Verdugo hopes to be on fast track to Majors

December 22nd, 2016

LOS ANGELES -- The Major League debuts of 21-year-old in 2015 and 19-year-old last season signal to Dodgers prospects that fast-track paths exist, if they're good enough.

Earlier this month, the Dodgers brought in 10 of their best prospects for informal workouts, and to help teach youth clinics. The group didn't include Cody Bellinger, 21, the organization's top-ranked prospect by, but it did include Alex Verdugo, who is ranked No. 3 after spending his age-20 season as one of the youngest players in the Double-A Texas League.

"I got drafted out of high school and -- I didn't know anything -- I'm telling people, 'I want to be in the big leagues in two or three years,'" Verdugo said. "And they're telling me, 'That's not how it works, man. In a lot of organizations, guys spend a season at each level and it can be four, five, six years.' I'm like, 'That's awful.'

"So what the Dodgers are doing, as players, we love it. We know if we're doing everything right and we're playing our best, we're being the best teammates and we're doing everything to get called up, we know that we will, or that we possibly have that chance."

Verdugo is a left-handed-hitting outfielder, who was considered by some teams a better left-handed pitching prospect coming out of Sahuaro High School in Tucson, Ariz., in 2014. He hit .273 with a career-high 13 homers and 63 RBIs while playing mostly center field for Double-A Tulsa in 2016. He has the throwing arm for right field, but might lack the power to be an impact corner outfielder.

After the season, he participated in the Arizona Fall League, and would have played in the Fall Stars Game, but instead represented Team Mexico in a goodwill exhibition at the Tokyo Dome in Japan, playing alongside Dodgers first baseman on a team managed by Gonzalez's brother, Edgar. Verdugo, whose father is Mexican, said he hopes the exhibition leads to a berth on Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.

"That was, by far, one of the best experiences in my life," Verdugo said. "The culture, the people -- how they are and how they act and how much respect they [give] you -- and man, they are nuts about baseball."

The youngest player at the Dodgers' recent workouts was 18-year-old shortstop Gavin Lux, the club's first-round pick this past June. The group also included 19-year-old Imani Abdullah, a right-handed pitcher who signed in 2015 after a recruiting call from part-owner Magic Johnson, and Brandon Davis, a 19-year-old infielder from Lakewood.

College Draft picks at the workouts were pitcher Walker Buehler, second baseman Willie Calhoun, pitcher Trevor Oaks, pitcher Josh Sborz, pitcher Andrew Sopko and catcher .