If not for the absurd outfield depth within the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, 2018 might have been the breakout season that Alex Verdugo was waiting for. At just 22 years old, Verdugo has long been one of the team’s (and league’s) best prospects.
He ranked as the Dodgers’ No. 1 prospect and No. 29 overall this past July. Despite the potential and projections, however, Verdugo saw 80 percent of his plate appearances this season come with Triple-A Oklahoma City.
In 86 major-league at-bats, Verdugo hit .260/.329/.377 with 1 home run. Meanwhile, in the Minors he batted .329/.391/.472 with 10 homers and eight stolen bases over 379 plate appearances.
The calling card for Verdugo is his balanced approach at the plate — as he struck out just 12.4 percent of the time to go along with a nine percent walk rate with Oklahoma City. For some perspective, the walk rate is in line with the likes of Chris Taylor and Corey Seager, but with a strikeout rate in line with Justin Turner.
Throw in decent speed and the ability to play both center or right field, and you can see why Verdugo — for such a young player — remains so intriguing.
Given everything he has accomplished at the Minor League level, it seems unlikely that Verdugo would be anywhere but the Majors next season. However, which team he’s with could be up in the air.
When the Dodgers traveled to Arizona on May 2, they found themselves in the midst of a precarious situation. They had lost seven of their last eight games, and they had fallen nine games out of first place in the National League West, trailing the Diamondbacks.
Desperately in need of a spark, they found one in Verdugo. In just his fourth appearance of the season, Verdugo went 2-for-4 with two doubles — one in the first inning and one in the eighth — eventually coming around to score both of the team’s two runs.
The Dodgers would win 2-1, starting what turned into a three-game winning streak that would keep them afloat during the season’s darkest hour.
As mentioned above, 2019 has to be the season that Verdugo finds regular playing time in a Major League outfield — even if it’s in a platoon role. That said, with so many outfielders still under contract (Yasiel Puig, Cody Bellinger, Chris Taylor, Andrew Toles, Joc Pederson, Matt Kemp, Kiké Hernandez, etc.) something has to give with the Dodgers.
They presumably will look to move an outfielder or two in a trade this winter as a means to strengthen their roster elsewhere. If it’s the type of deal for a front-line starter, it’s hard to imagine Verdugo isn’t included.
But if the Dodgers were able to move someone like Pederson or Puig for bullpen help, it’d clearly be a trade in which they were ready to bet on the 22-year-old Verdugo next season.