The Los Angeles Dodgers ended their Rookie of the Year drought with back-to-back winners in Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger, and while their string of victories was snapped last season, the team received contributions from Walker Buehler, who finished third in voting.
Now Alex Verdugo is carrying the torch as the latest rookie the Dodgers are leaning on. He was included on the Opening Day roster this season for the first time in his career and steadily earned an increased role.
Already making starts on a more regular basis, the door flew wide open for Verdugo when A.J. Pollock was forced to undergo surgery on his right elbow. The 23-year-old has not only continued to produce, but he’s been a burst of energy in the clubhouse and dugout.
Verdugo’s exuberance could be misconstrued but the Dodgers have welcomed him with open arms. The acceptance has allowed for the young outfielder to be at more ease than prior stints with the club in 2017 and 2018.
“We’ve been around each other for a couple years now and this year making the Opening Day roster, I feel like a lot of the guys know that I mean well,” Verdugo said. “Everything I that I do, I play hard. I try to do anything that I can to help the team.
“I think I worried about it more in ’17 and ’18 and kind of tried to act a certain way that I thought they would like. Now this year it’s kind of just being myself. I feel like everybody has really opened up to it and they can kind of see it’s genuine and I’m here just having a good and playing hard.”
There were growing pains with Verdugo over the past two seasons, which may have delayed his arrival. Dodgers manager Dave Roberts praised his improved maturity during Spring Training and offered more positive remarks when Verdugo recently celebrated his 23rd birthday.
“He’s no longer the top prospect, he’s a Major League player now, which is good. He is very mature on the baseball-side of things. We’re working on the other parts of it,” Roberts said with a smile.
“I love Alex. He’s definitely grown in all aspects. As far as baseball, he’s very mature. Game situations, in the batter’s box, playing defense, on the bases, handling the big stage, the big moment, this guy is very seasoned. He’s been a big part of our success up to this point so far.”
Clayton Kershaw and Justin Turner are among teammates who have publicly raved about Verdugo’s play and energy he brings. While the team has allowed Verdugo to be himself, he’s still tasked with rookie duties.
“That’s only on road trips, when I’ve got to carry the bags and do stuff like that,” Verdugo said. “Other than that, no. Just a normal day at the field.”