It’s been a year since I first wrote that Max Muncy should be considered the LH hitting 2B (01-02-18). Most did not pay attention, but Max sure did take off in 2018. At 27, Max slashed .263/.391/.582/.973 propped up by 35 HRs in 481 PA. He has never shown that kind of power before. The closest he came was in 2013 when he hit 21 in the California League (A+) and 3 more in the Texas League (AA). His next double-digit year was 2017 at OKC with 12.
Now comes the discussion. Is Muncy is perennial 30+ HR guy or is he a one-time wonder? Do you keep him as the full time 1B, or do you sell high? Cody Bellinger, a much younger and more prolific career power hitter, hit 39 as a 21-year-old rookie. He followed that up with 25 as a 22-year-old 2ndyear player. I understand that nobody is comparing Max to Cody, but the point is that it is much more difficult to follow up after a big power year. Pitchers get to know hitters weaknesses.
Max hit well with RISP, .293/.422/.576/.999, but not so much with 2 outs and RISP, .178/.383/.311/.694. Max has a good feel for the strike zone, as he does have a lot of walks. However, with someone who has a great knowledge of the strike zone, he still struck out 27.2% of his PA. He also was fairly balanced hitting RHP slightly better than LHP.
Max is not a plus defender, although he is not that bad as some make him out to be. Therefore, Max’s value comes predominantly from his HR power. This is borne out by his ISO of .319 and BAbip of .299. ISO measures raw power = Slugging less batting average. His previous years are nowhere close to that ISO. His ISO is other worldly and is probably not sustainable. His low BAbip combined with his high ISO indicates that he is the epitome of an all or nothing hitter.
Does all that mean that I do not want Max Muncy in the lineup? Not at all. But to compare his one year with multiple years of Castellanos is not fair either. Castellanos has performed well over an extended period of time and seems to be getting better each year. Castellanos is 18 months younger than Muncy. I would project that Castellanos has a better chance at duplicating or bettering 2018 statistics than does Muncy. If Muncy was included in any trade, Friedman should sell high. If he is not, I am okay with that as well. Max is a valuable player who can play multiple positions, and I do not think he is a strict platoon player. He will need to give way so David Freese can get quality AB’s., but otherwise, Max should be a regular. I just do not expect him to duplicate his 2018 season in HRs.
Another reason why some are not too against trading Max high is because of…Phil Plantier, Bob Hamelin, Kevin Maas, Joe Charboneau, and Warren Morris, others who have come before with big break out seasons only to fizzle shortly thereafter.
Phil Plantier– As a 24-year-old in 1993 hit .240/.335/.509/.846 with 34 HRs and 100 RBIs. He dropped to 18 HRs in 1994, and never hit double digit HRs again.
Bob Hamelin– As a 26-year-old in 1994, he hit .282/.375/.599/.987 in 375 PA with 24 HRs. He never duplicated those numbers but did come close in 1997 with 18 HRs. He was out of baseball after 1998.
Kevin Maas– As a 25-year-old in 1990, he hit .252/.367/.535/.902 with 21 HRs. In 1991 he hit .220/.333/.390/.723 with 23 HRs. He followed those years with 2 very mediocre years, then 1 year in MiLB , and then 67 PA in 1995 and was out of baseball.
Joe Charboneau– As a 25-year-old in 1980, he hit .289/.358/.488/.846 with 23 HRs and 87 RBIs. He then had a total of 210 PA over the next two years and then out of baseball.
Warren Morris– As a 25-year-old in 1999, he hit .288/.360/.427/.787 with 15 HRs and 73 RBIs in 581 PA. He followed that up in 2000 with a .259/.341/.343/.684 and 3 HRs. The next two years he totaled 116 PA but did have somewhat of a resurgence in 2003 when he hit .272/.316/.373/.689 with 6 HRs. He was out of baseball after 2003.
Are these players evidence that Max cannot follow up with a solid 2019? Not at all. However, it is evidence that one year does not make a perennial 30+ HR guy, or a perennial regular in the lineup. He started later in his career. And sometimes it may be wise to sell high. But with Puig, Kemp, and Grandal all gone, I am fairly comfortable that Max will find himself somewhere in the lineup come March 28 vs Arizona DBacks.