What Lies Ahead for Alex Verdugo?

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(Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports)

Since the moment the Dodgers made A.J. Pollock a part of their everyday outfield picture, there has been plenty of speculation regarding exactly how the club plans to set up the outfield for the 2019 season.

We’ve already found out from skipper Dave Roberts that Cody Bellinger will be seeing action in both right field and at first base. Consequently, based on his recent turnaround, it’s tough to see Joc Pederson being bumped out of left field, especially against right-handed pitching.

So where does that leave Alex Verdugo?

Recently, Bill Plunkett of the OC Register put together an excellent story about the youngster, emphasizing some of Verdugo’s frustrations over the past few seasons. Plunkett indicated that while former minor league teammates like Bellinger, Corey Seager and Walker Buehler are beginning to thrive in the majors, Verdugo has yet to be afforded a legitimate opportunity.

When he spoke, Verdugo wasn’t afraid to express himself candidly.

“I’ve always been ready,” Verdugo said. “I hit .330 for two years. At a certain point, numbers don’t lie. I’ve hit in the minor leagues. I think I’m a career over .300 hitter. I hit over .300 against lefties in my career. I hit righties and lefties very well in my career. I’m very confident against both. I think I can go up there and perform at the highest level and succeed against both righties and lefties.”

Indeed, Verdugo has been lurking in the Los Angeles Top 5 prospects list for a handful of years now. In the most recent rankings by MLB Pipeline, the Tucson native is ranked first in the organization, undoubtedly being admired by every rival GM across baseball. In the majority of the biggest outlets, he’s ranked in the Top 40 prospects in the entire league.

At just 22 years of age, it’s hard to believe he’s been in the system for five full years. Some scouts across the majors believe Verdugo could be the best pure hitting prospect in the game, as he has an uncanny ability to recognize pitches and control the strike zone. Many folks on the Los Angeles farm feel that he may have the quickest bat in the whole organization. His innate ability to drive the ball to all fields is increasingly becoming a rarity among modern players and could be a valuable weapon on a Dodgers club which depends on the long ball to generate runs instead of situational hitting and small ball.

Verdugo hit an impressive .329/.391/.472 with 10 homers over 343 AB last year at Triple-A to lead OKC in hitting. Although he’s primarily a center fielder, he can capably handle all three outfield spots. While he doesn’t compare to many of his big league teammates in the power department, Verdugo almost never strikes out, and has become known as an on-base machine. He knows how to shorten up his swing while hitting to all fields. 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. 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.

Of course, Verdugo hasn’t quite put up elite numbers during his short stints in the majors. In 2018, he hit .260/.329/.377 when he was on the big league roster, which is definitely serviceable by many standards, yet because of his lack of power, his .705 OPS and 93 OPS+ rank several ticks below the MLB norm. Still, scouts believe that things may begin to click for the left-handed hitter once he’s able to settle down with regular playing time.

There have always been rumblings about his preparation and attitude, but there have not been many documented incidents, aside from him oversleeping and showing up late during the stretch run of the regular season in 2018.

Regardless, some fans wonder why Verdugo hasn’t been included in a trade package for perhaps say an elite bullpen arm or starting pitcher, but the truth is that the brain trust of the organization conceivably envisions him as a potential star in the bigs, based on the fact that they have made him virtually untouchable during trade talks at the last few summer deadlines.

In spite of that, Andrew Friedman told Plunkett that he feels Verdugo will get plenty of looks during the upcoming season.

“We expect Alex to log a lot of plate appearances this year,” Friedman said. “Because of our versatility, there are so many different things that can happen for him too. He’s earned the right to be on our major-league team and help us win games. We feel he has a very high floor as a player. He’s got a very advanced approach at the plate, tremendous bat-to-ball skills which complement our lineup. He’s very good defensively and checks a lot of boxes for what we look for in a player.”

Maybe 2019 will finally be the year the Dodgers find out exactly what they have in Alex Verdugo.

 

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26 thoughts on “What Lies Ahead for Alex Verdugo?

  1. I’ve said it many times, Verdugo reminds me of a more athletic Andre Ethier. They both have smooth, sweet swings that are a joy to watch. Dre had a little more power but Verdugo has better wheels and a better arm. I don’t care for his thuggish attitude but if he turns out to be anything close to Ethier I will take it all day long. He looks to be the prototypical #2 type hitter in a lineup.

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  2. Verdugo is an atypical contact hitter. Today he got two flair doubles and in his 3 at bats, he did not hit the ball square at all. He has gap power a decent arm and some speed, but he in no way is even close to Andre Ethier. Ethier had power, decent speed and a very good arm. That’s why he played RF. Verdugo has done about all he needs to do at the AAA level, Is he ready? He has been ok in the few opportunities he has had. Can he carry the load over a full season? Nobody knows. Joc is a proven commodity. Verdugo has yet to prove he is a full time player. Problem is, he is on a team loaded with talented players. Joc may not be his equal in speed or contact, but he is more of a power hitter and he doesn’t need a great arm playing left. I think Verdugo will make the team simply because Toles is not there to knock him out of a spot. As for trading Joc, it does not necessarily bode well for Verdugo if they do. It opens up left field for Verdugo to be part of a you guessed it, platoon.

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      1. Verdugo until he proves himself, could not carry Ethier’s jock. The guy was a stud and a clutch hitter. Verdugo has not proved anything except he can hit AAA pitching.

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      2. He may not, but in a 10 year career, his last 2 are throw away’s because of the injury’s, he had 67 outfield assists, almost all of them from RF. 21.2 WAR, 162 HR’s, a total Verdugo will never get near unless he restructures his swing, a career average of .285. Not bad. His contract was really the only bad thing about Andre. Total team guy. very clutch hitter, So again, if your boy Verdugo can come close to those numbers, you are an astute judge of talent!

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  3. Dodgers win, 6-3 over the Rangers. Just like used to happen when he was with the Giants, they could not keep Hunter Pence off the bases. But he did not hurt them with the bat. Jansen looked good and got the win. Maeda was shaky in the first and gave up all of the Rangers runs. Fields, Chargois, Cingrani, McCreery, Kelly all had scoreless innings. Estevez hit his second spring homer and Rios had a long double to the wall.

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      1. Loved Furillo. He was a solid player. Won a batting title. Battled injuries and played hard. He sued the Dodgers and won after he was released. He got 30,000.dollars. But he basically was blacklisted and never had a job in baseball after. I read an interview he did years later. He said he was not bitter, but upset by the way the Dodgers treated him when he was hurt. He was working for Otis Elevators after he quit playing ball. Little tidbit to those who do not know Dodger history so well, It was Furillo who got the game winning hit that scored Gil Hodges and sent the Dodgers to the 59 World Series, his last hurrah as a Dodger.

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  4. Here is another tidbit about Furillo. Career WAR, 35.1 Career .299 hitter, over 1000 ribbies, 1900 hits, He had 74 career assists from the outfield. He played over 300 of his career games in CF and 14 of those assists came from the CF spot. Also participated in 34 double plays. The year he won the batting title he struck out only 32 times and never struck out more than 43 times in any season. In 1951 he had 724 plate appearances, and 667 at bats. No player today approaches those numbers and they play more games. His entire career he batted under .284 once. His 1960 season does not count since he only appeared in 8 games and was done. So Rich, if your boy Verdugo can even come close to those numbers over his career, I will applaud him. But that’s the kind of right fielder, Ol Skoonj was…aka The Reading Rifle. He died in his home town, Stony Creek Mills PA in 1989 at 66 years old. RIP to a great Dodger.

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  5. Teams already sending guys down. Seems a little early to me, but I guess those going down just do not have the right stuff. A’s sent Grant Holmes back to AAA. His window is getting smaller. On a sad note, Kareem had to sell his Championship Laker rings. His memorabilia brought in 3 million dollars. Quite a while ago Kareem suffered some real financial reverses. His advisor had him invest in a hotel project which went in the tank and cost him millions. I saw him the other day behind the Laker bench on the ESPN broadcast.

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    1. Story made it sound like Kareem didn’t have to sell his stuff, but wanted to use the proceeds for a charity he’s involved with that works with inner city youth. I hope that’s the case, for his sake and the kids.

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  6. Another fact about Furillo – he died not having a clue he had any WAR.

    I saw him play in ’59. He was a player my grandfather admired. I respected what my grandfather had to say about the older players as he played against many of them. He knew several personally.

    I’ll take the under on Verdugo matching Furillo on any major stat. As a platoon performer, which he is likely to be with the Dodgers, he might OPS .813 as Furillo did for his career, but he won’t get the at bats that Carl did. 7000 plate appearances? No. .299 career BA? No way. 436 strikeouts in 7022 PA’s? In today’s game? Forget it.

    They just don’t make them like they usta did.

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    1. Did you ever see a video of that hit in the 59 playoffs that beat the Braves? Hard shot right up the middle. Mantilla could not field it cleanly and Gil scampered home. I also saw some shots from the fight he had with Giants pitcher Ruben Gomez. He was one tough SOB. Only actual fight I ever saw at a game was at the coliseum between the Dodgers and the Cardinals. Big D plunked Joe Cunningham, Cardinal 1st sacker, right in the ribs. Hemus, who was the Red Bird manager at the time. He went out to see how his player was. In those days, the visiting dugout was on the 3rd base side, when he headed back to the dugout, Hemus said something to Big D who immediately went after him. Hemus was like 5’7″. Both benches emptied. Took a while to get everything back to normal. But I saw Hodges grab a Cardinals player and literally carry him off the field. The guy was not little neither. Learned later that it was Ray Jablonski….a Cardinal utility guy…

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  7. Yes but back in the day they didn’t have guys coming in from the bullpen throwing 100 mph. Once you got into the bullpen it was a feast for hitters. Today it’s famine. In general today’s outfielders much more athletic and cover way more ground. It’s a lot tougher today on a big league hitter!

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    1. Give me a break Rich. Yeah, they faced pitchers who did not come out throwing 100. But they did not have to because most of them actually knew how to throw more than just a heater. Today’s relievers rely on more than just a fastball. They use sinkers, slider’s, 2 seamers, cutters all sorts of weapons, Compared to the old guys, today’s players have it made. First off, the travel was all by rail. The Dodgers did not get their first plane until 1958 and it was a 4 engine prop job. The jet came later. They wore those heavy wool uni’s that on hot days could add a lot of weight to you. They made a lot less money, always had roomie’s on the road and there were not the kind of clubhouses there are today. The Dodger clubhouse when they went to the Polo Grounds was out in deep center field and up some stairs. I do not want to hear about a bunch of over paid guys having it tough because they have to face pitchers who throw heat. The biggest difference in today’s game and back a few years is the fact that rarely does a pitcher finish what he starts. The have situational relievers, long men, short men. All sorts of relief pitchers. Back in the day, it was the starter who was past his prime and could only last a few innings if that. Real relief pitchers did not start appearing until the late 40’s. Do not try to diminish what those guys did against who they were facing. There are players today who would probably be pretty good back then. But a lot would have never made it to the majors because back then, if you did not produce, you were gone.

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      1. A lot would have never made it to the majors because back then there were only 16 teams instead of 30.

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    2. Comparing different eras is basically a worthless venture because there is no comparison. The game was played differently back then. Those players had more baseball type skills than today’s players. Most knew how to bunt, and striking out was a huge no no. Today’s players do not worry about stuff like that. Fundamentals were stressed at all times. There was no DH, and most teams did not platoon players at all. Yep, today’s players are more athletic but that’s because they have the facilities right in the clubhouse and stadium to do those kinds of things. Players back then had to have off season jobs for the most part because they did not make enough money to last them through the off season. Players today go on vacation and then start their workout regimes in December. Players back then were working 8 hour a day jobs.

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  8. I remember it. “Ground ball back of second, Mantilla over, up with it, throws …low and wildly… Hodges scores we go to Chicago!”

    Sounds like an error to me. But honestly I did not remember it was Furillo.

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    1. What a lot of people forget was that they scored 3 runs in the bottom of the 9th to tie the game. In the 12th, Hodges walked and went to second on a single by Joe Pignatano. Furillo then hit a ball up the middle that Mantilla got to and threw wide to home trying to get Hodges. They ruled it a hit. Another tidbit, Furillo did the same thing in Game 3 of the World Series to get the Dodgers a 3-1 lead……

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  9. Carl Furillo aka “Rifle arm” was king in right field in his era. Very underrated at that time too. Was one tough SOB and probably his bat was made at Bethlehem steel.

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