RANCHO CUCAMONGA, Calif. — It was a whirlwind of a week for Gavin Lux, the Dodgers No. 11 ranked prospect (No. 8 on Dustin’s revised Midseason Top 30 list). The 20-year old infielder was included in much of the trade rumors that were swirling before the Dodgers sent five prospects to Baltimore in exchange for Manny Machado on July 18.
It’s no surprise that Baltimore was interested in Lux, because he’s been a productive hitter at the top of the order for the High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in a breakout season. After going hitless in Friday’s loss to the San Jose Giants, snapping his 19-game hitting streak, Lux went 2-for-4 with a single, a homerun, a walk, 2 RBI and 2 runs on Saturday evening at LoanMart Field.
Moments before Lux hit a leadoff home run for the Quakes, his 11th of the season, I had the opportunity to talk with him after the dust had settled on the Machado blockbuster. His 19-game hitting streak was even more impressive considering that he was subject of pervasive trade rumors at the same time.
“I think for me it’s just kind of being where your feet are and controlling what you can control. I kind of shut off my social media, and I just kind of woke up and went to the field and took care of business. I think for me it was just being where your feet are and kind of blocking everything else out.”
His 19-game hitting streak was snapped on Friday night. He told me that he didn’t necessarily do anything different during the streak, but he did like to stick to his routine.
“For me it was like I’d wake up and I’d do the same thing, like I’d go get a coffee from Starbucks and then I’d go to lunch at Chipotle. For me that was kind of my thing I had to do every morning, but as far as getting to the field, same thing, nothing crazy. Just doing what I usually do.”
Lux was a big contributor during the Quakes’ franchise record breaking 15-game winning streak that led to a first half championship of the Cal League. The team chemistry was obvious, hugs and laughs were plentiful in the dugout.
“I’m enjoying it. I think it’s going really good. I think we’re playing good as a team too. It’s personally, like individually it helps, you know when you have a really good team and a really good clubhouse and guys around you.”
After the Dodgers drafted Lux in the first round (20th pick overall) in 2016, he struggled offensively in his first full professional season, slashing .244/.331/363 with seven home runs in 434 at-bats. He’s adjusted quickly, adding strength and weight along with improved swing mechanics. The hard work has paid off. Lux is hitting .324 (106-for-327) in 81 games with 56 runs, 20 doubles, six triples, 11 home runs, 44 RBI, 41 walks, eight stolen bases, a .399 on-base percentage, a .523 slugging percentage and .922 OPS.
“For me it was a lot of hitting. My swing path and trying to get the ball in the air more and incorporating my lower half better in my swing. And obviously just getting stronger, and I think that’s helped a lot too.”
Lux was selected as the starting shortstop for the South Division in the Cal League’s All-Star Game but had to sit out due to a hamstring injury.
“It’s good right now. I think it’s just maintenance and taking care of it and making sure it doesn’t come back. As far as that goes, it’s pretty good.”
Last week, Ken Rosenthal, reported that the Baltimore Orioles were interested in Lux as part of a possible trade for Machado. Later Jon Heyman reported that the Dodgers were unwilling to part with Lux or Dustin May. Despite numerous false trade reports, the Dodgers ultimately didn’t include Lux or his teammate May in the package they sent to Baltimore for Machado which included outfielder Yusniel Diaz, infielders Rylan Bannon and Breyvic Valera, and pitchers Dean Kremer and Zach Pop.
“For me I took that as a big compliment, and it makes you feel good to know that the team you’re playing for likes you and wants to keep you. It’s almost like a confidence booster to know that they care about you and they want to keep you so obviously, for me, I took it as a compliment.”
Being a part of the Dodgers, a storied franchise rich with history, is an experience that is unlike most as a minor league player.
“It’s awesome. You look at the players that came through here and the history and how deep it goes. If you’re a baseball fan, I think this is the team you would want to play for. It’s a blessing for sure. Everyone in the organization is unbelievable.”
Lux has not only had to adjust at the plate and in the field, but he’s also had to transition from living in the cold weather of Wisconsin to Southern California. On the day we spoke, it was 88° at Loan Mart Field at first pitch.
“I like it a lot more as far as like the weather’s way better. There’s a lot of better food places. There’s more to do. It’s just expensive, but other than that I think I like California a lot better than Wisconsin.”
He’s been to Dodger Stadium already.
“Yes, yes multiple times. Love it.”
With a few minutes left before the 7:10 p.m. game at LoanMart Field, I asked what music he listens to when getting pumped up before taking the field.
“It’s a lot of different rap and R&B. It could go from anything from Lil Wayne, Lil Uzi in between, so it’s a lot of rap. I’m a big rap guy.”
Lux has played primarily at shortstop with the Quakes, a position he may stick at. When I asked him which player he most looked up to, he didn’t hesitate when he answered.
“Derek Jeter by far. Just the way he went about his business and how he handled himself. If you’re a shortstop growing up, I think that’s the guy you’d want to model yourself after.”
The Dodgers are still looking to add pitching before the non-waiver trade deadline, so it’s possible that Lux or May will be dealt. It does seem unlikely if they were unwilling to part with them for Machado. Expectations for Lux to be the heir apparent to Corey Seager died down a bit after his struggles in Low-A Great Lakes, and other prospects Keibert Ruiz, Walker Buehler, Alex Verdugo and Dennis Santana drew all the attention for awhile. Although the Dodgers have a lot of depth, especially in pitching, catching and outfield, the middle infield is an area that is relatively thin. There’s no reason to think that Seager won’t be able to return at full strength after Tommy John surgery, but the Dodgers are keeping their options open as Machado gets a few months to get the feel of LA and Seager rehabs. Right now Lux is progressing in the right direction, and if things go right he may have to find a new Starbucks and Chipotle to frequent near Dodger Stadium in a couple of years.