Dodgers prospect Alex Verdugo has been through a number of mechanical adjustments since being drafted 62nd overall in 2014 out of Sahauro High School in Tuscon, Arizona, but they appear to have paid off nicely for him.
Primarily a center fielder, Verdugo can play any position in the outfield. He covers plenty of ground in center, but his outstanding arm (he was also a prospect as a high school pitcher) could land him in right.
The determining factor could end up being how much power he develops as he advances up the chain. Make no mistake: Verdugo is a fantastic contact hitter already, but any power he produces will more likely come from his making frequent, hard contact to all fields than it will from raw power. He is, however, the sort of batter who could rack up a great many extra-base hits; just don’t expect a lot of home runs in that mix.
Verdugo takes a narrow, slightly-open stance at the plate that closes quickly as he readies to swing. His hands are reasonably quiet and, as mentioned before, he takes a "contact first" approach that allows him to adjust to off-speed or outside offerings and drive them to opposite field. He is generally gap-to-gap, but can bloop a curve or changeup over the third baseman’s head into left field with relative ease. He has a fairly strong combination of baserunning instincts and above-average speed, but he’s never going to lead the league in stolen bases.
One stat of particular interest: in 967 professional at-bats, Verdugo has gone down on strikes only 121 times. He has only 38 in 71 games with the Double-A Tulsa Drillers this year, and as an 18 year-old first-year player in rookie-level ball in 2014 he almost never went down on strikes (18 in 190 AB). Expect this to continue, even as he advances in the system.
In the field, Verdugo looks fundamentally sound in center field. He tracks the ball well and takes short routes consistently, but at the higher levels his lack of pure speed may force a move to the corner spots.
His arm is a great fit in right and would be double-plus in left; in 112 games split between the Low-A Great Lakes Loons and High-A Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in 2015, Verdugo racked up an astounding 21 assists. Nineteen of those came in 89 games at center with Great Lakes, where he also racked up five double plays. He already has seven assists and a pair of double plays in 67 games with Tulsa this season. On the other hand, he’s made six errors in the field and has made 13 in his 195 games as a pro center fielder. This could end up playing into the decision to move him to a corner spot.
Overall, Verdugo has a very good chance to become a prototypical #2 batter as a Major Leaguer, as he should continue to make very frequent contact and rack up hits in bunches. You can expect him to move the runners along with machine-like regularity, and if he can improve his bunting ability he’s going to be a very tough out, indeed. A baseline of a .280 batting average, with 30+ doubles, 60+ RBI and double digits in steals should be an easy reach for him as a full-time player in the ML, and I expect him to be more than worthy of a full-time spot in the Dodgers’ lineup.
He’s not going to be a primary run-producing bat but his skill set makes him quite valuable in a number of ways. Despite the viewpoint that projects Verdugo as a bench player with occasional starts, I expect that he will out-perform that projection.