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Can Andrew Toles Become a Significant Contributor for the Dodgers?

Via AllinOne Sports

After being released from the Tampa Bay Rays organization in 2014 for disciplinary reasons that led to his departure from baseball for the entire 2015 season, Andrew Toles was thought to be completely out of the game. That was until he signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers this offseason. Toles has hit .330/.375/.507 at three levels of the minor leagues before receiving a major league promotion a couple weeks ago. Toles was as high as the number six prospect in the Rays organization in 2014, but disciplinary issues resulting from an anxiety disorder pushed his baseball career to the brink of disaster. Now that he has put his off the field issues behind him, Toles is showing the skills that earned him the honor of Rays’ 2014 prospect of the year. Although he has only received 21 plate appearances thus far for the Dodgers, he has a gotten off to a solid start with a .316 average and one stolen base. At 24 years old in a crowded Dodgers’ outfield, Toles will likely not get much of a chance the rest of this season barring an injury crisis (which may be possible with all the injuries this season) but he has plenty of time to earn a significant role in the future.

Toles is known as an above-average hitter from the left side with a good hit tool but below average power. The Georgia native only has 16 home runs in 297 career minor league games, but he has good gap power with 109 extra base hits and a .456 slugging percentage. He does not have the strength nor size at 5’9”, 175 lbs. to be much of a power hitter, but he has excellent bat speed that allows him to rack up extra base hits. Plus, his bat speed has allowed him to be successful against high-velocity pitchers. The average fastball velocity he has seen since reaching the majors has been 95 MPH yet he is already 1.3 runs above average against heaters in only 19 AB’s. Toles is very strong for his size and it allows him to generate decent gap power and match up well against power pitchers. He is not as effective against off-speed pitches, especially changeups, but his excellent bat to ball skills should allow him to hit for a good average. The only concern is a significant platoon split, but improving his approach against lefties should result in a consistent .280-.290 major league hitter.

Toles definitely does not qualify as a patient hitter with a career walk rate of only 5%, but he is also not overly strikeout prone with a strikeout rate of a little over 16%. His lack of patience at the plate is similar to that of former Dodger Dee Gordon, but he has shown superior bat to ball skills that have kept his strikeouts at a very manageable level. In addition, he has shown improvement this season where his K rate has declined to about 14%. Toles is not patient enough to consistently draw walks, but he has a good hit tool that will allow him to hit for a solid average that will keep his on-base percentage at respectable levels.

Toles’ biggest offensive threat is his speed. According to MLB.com, his speed rates out as a 70/80, and he has flashed the ability to use this on the basepaths where he stole 62 bags in 121 games at A ball in 2013. This year in 73 minor league games he has stolen 23 bases, but he has also been caught nine times. Toles has the speed to be a very good base stealer in the major leagues, but he has room to improve on his 25% caught stealing rate. Toles is already an effective base runner who can be a distracting presence for pitchers on the bases, but he can also use his speed to stretch doubles into triples. With his strong hit tool and gap power that has seen him rack up extra base hits at a very solid rate throughout his career, Toles could reach the double digits in triples on a regular basis over the course of a full season in the major leagues. Toles is not a perfect base stealer quite yet, but he is a good baserunner that can use his speed to increase his offensive value in the major leagues.

Defensively, Toles has good range thanks to his tremendous speed, but his reads need improvement and his arm is about average. His range factor per nine innings in CF over 245 minor league games is a decent 2.29, but it has been better in RF at a very good 2.47. Joc Pederson’s range factor in CF throughout his time in the minors was only 2.33, but it has improved to 2.4 since starting his major league career. Toles is much faster than Pederson, so his inferiority in range is a direct example of his problem with reads. If he can improve this area, Toles can be a solid center fielder. However, he is likely going to be positioned at a corner spot until he can make the necessary strides. His arm strength is only average so LF may be a much better fit for an everyday role, but his arm is strong enough to fill-in at all three outfield positions and his range will allow him to be at least average in each spot.

Overall, Toles is a solid all-around player that is at least average in each phase of the game. With his off the field issues now in the rear view mirror, he has all the ability to be a regular contributor at the major league level in the future. The Dodgers are trending towards having only one long-term solution in the outfield (Pederson) and Toles could work his way into the picture if he can continue his success. His potential upside is likely somewhere between Ender Inciarte (the Arizona version) and Michael Bourn. He is not as good a defender as either at this stage, but his bat is very similar to both players as is his speed. Obviously, Toles is a long way off from being as valuable as either of those two players right now, but if Toles can continue his steep upward trend, he could easily reach a similar level to those two.

 

 

  Our Chief Editor

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