I’ve spent a lot of time talking about the Dodger’s catcher situation. They still don’t have one. Austin Barnes is the lone backstop with major league experience on the roster at the moment. While we wait to see what the Dodgers do about that problem, second base is also a huge area of need that I don’t think we’ve spent enough time talking about.
The Dodgers could sign a free agent to fill that void. It would make sense since it would not cost any prospects like a trade would. With Daniel Murphy reportedly reaching agreement with the Rockies, that leaves DJ LeMahieu as the probable best market option for the Dodgers. I’ve talked about him before. I think he would be a good fit for them. His contact skills and solid glovework would fill the Dodger’s needs at the keystone.
But the Dodgers don’t have to plug that hole from the free agent market. They could, if they wanted to fill the second base vacancy from within. The primary two internal options would be Enrique Hernandez or Chris Taylor. Both come with their strengths and weaknesses.
For Hernandez, his major strength is his power and versatility. He had a career year last year slugging 21 home runs and posting a 117 OPS+. His .806 OPS was the second highest of his career. We know Hernandez has got the power, but his batting and on-base skills has seen a sharp decline since his first year with the Dodgers.
In 2015, Hernandez batted .307 with a .346 OBP but hit just 7 home runs. Since then his batting and on-base outputs have fallen off a cliff. In 2016, he batted just .190 with a .283 OBP. In 2017 he batted .215 with a .308 OBP. Those numbers are pretty bad. But Hernandez was able to improve those in 2018. Last season his batting line rose to .256/.336/.470 in 462 plate appearances.
Hernandez played a pretty solid second base, and he can be moved all over the diamond. He drew 50 walks and struck out just 78 times. He’s still got a lot of work to do on his batting and on-base skills but the potential is there for him to be the starting second baseman. I’ve always thought his batting and on-base numbers are what has held him back from being an everyday regular.
Taylor on the other hand had a breakout year in 2017. He slashed .288/.354/.496 with 21 home runs and a 123 OPS+. He also swiped 17 bases and notched 148 hits. He had a great year in 2017, but his production dipped in 2018. His OPS dropped from .850 in 2017 to .775 in 2018. Last year he slashed .254/.331/.444 with 17 home runs and a 110 OPS+ in 604 plate appearances.
Like Hernandez, Taylor can play multiple positions as well. His major weakness is his inability to make consistent contact. In 2017 he struck out 142 times, but in 2018 he whiffed at a National League leading 178 times. Simply put Taylor needs to focus more on putting the ball in play. If he did that then I think I could get behind him playing second base everyday and taking back the lead-off spot in the Dodger lineup. But his power and base running are decent.
Which of these guys hits better at second base? Hernandez has a career .269/.330/.440 with 7 home runs and a .770 OPS. Meanwhile Taylor is slashing .307/.388/.553 with 6 home runs and a .940 OPS. They’re both small sample sizes and Taylor seems to hit better in left field (.995 OPS, .331 BA) but Taylor seems to hit better when playing second base. Maybe that’s because it’s more of a natural position for him than Hernandez?
Granted Hernandez’s bat disappeared in the postseason and Taylor whiffed more times than we can count, but both men present respectable playing options for the Dodgers at second base. Which one would you rather have at the keystone?