Before the 2017 season, the Los Angeles Dodgers filled their hole at second base by trading top pitching prospect Jose De Leon to the Tampa Bay Rays for Logan Forsythe. Forsythe was an excellent defensive second baseman who excelled at getting on base and had decent power. In his last two seasons in Tampa, Forsythe hit .273/.347/.444, with 37 homers and 57 doubles across the two seasons. De Leon was a high price to pay, but the Dodgers got the best second baseman on the market by trading from a position of depth.
Forsythe’s first season in Dodger Blue was disappointing. A career-high 69 walks gave him a solid .351 on-base percentage, but he also had a career-high strikeout rate (24.8 percent, compared to a 19.9 percent mark coming into the season) and career-worst home run rates (1.4 percent home run rate and 4.4 percent homer-per-fly-ball, compared to career marks of 2.4 and 6.5, respectively). The great defense and the on-base percentage gave him a 1.8 or 1.9 WAR, which is almost good enough to be a starter for a major-league team.
This year, though, the wheels that were wobbly in 2017 have come completely off the bus. The home run rates are down to 1.2 and 3.2 percent. Even worse, his career-high 15.7 percent walk rate from last year has plummeted to 6.5 percent, easily the worst mark of his career. In addition, his line drive rate has dropped from 23.0 percent last year to 16.8 percent this year — with basically the whole difference accounted for by a jump in his fly ball rate from 33.1 to 39.7 percent. For a guy who doesn’t hit the ball extremely hard, trading line drives for fly balls is not ideal, and it probably explains why his BABIP has dropped from .299 last year to .233 this year.
And remember, all of these “compared to last year” numbers are compared to a season in which Forsythe was extremely disappointing and posted an OPS+ of 83 and a wRC+ of 90 (with 100 being league average in both metrics).
It also seems like Forsythe’s defense might have taken a hit this year, too. Defensive metrics over half a season are not extremely reliable, but the numbers don’t look good so far. One of his lowest numbers is his DPR — Double Play Runs — and I imagine a good attorney could make the case that that number has at least something to do with the relative inexperience of Forsythe’s double-play partners, with infielder-turned-outfielder-turned-infielder Chris Taylor and utilityman Kiké Hernandez getting the bulk of the playing time at shortstop in the wake of Corey Seager‘s season-ending injury. But even if the numbers aren’t entirely accurate, Forsythe is certainly not distinguishing himself on defense.
So in light of Forsythe taking huge steps back on OBP and defense — his two saving graces last year — manager Dave Roberts announced that surprise slugger Max Muncy will get the bulk of the playing time at second against right-handed pitchers. That turns Forsythe into a platoon player, but even his performance against lefties — which was quite good last year — has been abysmal thus far in 2018.
Forsythe is a free agent after the season, and unless he has a major turnaround, he will not be back with the Dodgers next year. It made sense for the team to be patient with him last year, when he still had over a year left on his contract, but that’s no longer the case. If the Dodgers had any great options in the minors, Forsythe would probably already be gone. As it is, they are willing to give the barrel-chested Muncy the bulk of the playing time at a position he has very little experience with, and considering that Muncy has actually performed even better against lefties this year than against righties, it’s not hard to imagine Roberts just pulling the trigger all the way.
By all accounts, Forsythe is a hard worker and a good teammate, but he’s not a team leader or anything like that. With surprise bounce-backs from Matt Kemp and Joc Pederson and the surprise breakout from Muncy, the Dodgers are short on places to play all their starter-worthy players even with Seager’s injury. Both Alex Verdugo and Andrew Toles are hitting the snot out of the ball for Triple-A Oklahoma City, and they’d both be in the big leagues if there was a spot for them on defense. The defensive flexibility of Hernandez, Taylor, and Cody Bellinger doesn’t help a ton because Kemp, Pederson, and Yasiel Puig are locking down the bulk of the starts in the outfield. Justin Turner has been inconsistent since coming back from his broken wrist, so he’s likely to need more time off than the average third baseman, but no matter how you slice it, Forsythe is the worst offensive player on the team.
Forsythe has been a major negative in the batter’s box, neutral in the field, and neutral in the clubhouse. The Dodgers have actual good hitters who can fill his spot, and even though it’s an undeniable defensive hit to go from Forsythe to Muncy, the offensive bump is more than worth it.
Forsythe is eating a roster spot that could be used for someone else. I don’t like the idea of bring Toles or Verdugo up to sit on the bench, but it’s definitely an option. But it would be hard to fill the roster spot with a bigger black hole than has been there thus far in 2018.
Sadly, it’s time for the Logey Bear Experience to come to an end.