Dodgers Prospect Watch: What Lies Ahead for Alex Verdugo?

(Mandatory Credit: Jeremy Davis)

As several of the biggest baseball outlets have already released their annual Top 100 prospects rankings this week, the Dodgers have once again proven that they possess a wealth of talent by having four players listed in both Baseball America‘s and Keith Law‘s ranking packages.

One of those players, outfielder Alex Verdugo, was rated as the 36th best prospect in baseball by Law, and the 37th best by Baseball America. On any other club, Verdugo would probably be a mainstay in the big league outfield, yet because of the Dodgers’ extraordinary abundance of depth, the Tucson native may be forced to begin his second consecutive season at Triple-A Oklahoma City.

That’s not to say that he won’t be given a shot at making the Opening Day 25-man roster, as he’ll be present with the major league squad at spring training next month. The problem is that the Dodgers have a couple of left-handed hitting hitters ahead of Verdugo on the depth chart, most specifically Andrew Toles and Joc Pederson.

Toles is returning from an ACL tear sustained early last year, but is said to be in fine shape and ready to go. To a degree, he has already shown that he has talent to succeed in the big leagues, albeit his sample size being a small one. If he shows the propensity to produce offensively during 2018 Cactus League play, and all signs point to his right wheel being 100%, there shouldn’t be an issue with him finding a spot on the 25-man to open the season.

The same goes for Pederson, despite him having shown signs of dropping off the past few years. In 273 ABs during his 2017 campaign, Pederson hit .212/.331/.407, which is a few ticks below his career slash line of .222/.345/.435. Heading into spring training each year, there are discussions about how Joc has made new adjustments in his batting mechanics which would conceivably elevate his production. And although 2018 will be only his third full year, the final numbers are eerily similar by the end of each campaign. If it weren’t for his solid range and glove work on defense—which is also believed to be suffering lately—the management team may have considered dealing him away a few seasons ago. Still, after coming back with a vengeance from a demotion to Triple-A, and after providing a bit of a spark in last year’s postseason, Pederson will definitely be given every opportunity in the world to make the big league roster.

As far as Verdugo goes, he hit an impressive .314/.389/.436 over 433 AB last year at OKC, and although he’s primarily a center fielder, he can capably handle all three outfield spots. Looking past Pederson, many pundits view Verdugo as the Dodgers’ center fielder of the future, even though he doesn’t have much of an MLB track record aside from 15 games after rosters expanded last year. But while he doesn’t even compare to Joc in the power department, Verdugo almost never strikes out, and has become known as an on-base machine—something that Los Angeles could certainly utilize at the top of the batting order both at the present juncture and when looking towards the future. He’s capable of stealing bases in the double-digits, and despite his lack of long balls, Verdugo has the strength to muscle a ball to the deep part of the yard, as made evident by his 27 doubles, four triples and six home runs for OKC last year. In addition to all his other minor league accolades, he was tabbed as having the best outfield arm in the PCL by Baseball America for the 2017 season.

The big league outfield depth for the Dodgers is incredible. As it stands now, Yasiel Puig is solidified in right field, with Chris Taylor believed to be a pillar in center. Many pundits think that the left field spot will be decided in a battle between Toles and Pederson, and that’s not even taking into consideration utility guys like Enrique Hernandez, Rob Segedin, Tim Locastro and Trayce Thompson. Additionally, the more Matt Kemp hangs around, many people feel his slim chances of remaining in Los Angeles will gradually improve.

Some fans wonder why Verdugo hasn’t been included in a trade package for perhaps say another quality starting pitcher, but the truth is that he could be an injury away from a big league spot regardless of the depth on the 25-man. With many of the outfielders hitting from the right side, there aren’t really any left-handed hitters in sight outside of Toles and Pederson. Should the need arise for a lefty hitter in the big league outfield, there’s no question that the 21-year-old Verdugo will get the first call.

In the meantime, Verdugo is likely to begin his 2018 campaign at Oklahoma City, and whichever way the season plays out, it should be his last. After this year, he’ll probably have matured enough to outgrow Triple-A, so it will probably be the big leagues for him in 2019.

And if it isn’t with the Dodgers, it will almost certainly be with someone else.

(Photo Credit: Jeremy Davis)


15 thoughts on “Dodgers Prospect Watch: What Lies Ahead for Alex Verdugo?

  1. I think it’s going to be a free for all this spring with 2 of the 3 (Verdugo, Joc, Toles) on the 25-man opening day roster and 1 starting in OKC or traded. Something else that might factor into any decision is that they only have 2 years of control left with Joc, 5 with Toles and 6 with Verdugo. They might decide to try and move Joc now while his contract has some control left on it. There is plenty of time left to try to develop Toles and Verdugo if they haven’t made as much progress as hoped. Of course that might also make them better trade chips.

  2. Good point Jeff, there is definitely a glut at left field. Between that, and all the players that will need to be protected next rule 5 draft, I would think some kind of dealing is in the future, my guess would be at the trading dead line. It’s kind of funny Andrew has said, trades at the dead line are over priced, but he has made a big trade every dead line since he has been in charge. I don’t expect this dead line to be any different, unless he makes a yelich deal now. That would not hurt my feelings.

    1. Where do you guys see Trayce Thompson in the picture? I’m wondering if he won’t end up following the paths of Scott Van Slyke and Brett Eibner very soon. His ceiling started out sky-high, but it’s shrinking very quickly with each passing season. I’d be willing to bet he was among the topics of quite a few trade talks.

      1. I don’t see him as having much of any trade value at the moment. That back injury was a killer but I guess there is a slight chance that he is now recovered and will show some of the promise they originally saw in him. Probably the best bet would be to see what kind of spring he has and then go from there. If he has a bad spring I could see them trying to pass him through waivers to create a spot on the 40-man and taking the chance of losing him. Luckily for Trayce that he’s right handed. If Kemp isn’t around there really isn’t much competition other than Segedin.

      2. There were quite a few people making a big deal of Matt Kemp not being at Fanfest signing autographs. Like that was a sign or something of what’s to come.

      3. I think Andrew has been pretty honest with him and the indications I’ve seen are that he really isn’t in their plans. If that’s the case it would be weird for him to show up, although I bet he’d have a huge response (mostly positive). On the other hand, it could simply be that he had prior commitments, but I’m guessing it’s the former.

      4. If he hasn’t been traded or cut by then he’ll certainly show, if nothing else but to get in shape for wherever he winds up. I can’t see any way he isn’t on somebody’s roster come opening day.

  3. By the way Dennis, I’d like to thank you for the work you do here. It’s such a pleasure to be able to voice an opinion or ask a question and get great feedback from both you and your readers. Everyone here shows respect for all opinions and we manage to stick to baseball topics without going off into politics, music, food, etc……………..all worthwhile topics but it’s nice to have a pure baseball venue. You may not have the biggest readership, but sometimes smaller is better.

    1. We have another writer starting this weekend. He’ll be writing a column each Sunday. Another East coaster. Wrote the beat for the Bills and Sabres for many years, but he’s a lifelong fan of the Dodgers. I think you’ll really enjoy his stuff.

  4. Getting in a little late on the trace topic, I was really impressed with pre injury trace. That trace probably makes the team as a right handed half of a OF platoon, but with a broken back injury you have to wonder if he is one big swing, or one crash into the wall from being out of baseball. I’d really like to see him get his career back on track, but it seems like his window of opportunity, with the Dodgers may be almost shut. I hope he tears it up at ST, and makes me eat my words.

    1. He seems like a really good kid with his head on straight. I hope for the same Keith. I don’t know if you live here in L.A. but his dad (ex-Laker Mychal Thompson) has done a great job of raising his three sons. Imagine the exact opposite of Lavar Ball and you have Mychal Thompson.

  5. I live in the South Bay Area, listen to Mychal on the radio sometimes, sounds like he and his wife took their parenting seriously.

  6. What did you guys think of the HOF voting. I thought Jones, Thome, and Vlad were locks. I thought Hoffman would get close, he got a higher vote than I expected, good for him. Now I think it’s time to get Edgar in, heck, they named the trophy after him for DH of the year. That should make the gold standard.

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