After Monday’s convincing 17-1 victory over the Pirates, not many fans of the Dodgers are in the mood to discuss any potential roster moves as the club readies themselves for the second-half of the 2018 campaign. However, there are a handful of players on the upper levels of the farm who are conceivably worthy of a spot on a big league roster, whether it be for the Dodgers or somebody else.
At the beginning of the year, there were a ton of people disappointed to learn that outfielder Andrew Toles would be starting the season at Triple-A Oklahoma City—almost as many who seemed to be disgruntled when veteran Matt Kemp made the big league Opening Day roster. Those same people were upset to learn that Joc Pederson made the team to begin the year, believing that Tolesy was more deserving of the final outfield spot on the 25-man roster.
Even when the Los Angeles offense was struggling mightily in the first few months of the year, there were plenty of folks calling for the club to promote Toles to the bigs, hoping that somehow he would provide a spark that would awake the team’s bats. Regardless, the 26-year-old was placed on OKC’s disabled list in the middle of April, and once it looked like he was in the clear, was forced back onto the DL when he re-aggravated the injury at the beginning of June.
Now, at the beginning of July, it appears as if Toles is sailing smoothly. As the stretch run of the season approaches, though, so is the big league offense. And other than waiting on the fringe anticipating the major league squad’s needs for his services, there’s not much he can do except continue to produce for OKC on a daily basis.
The same can probably be said about outfielder Alex Verdugo. And if we’re talking about left-handed hitting outfielders, we might as well throw Pederson into the conversation, too. As it stands now, Pederson has done almost everything right this year and is very much deserving of the spot on the 25-man. It would seem prudent that the team would hold onto either Toles or Verdugo for insurance, but many believe that one of the two could be moved before the summer trade deadlines pass as the club hopes to make a few roster upgrades, most specifically in the pitching department.
Verdugo has been in high demand among rivals clubs for the majority of deals discussed during the past few seasons. The 22-year-old is currently ranked as the best prospect in the Dodgers’ system and has seemingly accomplished everything possible at the minor league levels. In the same breath, Toles has many of the same tools as Verdugo. While Verdugo is undoubtedly the better contact hitter, Toles makes up for it in the power department. And while Verdugo probably has a slightly better glove, Toles balances out his defensive skills by having one of the better arms in the organization.
Currently, Tolesy’s hitting a ridiculous .353/.395/.534 over 116 ABs this season at Oklahoma City. He’s been on a hot streak lately, hammering an insane 14 hits over his last 24 ABs. In comparison, Verdugo is hitting .336/.381/.491 at OKC after spending a little over a week on the big league roster earlier in the year. Contrary to his reputation of not being a slugger, he has six long balls already. Additionally, his 72 hits and 15 doubles lead the team in both categories.
But as long as Pederson’s healthy, both Tolesy and Verdugo may be harbored down at Triple-A. They could be useful off the bench for the Dodgers in the pinch-hitting department, yet it could be tough to find an opening at the moment. With Max Muncy seemingly the everyday second baseman and Yasmani Grandal getting the majority of reps behind the plate, that leaves a bench crew of Enrique Hernandez, Chase Utley, Austin Barnes and Logan Forsythe. And aside from Hernandez, that group isn’t attractive in the least when it comes to pop and the ability to deliver a blast of late-inning offense.
Getting back into the trade conversations, it’s difficult to imagine the front office crew parting ways with Verdugo, unless they go all-in and orchestrate a huge blockbuster that would put the club over the top in terms of talent. At the same time, that blockbuster is somewhat unlikely to occur because it may entail the club needing to absorb a high salary which could possibly ruin its efforts of staying beneath the luxury tax threshold. Still, there are ways for the front office to get creative, but if they do indeed decide to barter Verdugo, fans can bet the return will be significant.
So, to answer the question of what lies ahead for the outfielding tandem of Toles and Verdugo, at the moment, they’re both destined to amass historic numbers for 2018 at the Triple-A level. Undoubtedly, they’ll both see action when rosters expand in early September, allowing them to make a potential case for the postseason roster. In the meantime, if there’s any type of injury, or if the club decides to restructure the 25-man based on the overabundance of second baseman, there could be a change rather quickly.