The Dodgers Have a Delightful Dilemma Regarding Gavin Lux - NBC Southern California
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The Dodgers Have a Delightful Dilemma Regarding Gavin Lux

Originally slated to just be a September call-up, Dodgers No. 1 prospect has made the case to be on the NLDS postseason roster.

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    Gavin Lux #48 of the Los Angeles Dodgers during game against the Colorado Rockies at Dodger Stadium on September 20, 2019 in Los Angeles, California. The Dodgers won 12-5. (Photo by John McCoy/Getty Images)

    Dave Roberts always has the same amusing answer when asked a question by the inquisitive media that he doesn't quite know the answer to yet, but is happy to have the conundrum in question.

    For example, when asked a forthcoming question like: "Who is your starting pitcher for Game 1 of the NLDS?"

    The Dodgers manager hasn't made a decision yet, but knows his choices are between three-time Cy Young Award winner Clayton Kershaw, likely 2019 Cy Young Award winner Hyun-Jin Ryu, and 2018 Rookie of the Year finalist Walker Buehler. 

    "Those are high-class problems," he says with a smile.

    High-class problems are the kind of problems you want to have. They usually come with success and happiness.

    That's the case for Roberts and the Dodgers.

    In the four years that Roberts has managed the Los Angeles Dodgers, they've won the National League West division every time (an MLB record). They've advanced to three consecutive NL Championship series and two World Series.

    Thanks to the Dodgers bounty of prospects and organizational depth at every position, Roberts now has another high-class problem on his hands:

    What to do with second base prospect Gavin Lux when the regular season ends and the postseason begins?

    Lux is the Dodgers current No. 1 prospect in all of baseball, and was just named the Minor League Player of the year by Baseball America last week.

    Lux, 21, began the season as a shortstop in Double-A Tulsa, but has quickly ascended the baseball ladder, where he is currently the everyday starter at second base against right-handed pitching for the Los Angeles Dodgers.

    Fortunately or unfortunately, Lux's meteoric rise this season was largely unexpected. MLB ranked Lux the 65th best prospect in all of baseball before the season began, but he is currently ranked 2nd and his development has been forcibly fast-tracked by the front office.

    Second base has always been a problem area for the Dodgers. Starting second baseman Brian Dozier left after the 2018 season via free agency, and his void was filled by Enrique Hernandez. Hernandez won the spring training battle for the starting job, but struggled at the plate to start the season.

    A midseason hand injury put Hernandez on the injured list, and moved Max Muncy from first base to second base. That move allowed the Dodgers the luxury to experiment with Joc Pederson and Cody Bellinger at first base.

    A late season fracture to his right wrist put Muncy on the IL, and sprung Lux into action, just in time for September call-ups. At the time, Roberts said Lux would get plenty of runway to prove he could play at the MLB level.

    "I see him playing essentially every day against right-handed pitching at second base," said Roberts the day of Lux's MLB debut.

    Lux made an impact immediately with a record-breaking debut. In his first career game on Sept. 2, Lux had two hits (2-for-4), a double and scored three runs. The first Dodger in franchise history to score three or more runs in their MLB debut.

    Prior to Lux joining the Dodgers, he batted .347 with 26 homers and 76 RBI in 113 games combined between Double-A and Triple-A.

    At Oklahoma City, Lux was batting .392 before he was called up and it appeared as if he had picked up right where he left off at the big league level.

    However, over the next week, Lux went 1-for-18, and appeared to have trouble adjusting to Major League pitching.

    Nonetheless, Lux continued to feel comfortable at the plate, and stayed within himself. He took the slump as a natural part of the game, and continued to focus on what he's been doing all season long.

    "I felt the same the whole time," said Lux of the slump. "Even during that stretch where I was 0-for-13 or whatever, I was still hitting the ball hard, just not finding holes and that's kind of how it goes. I think I've felt comfortable this whole time to be honest." 

    Lux belted his first career home run in Baltimore on September 10, and since then has been red-hot at the plate. Over that span, Lux is batting .379 with seen RBI, two doubles and two homers.

    Muncy's return has put a small dent in his playing time, especially against left-handed pitching, but he's still getting plenty of opportunities to prove himself. Lux was not in the starting lineup against the Tampa Bay Rays on Tuesday, but his pinch-hit RBI single helped lift the Dodgers to a come-from-behind 7-5 victory.

    Lux's play of late has put the Dodgers in a delightful dilemma. Originally just supposed to be a September call-up to replace the injured Max Muncy, Lux is making a case to be on the postseason roster.

    The Dodgers front office just wanted to get Lux's feet wet before likely earning the job as the everyday second baseman in 2020. Now, he might be the missing piece to the World Series puzzle.

    Most of the time, prospects called up in September don't get enough runway to prove they deserve a postseason roster spot over a seasoned veteran. However, there is precedent for an unproven rookie to be called-up in September only to steal the starting job from the veteran and make the postseason roster. Corey Seager famously did in 2015, and hasn't looked back since. Lux could be next.

    The Dodgers dilemma is a welcome problem to have, and one that might be decided for them. Right-handed utility players Chris Taylor and Hernandez are locks. So is former World Series MVP David Freese. Veteran catcher Russell Martin will be there too. That likely leaves two open spots on the roster with a handful of players to pick from.

    Kristopher Negron, Jedd Gyorko, Matt Beaty, Edwin Rios, and Lux. If healthy, Alex Verdugo would certainly be on the roster, leaving the choice down to one of those five. With Verdugo announcing himself that he won't be ready for the NLDS, more than likely, the Dodgers will go with left-handers Beaty and Lux for the final two position player spots.

    As for Lux, he doesn't dwell on things beyond his control, and his focus is only on helping the team win in any way he can. Both for these final ten games, and beyond.

    "I'm just trying to help the team win in any way. Whether it's running the bases, playing defense, trying to take runs away, or getting a big hit. I'm just trying to compete and win games, and that's all that really matters."

    Lux will likely be on the Dodgers NLDS playoff roster, but if Verdugo is healthy enough to return for the NLCS, should they advance that far, another dilemma could be on the horizon.

    Thankfully, there's plenty of time to figure out that far in advance, and a couple offensive opportunities in the NLDS for both Beaty and Lux will certainly help make the decision a little easier.

    In the meantime, having to think about which of your long list of talented players will be on your 25-man postseason roster in early September is exactly the kind of "high-class problems" Roberts and the Dodgers want to have.

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