What to expect from Alex Verdugo’s first taste of the Major Leagues

Photo: Stacie Wheeler

The Dodgers will announce the Alex Verdugo promotion at some point today. It’s a bit of a surprising promotion because of the August acquisition of Curtis Granderson and the impending return of Andre Ethier (maybe). But with Joc Pederson‘s second half struggles, it opened a door for Verdugo to at least have his cup of coffee. He’s not going to play enough to get a chance to be as impactful as Corey Seager was in 2015 or Cody Bellinger has been this season, but he’ll get a few plate appearances that will give the coaching staff and fans a glimpse into next season.

Remember, this is a guy (along with Walker Buehler) the Dodgers front office refused to include in any serious trade discussions, so it’s clear he’s in the team’s future plans.

Verdugo was the Dodgers’ 2nd-round pick in 2014 out of Sahuaro High School in Tucson, Ariz. He hit .353/.421/.511 in his first professional season split between the Arizona Rookie and Pioneer Leagues. He then began 2015 with Great Lakes and performed well, especially for an 18-year-old in a pitcher’s league, and he got a late-season promotion to Rancho Cucamonga (23 games). Instead of going back there to start 2016, the Dodgers aggressively started him at Tulsa. He responded with a solid 113 wRC+. With Oklahoma City this season, he has a .314/.389/.436 slash line with 52 walks against 50 strikeouts. The power isn’t quite there yet, but every other aspect of his game is.

Here’s how I’ve ranked him since he’s been in the org:

  • 2015: 7
  • 2016: 7
  • 2017: 3

Verdugo’s been a consistent top prospect throughout his minor-league journey. Some on the national scene are higher on him than I am (Keith Law comes to mind), but that’s not to say I’m not high on him. Here’s a portion of the #notascout write-up on him from my preseason Top 100.

“He’ll get a little antsy at times and swing too much, but he still makes a ton of contact and has a chance to be a plus-plus hitter. His swing path is more level and down, so if he learns to elevate, that power potential might be reached. But he has been successful so far as is, so it’s tough to mess with a good thing. On defense, Verdugo has the arm to play anywhere and is solid in center field. He’s not a speed burner, but he could be at least average out there. That should help his value. If he has to move to right field, he’ll handle it defensively and get to show off his double-plus arm.”

He’s a high-contact guy who has improved his plate discipline this season in Triple-A, and he has done so facing competition that is significantly older than him. That bodes well for his future.

Some also believe there’s a chance for him to hit for more power once he reaches the majors. He doesn’t have much natural loft in his swing, however, as his path is level and produces a lot of line drives.

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Verdugo could get 50 or so plate appearances this month, so he’ll have a chance to make a first impression on his teammates and coaching staff. If he struggles, it’s no reason for concern. If he tears the cover off the ball, it’s something to look forward to next season (and beyond). Don’t expect him to make a legitimate case for a postseason roster spot even if he hits well, however. His value lies in potentially being the Dodger center fielder in 2018 and beyond.

About Dustin Nosler

Dustin Nosler
Dustin Nosler began writing about the Dodgers in July 2009 at his blog, Feelin' Kinda Blue. He co-hosts a weekly podcast with Jared Massey called Dugout Blues. He does contracts and depth charts for FanGraphs and is a contributor/editor at The Hardball Times. He graduated from California State University, Sacramento, with his bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in digital media. While at CSUS, he worked for the student-run newspaper The State Hornet for three years, culminating with a one-year term as editor-in-chief. He resides in Stockton, California, and has yet to be shot.