Dodgers Expect Gavin Lux To Improve On Defense Amid Struggles

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The Los Angeles Dodgers have been fortunate to have multiple superstar shortstops for nearly the past decade with Corey Seager, Manny Machado and Trea Turner as their primary options since the end of the 2015 season.

However, that changed in 2023 when Miguel Rojas received the majority of starts at the position. Gavin Lux was expected to be their everyday shortstop, but tore his ACL and MCL early in Spring Training and missed the entire season.

It was a long rehab process for Lux, but he’s now back and set to take the reins as the Dodgers’ primary shortstop for the 2024 season. Although the Dodgers handed him the starting job, the results in Spring Training so far have been far from ideal.

Through 31 innings, Lux has had 10 chances at shortstop, and he’s made two errors — one throwing and one fielding — resulting in an .800 fielding percentage. Even when not making an error, Lux has looked unsteady defensively more often than not.

Nearly all his throws have been off target or bounced in the dirt or grass, with many of them being saved by Freddie Freeman, or whoever is at first base that particular play.

Despite those issues, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts is confident Lux will improve and doesn’t believe the sample has been an indication of what’s to come for the 26-year-old, via Mike DiGiovanna of the L.A. Times:

“With Gavin, it’s just more of continuing to run him out there so he can build confidence in how he’s catching the ball, his footwork and getting the ball across the diamond,” Roberts said after Wednesday’s game against the Chicago White Sox. “I’m not going to let a small sample – right now – of what we’ve seen. I just expect it to keep getting better with repetitions.”

Lux missed a full year of baseball, so Roberts believes much of the results have been due to rust. The skipper isn’t sure how long it will take Lux to get back on track, but expressed patience with the shortstop:

“But I think we just have to understand that it still takes time to get back up to major-league speed and feel that once the bell rings that it’ll be there where it needs to be,” Roberts said.

Lux has had defensive issues dating back to his time in the Minor Leagues as a top prospect. He has previously dealt with the yips, which prevented him from making routine throws, and some of those issues also popped up at second base in the Majors.

The positive news on Lux is his range has looked good since getting back on the field, and his knee is feeling good on most days. He’s also played 502.1 innings at shortstop at the MLB level, posting a .968 fielding percentage.

Lux filled in at the position for a significant time in 2021 when Seager was out with an injury, and the Dodgers internal metrics graded him out as “fine.”

In 2022, he also graded out as strong defensive second baseman, posting an outs above average in the 80th percentile. But as for his arm, that ranked in just the 8th percentile of players, which could cause more problems at shortstop.

What can Dodgers do if Gavin Lux struggles shortstop?

Fortunately for the Dodgers, they have numerous options if Lux is unable to figure out his defense. The primary option would be Rojas, who is one of the best defenders in baseball and already spent the majority of 2023 as their starter.

In addition, Chris Taylor and Kiké Hernández both have experience at short. All three of those players could see time at the position regardless of who the everyday guy is.

In the Minor Leagues, Trey Sweeney could end up being an option after they acquired him from the New York Yankees earlier this offseason.

They could also search the trade market later in the season, where the Milwaukee Brewers’ Willy Adames may become available. The Dodgers reportedly explored shortstop upgrades during the offseason, so it would not be surprising to see them make that their priority at the trade deadline if Lux is unable to improve.

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