The Dodger brand is one synonymous with game-changing rookies. With two prized prospects waiting in the wings, 2018 could see the Dodgers add another tally to their Rookie of the Year total.
Historically, the Dodgers have had a vast lead over the competition when it comes to prized rookies. In fact, the Dodgers have totaled far more Rookie of the Year awards than any other franchise. From the first and most famous, Jackie Robinson in 1947, to Cody Bellinger last season, the Dodgers have had eighteen rookies be crowned supreme, compared to nine in total from the New York Yankees.
2018 sees the Dodgers with an excellent chance to add to that legacy. First off, there’s the multi-talented Alex Verdugo, who could very well make the club out of spring training. While still trying to develop a bit more pop in his swing, Verdugo does everything well. He posses an elite throwing arm and a smooth feel for contact. Verdugo plays all three outfield positions well and has almost always outplayed his competition while being far younger than the other players. He has often drawn comparisons to the talented Nick Markakis.
With Andrew McCutchen joining the “Superteam from 2013” up north, for now, it seems left field figures to be primarily employed by some number of players already on the Dodger roster. Verdugo figures to see competition from Joc Pederson, Andrew Toles, Kike Hernandez and others in left field. However, being the team’s top (non-pitching) prospect will undoubtedly give him a chance for opportunity. If Verdugo hits, the kid will play. If he plays enough, he’s certainly talented enough to win Rookie of the Year.
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If not Verdugo, hard-throwing righty Walker Buehler could have an opportunity to win that award. Led with a fastball that can at times reach 99, he is equipped with a quality slider and curveball. Buehler was recently named one of the top five right-handed prospects in the game. He is currently the Dodger’s top pitching prospect, and the rotation is looking left-handed nowadays (as usual). While the Dodgers want to limit his innings somewhat, they appear poised to unleash Buehler into their rotation, probably before June. Dave Roberts sad recently.
"“I can certainly expect to see him as a starter,” I think that it was encouraging in a lot of ways for Walker — the quality of hitters faced, the speed of the game, the preparation, being in big league ballparks, I think, all very good for him. But just continuing to develop. Again, we’ll see how it all shakes out, but he’s definitely a part of the solution.”"
With these two prized rookies, the Dodgers can keep their dream of three in a row alive. While they each had half a cup of coffee in the big leagues last year, this upcoming season figures to see each young player their fair share of opportunity. The last couple of seasons saw Corey Seager and Cody Bellinger leave some big rookie shoes to fill, but Alex Verdugo and Walker Buehler have the potential to make a major impact next season and years to come.
Even if a Dodger rookie does win, LA would still be a couple of years away from again reaching that ridiculous stretch from 1992 through 1996. With names like Karros, Piazza, Mondesi, Nomo, and Hollandsworth, LA won five consecutive Rookie of the Year awards. Still, 2018 could see LA make it three in a row, and that ain’t bad at all.