Since being called up from the minor leagues in 2018, Max Muncy has been a staple in the loaded Dodgers lineup. After struggling for six years within the Oakland A’s organization, Muncy found his groove in Los Angeles. In his first two years with the Dodgers, he slashed .256/.381/.545 with a 145 OPS+. While he struggled in the shortened 2020 season, Muncy is putting up the best season of his career so far, putting him in the MVP conversation two months into the season.
In a year where many fans thought the Dodgers would contend for the 2001 Mariners single-season win record, the team has been riddled with many injuries within their lineup and their bullpen. Key players like Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager, and Dustin May, have or will miss a significant chunk of time. In this rough stretch of luck, Muncy took a big step and has helped lead the Dodger offense to the best wRC+ in the National League. Muncy is also currently 5th in Major League Baseball in wRC+ at a 164 clip, only behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Nick Castellanos, Jesse Winker, and Kris Bryant.
One thing that has led to the big improvement in Muncy’s success at the plate has to do with how much he walks. He walks at a 19.4 BB%, which is the highest in Major League Baseball, which also leads him to have the third-best On-Base Percentage in baseball, only behind Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Yoan Moncada. A lot of that success with getting on base is likely because of the lack of protection in the Dodgers lineup so far, but it also has to do with the fact that he is not chasing often, ranking in the 100th percentile in chase rate at only 12.6%. And even with all this success, he’s still been somewhat unlucky, with a .026 difference between his BA and xBA.
However, what makes this season so much greater than past seasons is the significant improvement in his defense. Last year, Muncy was placed in the 1st percentile in Outs Above Average with -6 OAA. So far this year in roughly the same amount of games, Muncy ranks in the 94th percentile, with 4 OAA, with 2 being at second base and 2 being at first base.
With Cody Bellinger recently returning and Corey Seager coming back eventually, Muncy’s success with getting on base might dip due to teams not feeling the need to work around him. But if the season ended today, Muncy would likely finish at least top 5 in MVP voting. While he might not be the best player in the National League, he might be the most valuable to his team’s success so far. Guys like Fernando Tatis Jr., Ronald Acuna Jr., and Nick Castellanos will likely finish the year ahead of him in voting, but it’s great seeing the 30-year-old have another breakout season in his 4-year underdog career.