Los Angeles Dodgers prospects Yadier Alvarez and Alex Verdugo were honored by MLB as they were selected to participate in the 2017 Futures Game, MLB’s All-Star Game for Minor Leaguers. Both players were part of the World team, with Alvarez representing Cuba and Verdugo representing Mexico.
What’s more, each player started the game, as Alvarez was the first to pitch for the World team, while Verdugo started in left field and batted second. Alvarez showcased his tremendous arm strength by sitting 95-98 mph with his fastball during the first inning.
The right-hander was able to manipulate the pitch and give it some cut, as well as sink it occasionally. Alvarez’s command of it was loose, however, as he didn’t always locate the pitch where he wanted.
Alvarez also threw his slider, which will flash as a plus pitch, exemplified by the 3-2 offering he used to record his only strikeout of the game, getting Lewis Brinson. He snapped it off at 88 mph and got Brinson to chase it low and away in a 3-2 count.
Alvarez’s struggles with command and control led to the first run of the game. Each of the first three batters worked three-ball counts. Nick Gordon, brother of former Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon, grounded out and there was the aforementioned Brinson strikeout.
After Derek Fisher worked a walk, the next two batters, Rhys Hoskins and Nick Senzel, were more aggressive and both singled, leading to the run. Kyle Tucker, the sixth batter Alvarez faced, grounded out to second on a well-placed fastball to end the inning.
Verdugo got two at-bats before he was lifted for a replacement. In his first at-bat, Verdugo faced Brent Honeywell, a Tampa Bay Rays hurler and one of the best pitching prospects in baseball.
He battled for five pitches, fouling off mid 90-mph fastballs and mid-80s changeups. Then Honeywell busted out his screwball, which left Verdugo stunned for strike three. In his second at-bat, Verdugo didn’t hang around long.
He took a fastball for a strike, then bounced a slider up the middle which was collected by the shortstop and easily tossed to first base for an out. Unfortunately, Verdugo wasn’t tested in the field and didn’t get a chance to show off his excellent arm strength.
While neither of the Dodgers representatives truly shined in Futures Game, both are tremendously talented by virtue of their inclusion and raw ability. Alvarez will return to High-A Rancho Cucamonga, determined to improve his strike-throwing ability.
Verdugo heads back to Triple-A Oklahoma City looking to continue tearing the cover off the ball. Both names will come up repeatedly in trade rumors, as they’re valued highly around the league. Be it in trade or reaching the majors with the Dodgers, both figure to provide plenty of value to the organization one way or another.
Alvarez signed with the Dodgers in 2015 for $16 million as a 19 year old. He debuted in 2016 and posted a 2.12 ERA in 14 starts between the Arizona League Dodgers and Low-A Great Lakes. This season, he’s struggled a bit with the Quakes, where his ERA has risen to 5.37 in 13 games.
Verdugo was a second-round pick in 2014 and, with few exceptions, has hit ever since. He batted .353 in 53 games during his debut season, then recovered from a poor start in 2015 to hit a combined .311 with the Loons and Quakes that season.
At 20-years-old, Verdugo held his own in Double-A with a .743 on-base plus slugging percentage. Now this season, he’s more than holding his own. Just 21 years old, Verdugo is one of the youngest players in Triple-A and is batting .346 with more walks (35) than strikeouts (32).
He’s also stolen eight bases in nine tries and hit 18 doubles, four triples and three home runs. Verdugo’s best tool may be his arm, which he’s used to record seven outfield assists in 76 games this season while logging time at all three outfield positions.
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