After making his MLB debut in 2017 and appearing in 37 games last year, Alex Verdugo is in the midst of what’s shaping to be a successful first season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He made the Opening Day roster but has since grown into a regular starter.
Verdugo was already on that trajectory with his performance alone, but it was accelerated by A.J. Pollock undergoing right elbow surgery that will keep him sidelined at least into the middle of July. Regardless of the role he’s held, Verdugo has remained true to himself.
It’s meant keeping calm during big at-bats and providing the Dodgers with a spark through his loud and energetic personality. It’s now tradition for Verdugo and his teammates to shout at one another, ‘Don’t let the kid get hot,’ whenever he collects a hit.
“I love Dugie. I love him. He’s great. I mean, a ton of energy every single day. Good energy, too,” Clayton Kershaw said of the rookie outfielder after the Dodgers’ 9-4 win over the Atlanta Braves on Wednesday night.
“Super competitive, incredible instincts on the baseball field, you can put him in any outfield spot. Now with A.J. out he’s getting a chance to play everyday. Man, I mean, he’s been huge for us. I love it. It’s a lot of fun for me having him around.”
Justin Turner offered similar praise, saying, “It’s great. He’s a young, exciting player. He enjoys the game, he can spark a lot of energy whenever he’s up at the plate. He’s been doing it all year long for us.”
Verdugo joins a growing list of youngsters who quickly made their mark with the Dodgers despite being inexperienced. Corey Seager (2016) and Cody Bellinger (2017) were unanimous National League Rookie of the Year winners, and Walker Buehler finished third in voting last season. Julio Urias has also been a key contributor since making his MLB debut in 2016.
“I think it’s just a testament to our clubhouse and culture we created here,” Kershaw said of the string of success. “We let young guys come up and be themselves. We’re not trying to haze or do anything like that to make them think they’re not the same as everybody else, and I think that’s huge. Especially in today’s game. You need your young guys to perform and perform really well.
“We’ve had two Rookie of the Years in the past few years, now Dugie is coming up and doing his thing, Walker, all these young guys are coming up and feel comfortable. That’s what we want. We want them to feel comfortable and like they belong, the swagger, the confidence that they have. I think the great thing about guys like Walker and Dugie, they’re not sensitive. You can throw some jabs at them every once in a while and some critiques, and they take it in stride.”