When the Los Angeles Dodgers opened Spring Training last month, they did so with Alex Verdugo, the organization’s top positional prospect, among the non-roster invitees. Verdguo remained with the team through Tuesday, when he was one of two players sent to Minor League camp.
Verdugo hit .324/.361/.618 with four doubles, two home runs, two strikeouts and six RBI while appearing in 18 Cactus League games. He played all three outfield positions, with the bulk of the time coming in right field.
Beyond what Verdugo did in the batter’s box and the field, he drew praise for his work off it. “Alex, he’s really impressed me first and foremost with his maturation as a professional,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said over the weekend.
“I know he’s bought into routine and kind of the preparation, and that’s translated itself to in the box, his work out there on the field playing defense. So he’s really matured and his skill set is very good, he can do essentially anything on a baseball field so he’s fun to watch.
“I haven’t been able to give him consistent starts or playing time, but every time I do give him an opportunity he performs and I do believe that the consistency with his work has kind of bled into his consistent performance.”
There wasn’t quite the same praise for Verdugo when he joined the Dodgers last September as a call-up from Triple-A Oklahoma City. He overslept, arrived late for a game, and was reprimanded by veteran Rich Hill. Roberts said he backed Hill’s stern message.
That misstep may have played a factor in Roberts speaking with the 21-year-old about maturing and growing into becoming a Major League player. But Roberts refused to take credit for any improvement by Verdugo. “It’s got to be the player that’s got to buy into it,” he said.
“Alex is a guy over the last few years I’ve really tried to get to know and be clear what our expectations are for him as a player and as a professional. And as I’ve said before, he’s really bought into it.”
While Verdugo rose through the Minor League ranks and was often, if not always, the youngest player on the circuit, Roberts believes he’s learned the importance of the nuances of the game.
“The talent part I think has allowed him to compete at a higher level. But to get to the big leagues, to stay and perform at a consistent level I think there were things that were missing that I think he understood as well,” Roberts explained.
“So now you take that along with the skill set, you’ve got a pretty good player and he’s going to be a really good player for a long time.”