Manny Machado trade: Why Dodgers' best lineup option may include Puig, Turner in a leadoff platoon
The Dodgers were already great offensively; now, they are stacked
A natural response to the news is to wonder just what the Dodgers lineup will look like heading forward. First, let's look at how they've typically lined up to this point.
Lineups before Machado trade
|Lineup||vs. RHP||vs. LHP|
|1.||CF Pederson||SS Taylor|
|2.||2B Muncy||LF Hernandez|
|3.||3B Turner||3B Turner|
|4.||1B Bellinger||RF Kemp|
|5.||LF Kemp||1B Muncy|
|6.||C Grandal||CF Bellinger|
|7.||SS Taylor||2B Forsythe|
|8.||RF Puig||C Barnes|
These lineups are of course fluid as players rest and deal with injury, but especially so for the Dodgers' lineup against lefties, where Yasiel Puig sees plenty of time (when he's not dealing with an injury), giving most of the team's regulars a day to rest.
How will the Dodgers fit Machado into these lineups? Here's our best guess -- emphasis on guess.
Lineups after Machado trade
|Lineup||vs. RHP||vs. LHP|
|1.||LF Pederson||2B Taylor|
|2.||1B Muncy||3B Turner|
|3.||SS Machado||SS Machado|
|4.||CF Bellinger||1B Muncy|
|5.||3B Turner||RF Kemp|
|6.||RF Kemp||CF Bellinger|
|7.||C Grandal||LF Hernandez|
|8.||2B Taylor||C Barnes|
This is where building a roster brimming with versatile players comes in handy. Taylor has been the Dodgers' shortstop since Corey Seager went down in April, but can slide across the bag to accommodate Machado. Bellinger, meanwhile, is the rare first baseman who can also play the outfield. Add in how the Dodgers have been deferring to non-Pederson options to man center, and it only makes sense for him to slot in up the middle.
Offensively, that's a strong bunch. How strong? Turner's 104 OPS+ is the lowest among the projected starters. If and when Puig returns, the Dodgers could boast as many as 10 hitters with OPS+ north of the 100 mark. Puig's return will also create a lineup crunch against righties, as Joc Pederson has swung the bat too well against northpaws to sit regularly, while Puig himself has strong reverse splits against righties. Against southpaws, it's just a matter of sending Enrique Hernandez to the bench, moving Matt Kemp to left field and playing Puig at his natural position.
The Dodgers will certainly move players in, out and around to accommodate Machado (a great problem to have). Muncy might not have the defensive chops for second base, but putting him there or at third to rest Justin Turner (when he's healthy) allows Bellinger to come back to first base and Pederson to get some reps in center. Taylor might make some sense in center field if Max Muncy proves capable of handling second base.
Looks and sounds good, right? But how does it project? The people must know. According to Stephen Oh's SportsLine projections, the Dodgers' chances of making the postseason have improved -- going from 94.7 percent to 96.5 percent. Los Angeles is also now predicted to win 94.6 games instead of 94.1.
But what if the Dodgers think a little outside the box with how they construct their lineup?
Proposed lineups with everyone healthy
|Lineup||vs. RHP||vs. LHP|
|1.||RF Puig||3B Turner|
|2.||SS Machado||SS Machado|
|3.||1B Muncy||1B Muncy|
|4.||LF Kemp||LF Kemp|
|5.||CF Bellinger||CF Bellinger|
|6.||3B Turner||RF Puig|
|7.||C Grandal||C Barnes|
|8.||2B Taylor||2B Taylor|
Puig doesn't have a ton of experience batting leadoff, but he did do some of it early in his career. He's spent more time batting second than at any other position, but again, a large part of that came early in his career. He's hitting .293/.344/.521 against righties this year and delivered an excellent .288/.355/.554 line against them last year.
If Muncy can stick at second base, we'd send Taylor to the bench as a super-sub getting 4-5 games a week and get Pederson's bat into the lineup regularly in center field. At that point we'd probably bat Pederson leadoff and Puig seventh, shifting Yasmani Grandal to eighth.
Unlike Puig, Turner has next to no experience leading off, typically batting third or second in the order. But he's had trouble staying healthy and hitting for power when he's in the lineup this year. His best work has come against lefties, sporting a .295/.448/.409 line versus southpaws. That OBP isn't a fluke; Turner hit .380/.477/.704 against lefties last season.
Turner's 2018 line will play high in the lineup ahead of a Machado-Muncy-Kemp-Bellinger heart of the order. If he can start rediscovering his form, maybe it'll be worth moving Taylor back to the leadoff spot against lefties and batting Turner in the heart of the order. Until that happens, platooning Turner with Puig at the top of the lineup could be the Dodgers' best bet.
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