Dodgers: Alex Verdugo Can be a Spark for a Lackluster Offense

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LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Alex Verdugo
LOS ANGELES, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Alex Verdugo /
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As usual, the Dodgers are off to their annual slow April, and the lackluster offense is the most prominent culprit. They do have an internal option that can help give the bats the boost they need.

Last year, Cody Bellinger, as a rookie, joined an underperforming Dodgers team and helped sparked a historic run with his explosive bat. In 2013, Yasiel Puig, as a rookie as well, did the same thing. This year, the Dodgers are an early-season underwhelming bunch once again, and the offense is not helping.

Heading into Friday night’s game, they were around league-average regarding runs scored per game at 4.5 runs a game, and even those numbers are a bit inflated due to a few, explosions. The series sweep over the Padres is looking less and less like a slump-buster for the Dodgers but shines more light on how bad the Padres are.

Take out that three-game series and Los Angeles was scoring 3.7 runs per game. They scored five+ runs in 11 of their first 23 games, but two or less in nine of them. And at least three of the explosions (vs. Arizona, Oakland, and Miami) happened when it was too late.

You can consider them ‘garbage time’ runs. The offense put the team in a bad position and could not rally because it was too late. They need to score these runs in the beginning, not when the game is virtually over.

Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernández are starting to turn it around, but as a team, there does not appear to be the same magic in their bats and approach like last year. They get guys on base and leave them hanging; they are among the worst with runners in scoring position. It is frustrating, but a pattern so far.

Someone who can help is sitting down in triple-A at Oklahoma City, manning center field. He is Alex Verdugo. But let me preface by saying that he would not have the same explosive effect as Puig or Bellinger because he does not have the same power or flair, but he can replicate at least some of it.

He has a .825 OPS so far this, year and is a career .305 hitter with the ability to get on base at a high rate. The one knock on him was he never hit for much power (career .441 slugging and 35 home runs in 1,684 at-bats), but in 2018 he is hitting for more power than usual.

He already has four home runs and three doubles in 18 games (72 at-bats) and is slugging .500. The thing that has left him is his patience (5.5% walk rate), but that will come back to him eventually because it’s one of is strengths.

You tend to see top prospects, who are on the verge of getting a permanent call-up to the majors, slack in some areas of their game in the minors because they are just biding their time until the inevitable phone call comes.

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You can peg some of his plate discipline, or lack thereof, on that. He has nothing left to prove in the minors. He got his feet wet in the majors last September and it is time for the Dodgers to bring him up permanently.

You can put him in left field instead of Joc Pederson. In fact, both of them should trade places. Or, move Chris Taylor to second base and let Verdugo roam center field. He is projected to be an excellent defender, so the Dodgers will only be getting better in that aspect.

He could instill an energy that the team has been lacking and couple that with Justin Turner’s eventual return, it could be just what Los Angeles needs. Players feed off the crowd’s roar, and crowds get most excited when a new player bursts onto the team. It’s like Barney Stinson said: “New is always better.” While it’s not always true, it’s more exciting.

And there is no doubt that LA’s fans would be excited to see another one of their elite rookies, after seeing Yasiel Puig, Corey Seager, and Cody Bellinger. While he may not be as good a rookie as any of the trios, he can still elevate the offense. Verdugo has the plate approach that management likes and he can remind the rest of the team that plate patience was the reason that last year’s offense was so good.

Next: Who are the Dodgers setup relievers?

The offense is a sleeping giant needing a wakeup call, and Verdugo can be the spark needed to light the dynamite.

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