Roberts Noncommittal On Gavin Lux As Starting Shortstop

Roberts Noncommittal On Gavin Lux As Starting Shortstop


The Dodgers are faced with a surprising shortstop question midway through Spring Training. Expected starter Gavin Lux has been charged with a pair of errors in his first 10 1/3 innings of exhibition work. Lux has had a few more erratic moments, skipping a pair of throws to first base but being bailed out on scoops by Freddie Freeman.

His throwing accuracy is concerning enough it could impact his spot in the lineup at the start of the season. “I don’t know,” manager Dave Roberts replied when asked if Lux would be the Opening Day shortstop (link via Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times). “Obviously, performance is paramount at this level for a team vying to win a championship. So I don’t know what’s going to happen, but I do know that it will be in the vein of whatever gives us the best chance to win.”

Throughout the offseason, the L.A. front office maintained that Lux was going to be the regular shortstop. They reportedly considered trade possibilities, particularly Milwaukee’s Willy Adames, but clearly had Lux atop the internal options. That might still be the case, but Roberts’ comments add some urgency for him to sort out his throwing.

This isn’t the first time that he has struggled with seemingly straightforward throws. He battled his accuracy at times in the minors, which he conceded was tied to anxiety. That’s part of the reason the Dodgers moved the one-time top prospect to second base early in his career, although Corey Seager and Trea Turner had blocked his path to shortstop anyhow. Los Angeles was prepared to move Lux back to shortstop last year. A Spring Training ACL tear instead ended his season before it began.

Playing on the right side of the infield suited him well. He was charged with five throwing errors over 819 2/3 second base innings in 2022. That’s a higher than average rate but certainly not untenable. Public defensive metrics have graded him as an above-average second baseman overall thanks to his plus range.

Mookie Betts is moving to the keystone this year. That would bump Lux to shortstop but obviously places extra stress on his arm. Signing Shohei Ohtani means the Dodgers will need Max Muncy to play regularly at third base. Muncy is a below-average defender, putting a little more pressure on the L.A. shortstop to compensate.

That’s part of the reason that Adames, one of the game’s top defensive infielders, was an appealing target. Fabian Ardaya of the Athletic wrote this evening that the Dodgers have continued interest in Adames, but Milwaukee remains reluctant to part with him. The Brewers have Joey Ortiz on hand as a potential shortstop replacement, but they could need to rely on Ortiz at either second or third base throughout the season. Adames is also a strong presence in the Milwaukee clubhouse and a solid offensive contributor as an annual threat for 25-30 homers.

A preseason Adames trade seems unlikely with roughly two weeks until Opening Day. He’d surely come up in deadline talks if Milwaukee falls out of contention, but they’ll make a push to defend their title in a wide-open NL Central.

It’d probably take that kind of significant upgrade for the Dodgers to look outside the organization. They have options to solidify the defense if they’re not sold on Lux handling the position at the moment. Miguel Rojas remains a plus defender. He owns a .236/.286/.322 batting line over the past two seasons, so the Dodgers would prefer to keep him in a depth role, but there’s no question Rojas could more than capably handle the position. He’d be a significant offensive downgrade from Lux, who hit .276/.346/.399 in 2022.

Enrique Hernández and Chris Taylor are utility players who could cover shortstop at times. Betts even started 12 games there a year ago. There’s no indication the Dodgers are considering playing Betts at shortstop full time, but that’s a theoretical possibility that would allow them to keep Lux at second base.

Of course, the ideal outcome is that Lux settles in as he continues to build his defensive workload. It’s fair to expect some amount of rust in all facets for a player coming back from a year-long injury absence. His minor league issues make the recent throws more alarming, but it’s possible he’ll get increasingly comfortable with more reps. The Dodgers start the season early with a two-game set against the Padres in South Korea on March 20-21.


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