Andrew Toles was bagging groceries before the Dodgers reached out to him at the end of the 2015 season. The 24-year old outfielder had been jettisoned from the major leagues by the Tampa Bay Rays in March of 2015. The Dodgers signed him in September of that year as Andrew Friedman was familiar with the Georgia native after watching him play for his former club.
Toles made his MLB debut with the Dodgers on July 8th, recording a double in his first four at-bats against San Diego. Toles went on to gather hits in the next three games. Toles finished the season batting .314 (33 for 105) in 115 plate appearances. He appeared in 48 games and posted a .365 OBP. He collected 8 walks against 25 strikeouts and had an .870 OPS. Small sample size this may be, but Toles looked pretty athletic early on. With little to no power he seemed to be a contact hitter with decent on base skills. He ran the bases well and covered ground in the outfield. He spent most of his time in left field, but also saw time in center and in right. He did make a key mistake in the field during game 6 of the NLCS people may forget that he hit .462 for the Dodgers in those 6 games. Being a rookie there is some work that needs to be done defensively.
With Andre Ethier’s health and age in question it would seem prudent for the Dodgers to give Toles a good amount of playing time in left field next season. If Toles breaks camp with the big club should he also be given a chance at the lead-off spot?
The Dodgers have been sorely missing a true lead-off hitter since they traded Dee Gordon to the Marlins. Gordon wasn’t perfect by any means, but the Dodgers have been one of the worst clubs in the majors at the lead-off spot. On base skills and run production rank the Dodgers at the bottom of the league when their hitters bat at the top of the lineup.
While Chase Utley did an admirable job when batting lead-off, the Dodger’s lead-off hitters slashed .259/.332/.398 ranking them 24th out of the 30 MLB clubs. They ranked 13th in walks, and 12th in runs scored. When a Dodger batter led off an inning they hit .238 and posted a .700 OPS. A big indicator of trouble is that the Dodger lead-off bats collected just 176 hits which ranked 21st out of the 30 big league clubs.
The Dodgers could use a decent lead-off hitter. He doesn’t have to steal bases; I know how much the moneyballers dislike stolen bases in this new era. However the Dodgers must have a top of the order bat that can get on base consistently, run the bases well and draw walks. On-base skills and base running were severely lacking from this position in 2016.
When Utley wasn’t batting lead-off, .191 hitting extraordinaire Kike Hernandez was stinking up the top of the order for much of the season. Andrew Toles who batted .325 (8 for 20) in the lead-off spot looked to have potential. I would rather have the Dodgers acquire a reliable major league proven outfielder to play left field and bat lead-off, but if the choice is between Toles and or Kike Hernandez then Toles should get the nod.
With spring training just 6 weeks away, the Dodgers should consider Toles as a potential candidate to bat in the lead-off spot. Believe me you do not want a .190 hitter making outs in front of Justin Turner and Corey Seager anymore.