with all his success this season, he’s hitting a mere .266, and that’s likely the high-water mark. In fact, the odds are extremely good that he won’t finish with a mark as high as .266 this season.
As for his approach, solid things there.
His 23.3 percent K-rate is just a percentage point above the league average.
His 19.0 percent BB-rate is more than double the league average of 8.6 percent.
That approach should allow him to post a strong OBP. The mark was .382 in the minors, but I’m nowhere near ready to just give him that mark, let along the .407 rate he currently owns. A good mark will be had, but not putting him in the elite category yet.
Muncy has appeared at first base 33 times for the Dodgers this year (23 starts).
Muncy has appeared at third base 29 times this year (24 starts).
Muncy has appeared in the outfield six times this year (no starts).
In some leagues he also has second base eligibility given that he appeared there 21 times (19 starts) in his last season prior to this year which happens to be 2016. Note, that he was announced as the full-time second baseman against right-handed pitching on July 1st. Since then he’s played second base five times in eight games.
He continues to be a part of the Dodgers lineup on a daily basis even going so far as to play first, second and third base in his final game before this Player Profile was written. Picking up second base eligibility will be a nice feather in his cap.
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The question really comes down to a simple one. Are you someone who believes formerly average player can make a change to their game and become an All-Star just like that? Based on my day to day dealings with folks I know that most of you say yes. I’m here to tell you that it does happen, no doubt, but the frequency some of you believe it does is astounding. The game of baseball isn’t that easy. It’s a humbling game. We see All-Star caliber talents struggle on a regular basis which should point out that the game isn’t easy (Cody Bellinger, Gary Sanchez, Anthony Rizzo, Byron Buxton etc.), yet folks still believe that the shiny new toy is different. They always do.
Muncy has had a tremendous first half. His effort has been an astounding boost to fantasy squads, and with his ever-growing base of defensive positional qualification, his value continues to grow. I just plead with you to understand a few simple facts with Muncy. (1) His HR/FB ratio will slow. (2) Though he’s crushing the baseball, is he really one of the top-20 power hitters in the game? You kinda have to believe that if you’re buying what we’re seeing right now. I obviously don’t. (3) Despite a solid approach, it’s extremely doubtful that he posts a .400 OBP this season. Extremely unlikely. (4) With all the fly balls in his game, and the fact that everything he has done to this point is being done at optimal levels, it’s likely that his batting average will regress. (5) He doesn’t steal bases, but at least we can all agree with that.
Muncy isn’t going to match his first-half performance in the second. I would expect the average, on-base percentage and slugging percentages to fall. There will also be a slowdown in the second half in the homer department. The positional flexibility is nice and it makes him a mixed league piece but, despite what we have seen, he’s not someone that you should be plugging into your lineup the rest of the way with extremely low levels of concern.
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