By Jon Weisman
Though the Dodgers haven’t announced their full starting lineup for Game 1 of the National League Division Series on Friday, Dave Roberts did tell reporters today that Andrew Toles will be the left fielder.
With 115 career MLB plate appearances, Toles has exactly two more than Corey Seager had when he was the 2015 NLDS starting shortstop. But whereas Seager’s playoff role marked a slight acceleration of his timetable, Toles has blindsided baseball this year after being cast off from the sport in 2015 and beginning 2016 in Single-A.
“Is he starting? That’s awesome,” Clayton Kershaw said today, after being informed at his press conference. “Tolesy, he’s great. Obviously very talented.
“I mean, to be honest, I didn’t even know we had a guy named Andrew Toles in the minor leagues. To meet him and understand where he’s been and come from and the type of guy that he is and the type of player that he is, it’s pretty special to see, for sure.”
The 24-year-old Toles has a .365 on-base percentage, .505 slugging percentage and .870 OPS, with nine doubles and three homers, highlighted by his game-winning grand slam August 31 at Colorado. Against right-handed pitching, Toles had an .893 OPS, while going 3 for 13 with a homer against southpaws.
Toles also ended up leading the Dodgers in pinch hits (eight) and pinch-OBP (.435). In addition, he ranks highest defensively among Dodger outfielders, admittedly based upon a small sample.
Though he missed games this past weekend in San Francisco because of a jammed left wrist, Toles and Dave Roberts have said it is no longer an issue. Perhaps of greater concern for the Dodgers is that Toles had a .229 OBP and .277 slugging percentage in 48 September plate appearances.
Barring anything unforeseen, Toles’ presence in the starting lineup probably pushes Howie Kendrick into a reserve role for Game 1, along with (in all likelihood) right-handed Yasiel Puig, Carlos Ruiz, Charlie Culberson, Austin Barnes and left-handed Andre Ethier.