Without question, speed is Andrew Toles’ calling card to the big leagues. In a recent spring training game, I clocked Toles at just a tad above 4.0 seconds running to first base from the left-handed batter’s box. It was a routine ground ball with him having little chance to beat the throw. As a result, he really wasn’t going at his fastest. It is clear he can be a 3.8-to-3.9 runner to first with relative ease. That also means he has the potential to steal bases in bunches.
- TEAM: Los Angeles Dodgers
- AGE: 24
- POSITION: OF
- BATS: Left
- THROWS: Right
- HEIGHT: 5-foot-10
- WEIGHT: 185 lbs.
- ACQUIRED: The Tampa Bay Rays selected Toles in the third round of the 2012 First-Year Player draft out of Chipola College in Marianna, Florida. The then-Florida Marlins had selected Toles in the fourth round of the 2010 Draft out of Sandy Creek High School in Tyrone, Georgia. He decided not to sign a contract. Toles signed with the Los Angeles Dodgers as a free agent on September 23, 2015.
However, in his 2016 major league debut with the Dodgers, Toles stole only one base in two attempts. He had a .365 on-base percentage from his 115 plate appearances, but we didn’t see him trying to steal.
In addition to his excellent grade-60 speed, Toles has an above-average ability to hit for average. He has a career minor league batting average of .309 in parts of four seasons. Last year, he hit .331 playing for Class-A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga, Double-A Tulsa and Triple-A Oklahoma City. He finished the year at his fourth classification, the parent Los Angeles Dodgers, where he hit .314 in those 115 plate appearances covering 48 games played.
Toles is a very credible line drive, barrel-of-the-bat hitter. When he hits the gaps with his short compact swing he is off to the races. He has 26 triples in his career.
Making good contact and using the entire field, Toles doesn’t strike out very much. In fact, playing that whirlwind schedule last year at four classifications, he struck out only 51 times in 349 total plate appearances.
Using a slight toe-tap now instead of a pronounced leg kick he favored in the past, he is a bit quicker out of the box and has cut down a bit of the aggressive approach he had at the plate.
Complimenting his solid offensive approach and his much-better-than-average running speed, Toles is a fine defensive outfielder. He is capable of playing all three outfield positions, but he profiles best in center field where he can captain the outfield. Using his speed, Toles can help both corner outfielders get to balls hit in the gaps. He has a strong and accurate enough arm to play either corner as well.
Toles does not have much power. He should not be counted upon to hit home runs. He has hit only 17 homers in his career. Rather, his game is to get on base and use his speed to score runs. However, it should be noted that with his ability to make barrel-of-the-bat contact, he might get a few of those balls to clear the fences. That would be a nice bonus, but hitting home runs isn’t the focal point of his game.
I would like to see more patience from Toles at the plate. He doesn’t see that many pitches and for a player with his speed he doesn’t walk enough. Walking 20 times a season, as he did last year, just does not take full advantage of his speed.
Toles disrupts the flow of his offense when he occasionally lengthens his swing in an attempt to hit the long ball. When that happens, as it did in games I have witnessed so far this spring, he hits lazy fly balls to the outfield, wasting his speed. If he keeps the ball on the ground or hits line drives as he is capable of doing, he will be a much more reliable hitter and not waste at-bats. If he executes his swing properly, he will get plenty of infield “leg” hits.
In his past, HE has been reprimanded for not running hard to first base on ground balls and routine plays. I have witnessed that. With the chance for error by the defense, he should use every bit of his speed to get to first base or around the bases. His speed is a gift he should not waste or take for granted.
Toles no longer has rookie status. He exceeded that last season but is very worthy of discussing as we enter a new season. His path to the big leagues has been checkered with periods of instability.
Following high school in Tyrone, Georgia he chose to attend the University of Tennessee rather than sign a professional baseball contract with the Marlins. However, at Tennessee he was dismissed from the team after being named to the All-Southeast Conference Team in 2011. Volunteers baseball coach Dave Serrano indicated there was an issue with “accountability.” He said he and Toles determined that the decision was in both their best interests.
Toles transferred to Chipola College in Florida but was dismissed from that baseball program in 2012.
The Tampa Bay Rays chose Toles in the 2012 Draft. He played well and hit well for the Rays. In 2013, his sophomore season, he stole 62 bases in 79 attempts in the minors. In 2014, he won the Rays Minor League Player of the Year Award.
While playing for manager Jared Sandberg at Charlotte in Class-A Advanced, Toles was benched for the way he handled some on-field issues. He then left the team, and was placed on the inactive list for “personal reasons”.
He did not play the 2015 season after he was released by Tampa Bay during spring training. Instead of playing baseball, Toles spent the entire 2015 season working at a supermarket in Atlanta.
THE FUTURE FOR TOLES
Andrew Toles is an exciting player. He has had some troubles in his past, but it appears those are behind him. He can be a viable member of the Dodgers outfield if he plays to his potential.
It is likely Toles will be in a platoon role with Los Angeles as either a left fielder or center fielder, depending upon who is pitching and the status of the outfield depth with the club. When he gets on base, he can make things happen.
The Dodgers outfield is crowded. However, I am going to assume that Toles’ speed and hit tool will be welcome on the Dodgers 25-man depth chart.
The addition of outfielder Franklin Gutierrez may send Toles to the bench against left-handed pitching. He and Gutierrez seem poised to share a left field platoon with Joc Pederson firmly entrenched in center field. Yasiel Puig is the likely right fielder. Andre Ethier looms as well, and he could cut into the playing time of both Toles and Gutierrez.
With makeup and disciplinary concerns hopefully in the rear-view mirror, Andrew Toles can proceed in his career with good athletic ability and tools that can help lengthen the Dodgers lineup.
With excellent speed that is far better than average, Toles can hit good pitching and get on base. He has a solid barrel-of-the-bat approach with a measured swing that sometimes gets a bit long when he hunts home runs.
Having the speed to stretch a single to a double and a double to a triple, Toles does not have home run power. His abilities lend themselves to getting on base, getting in scoring position and scoring runs. He also plays very good defense that is strengthened by his speed.
It is likely Toles can be in a left field platoon for the Dodgers. With him being on the long side of the platoon hitting against right-handed pitching, Toles will have to attempt more stolen bases to get the most from his best tool.
SCOUTING PHRASE FOR TOLES: A very fast outfielder with a solid, big league hit tool and little to no power.
SCOUTING GRADE FOR TOLES: 50 – the ability of an everyday player
By Bernie Pleskoff