From high and low across the baseball landscape calls are coming: Mookie Betts will be traded soon. Is that today, tomorrow, or later this week? No one can say. One thing that 80-90% of pundits and LA area insiders agree on? Alex Verdugo is one piece that is constant in all trade scenarios. That includes with David Price or not. So who is Alex Verdugo?
Verdugo was drafted in the second round in 2014 right out of high school. He began life as a catching prospect, but soon shifted to the outfield. He popped up to the majors by 2017, when he was somewhere in the top 50 prospects in the majors. He was passed over for such luminaries of Andrew Toles in early 2017, but hitting .314 with an .825 OPS in AAA (even in the notoriously hitter friendly PCL) got him back in the majors. It was hard to truly crack this World Series edition of the Dodgers, so he was back in AAA in 2018. This now 22 year old showed he was done with AAA, hitting .329 with an .863 OPS.
By the time 2019 rolled around Verdugo was ready for the majors. In 106 games with the Dodgers he showed off his hitting skills (.294 average, .817 OPS, 22 doubles, two triples, 12 home runs). In August he went down with an back injury that the Dodgers were very careful with. With a crowded outfield they could afford to be careful. By the end of the season Verdugo’s brother was validating what the Dodgers were saying, that he’s ready to go:
Verdugo doesn’t strikeout much, as his 13% strikeout % was the second lowest on the 2019 Dodgers. Combine that with a high 85% contact rate and that equals a lot of barreled balls and excellent on base skills (.342 on base average) for a 23 year old in the majors. His doubles, in particular, point to more power to come.
There’s no doubt that this is not a Mookie Betts clone. Mookie was finishing second in the AL MVP as a 23 year old. Rafael Devers will play this year at 23 years old. But it’s been pointed out by many that John Henry hamstrung these negotiations by stating publicly that the Red Sox needed to get under the $209 Luxury tax threshold this year. Chaim Bloom has done an excellent job getting the Dodgers back into this conversation by bringing in the Padres, a division rival, even if bringing in the Wil Myers contract was essentially a none starter.
Dodgers sources are saying a deal with the Dodgers is on the one yard line. Nabbing Verdugo, a potential .300 hitter for years in Fenway, is a coup considering the circumstances. This guy is as good as or better than Andrew Benintendi.