In a loaded organization like the Los Angeles Dodgers, it’s hard to stand out. But at-bat after at-bat, game after game and year after year, Alex Verdugo manages to do just that.
Since joining the Dodgers organization from Sahuaro High School in Tucson, Ariz., in 2014, Verdugo has been one of the most productive prospects across all of minor league baseball.
His résumé over nearly 500 games includes a .311 batting average, 39 homers and a whopping 266 RBI as of Aug. 4, 2018. He was named Minor League Player of the Year in the Dodgers’ organization for 2015 after a stellar season in A-ball, and has followed up that accolade with a pair of AAA All-Star Game nods.
But what drives the 22-year-old outfielder to be great?
“Stay in the bigs,” Verdugo told Dodgers’ communications assistant Forest Stulting earlier this year.
Verdugo has had slightly more than a cup of coffee with the big-league Dodgers, earning a September call-up in 2017 and then another pair of stints in Los Angeles earlier this summer.
He struggled last September, going just 4-for-23 as LA made its run into October. But he’s been far more productive at the big league level this season, hitting .280 with a home run over 14 games. It seems like a good bet that he’ll return to the majors at some point this season, and could even provide depth in October should the Dodgers endure any injury woes in the outfield.
“No matter what decision we make, it won’t be performance-based.”
But before he could become a player worthy of postseason roster consideration, he had to learn how to become a day-in and day-out professional.
Verdugo skipped college and a chance to play at Arizona State for an immediate future in professional baseball. That left some gaps in his knowledge base going into a full-time career.
“A lot of people go to college to kind of grow into themselves and learn more about baseball. For me, I thought I needed to be out here and learn how professionals go about their business,” Verdugo told Stulting.
Verdugo was the Dodgers’ second round selection in the 2014 draft, and reportedly received a signing bonus north of $900,000. He picked things up quickly as a rookie, hitting .353 with a .932 OPS across two different leagues in 2014.
He’s certainly accomplished consistency over his five years in the Dodgers’ system. Verdugo has never turned in a batting average lower than .273 at the minor league level, but even that came with a career-high 13 home runs with the AA Tulsa Drillers.
Verdugo’s promotion back to the Los Angeles Dodgers seems to be a situation of ‘when’ rather than ‘if.’ Manager Dave Roberts had nothing but glowing remarks for Verdugo after his most recent appearance with the club.
“No matter what decision we make, it won’t be performance-based,” Roberts told MLB.com’s Ken Gurnick on July 28. “Alex has performed really well at the Triple-A level. He’s a Major League player … I can’t say enough about him.”