The Dodgers struck gold earlier this season when they called up Cody Bellinger from the Minors. Aside from an ankle injury the first baseman/outfielder just returned from, Bellinger has been a godsend for the lineup and has to be a shoo-in for National League Rookie of the Year Award honors
The Dodgers struck gold earlier this season when they called up Cody Bellinger from the Minors. Aside from an ankle injury the first baseman/outfielder just returned from, Bellinger has been a godsend for the lineup and has to be a shoo-in for National League Rookie of the Year Award honors thanks to his 34 homers and 79 RBIs over his first 101 games.
Ever since he got called up, there's been the question of when the Dodgers' next best hitting prospect, Alex Verdugo, would follow. Obviously, there had to a need or a spot, and that finally will happen when rosters can expand on Friday and the outfielder, ranked No. 2 on the Dodgers' Top 30 Prospects list, is summoned to the big leagues.
Currently the No. 28 prospect on MLB Pipeline's Top 100 list, Verdugo won't be asked to do as much heavy lifting as Bellinger, who was inserted into the lineup upon arrival because of holes in the outfield and an anemic offense. But Verdugo's left-handed bat and his ability to play all three outfield spots with one of the best throwing arms in the Minors can be assets for the team.
Verdugo carries a .314/.389/.436 line with him to the Dodgers, though he's slowed down in the second half (.244/.329/.378) after a torrid first half in the Pacific Coast League (.346/.416/.463). One thing that hasn't changed is his ability to get on base and draw walks. The 2014 second-round pick has more free passes (52) than strikeouts (50) in 2017. He does have some raw pop, but he's more of a contact-oriented and line-drive type of hitter, one who loves going the other way. That said, there is some extra-base ability in there.
He's an average runner who will steal a base now and again, though it's unlikely to see him being a huge baserunning weapon in September. He's played a lot of center field, where his instincts have helped him maximize what speed he does have. But his 70-grade arm really looks good in a corner, especially in right field. Verdugo had 24 outfield assists in 2015 and 13 more a year ago. This year he's picked up nine as Triple-A runners have learned not to test him.
Should the need arise because of injury, the Dodgers should feel comfortable with giving Verdugo extended playing time in any of the three spots in the outfield. But the Dodgers' outfield is pretty set now, especially with the return of Bellinger to the lineup and the recent acquisition of veteran Curtis Granderson. As the Dodgers steamroll to the postseason, Verdugo can help the main outfield contributors rest up with some spot starts as needed.
In general, though, Verdugo's appearances will be largely be of the pinch-hitting and defensive replacement/double-switch variety. The good news is, with his advanced approach at the plate, he should be able to contribute in those limited looks as he's not the kind of hitter with a lot of swing-and-miss in his game who needs to play every day to be in a good rhythm.
Jonathan Mayo is a reporter for MLBPipeline.com. Follow him on Twitter @JonathanMayo and Facebook, and listen to him on the weekly Pipeline Podcast.