Offensively, the 22-year-old Tuscon native has come up big, time and time again. So far this season, he has accumulated 60 AB over 26 games, hitting an impressive .345/.367/.690 with four doubles, two triples, four homers and 16 RBI.
His .345 average is second on the squad, trailing only Bellinger, who is performing somewhere on the other side of the universe at the moment.
On defense, Verdugo has been outstanding. By now, everyone’s aware of his arm strength, as made evident by his outfield assist against the Brewers 10 days ago.
With the departure of Yasiel Puig, it’s certainly safe to say that Verdugo has the strongest arm in the system right now. As a matter of fact, there may be only a handful of pitchers in the organization who can consistently top an arm speed of 98.4 MPH.
Yet, despite his productivity, the left-handed hitting Verdugo’s 60 AB ranks tenth on the team. When he doesn’t start, he almost always appears off the bench; however, in Friday night’s 6-2 victory against the Pirates, he wasn’t used at all.
And here’s the crazy thing—last year at Triple-A Oklahoma City, his offensive splits were surprisingly better against left-handed pitching. In 96 AB against southpaws, he slashed .396/.442/.542 while hitting .304/.371/.445 against right-handed pitching. Sure, these are only Triple-A numbers, but the fact that his OPS was .168 higher against lefties is certainly significant.
In the majors this year, Verdugo is 4-for-10 against lefty pitching, and all four of those hits went for extra bases—a double, two triples ans a home run.
So what’s the problem? Los Angeles management is infamous for letting players work their way out of slumps. Before Saturday’s game, Max Muncy is hitting a paltry .218/.323/.462. Worse than that, Chris Taylor is hitting .175/.257/.254. Muncy has tallied 78 AB and Taylor has garnered 63, compared to Verdugo’s 60. Perhaps Verdugo’s playing time is being sacrificed in hopes of getting guys like Muncy and Taylor back on track.
Because Verdugo can effectively cover all three outfield spots, it should provide him the opportunity to see regular playing time, considering how much the Dodgers like to mix-up their lineups and rotate time among regular players. Conceivably, based on his performance so far this year, Verdugo should be at least in the team’s Top 7 when it comes to AB and plate appearances.
Of course, there have been intermittent reports of his lack of professionalism and poor attitude since his initial call to the bigs back in 2017. On occasion, he’s even been late, a circumstance the team believed it nipped in the bud two seasons ago.
If his professionalism is indeed bad enough to keep him relegated to the pine, one would think that the organization would have pulled the trigger on one of the many blockbuster trade opportunities the team was supposedly presented with over the past few years. When rival clubs engage in trade talks with the Dodgers, Verdugo’s name is normally one of the first to surface.
Or, maybe Los Angeles is being patient with Verdugo, giving him time to mature mentally and refine his professionalism. If the chats that Roberts has had with the youngster aren’t working, maybe his lack of playing time will.
Either way, it’s hard to keep a player with that kind of production on the bench—against both left-handed and right-handed pitching.