Dodgers: Will Alex Verdugo Get his Chance in 2019?
The Dodgers have been loaded with outfielders for what seems like the last decade. 2019 will be no different as Alex Verdugo will try to force his way onto the opening day roster.
Ever since the days when Andre Ethier and Matt Kemp roamed the outfield grass at Chavez Ravine, it seems like the Dodgers have always had a glut of outfielders. Barring any off-season trades, the 2019 season will be no different as the Dodgers finished the season with Matt Kemp, Joc Pederson, Yasiel Puig, and Cody Bellinger as the core outfielders. Then there was still Chris Taylor and Enrique Hernandez who played all over the field including some time in the outfield.
Then there is Alex Verdugo who is still ranked as the Dodgers’ top prospect entering the off-season. While Verdugo will only be 23 years old next May, he has already been in Triple-A for parts of two seasons and if he completes next season at Oklahoma City, it will be his second full season at Triple-A. Alex Verdugo has already proven himself in the minors and he finished the 2018 season with a .329 batting average to go along with ten home runs in 91 games.
In the minors, Alex Verdugo has proven himself as a solid contact hitter who plays solid defense while putting together tough at-bats. Verdugo struck out just 47 times in 343 at-bats for the OKC Dodgers this season. Along with solid contact skills, Alex has a rocket arm that allows him to play anywhere in the outfield and play it very well. Verdugo is also an above average base stealer although he stole just eight bases this season.
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The question remains, where do the Dodgers fit Alex Verdugo in for the 2019 season? That answer will likely be tied to the fates of Max Muncy and Matt Kemp. For Matt Kemp, if the Dodgers deal him to DH for an American League team, then that will directly open a spot on the roster and in left field for Verdugo. That is the likeliest scenario that would allow Verdugo to have a spot on the 2019 team.
The other move that could make room for Verdugo is if the Dodgers sell high on Max Muncy. To end the postseason, Cody Bellinger was primarily playing centerfield with Max Muncy and David Freese platooning at first base. If the Dodgers were to deal Muncy away then Bellinger would once again be the primary first baseman and another spot would be freed up in the outfield. There is also the lesser possibility that Joc Pederson is traded to open up a spot in centerfield as well.
This season for the big league Dodgers, Verdugo made a somewhat brief appearance playing 37 games when the Dodgers were struck by the injury bug early on in the season. Verdugo hit .260 with one home run and sparked the team at a time when the offense was struggling without Corey Seager and Justin Turner. At the top of the order, Verdugo is at his best and he could be the missing leadoff hitter that the lineup needs in 2019.
The primary question remains how will Alex Verdugo find a spot on the loaded roster heading into next spring? As the winter becomes colder the hot stove should heat up and this will be a winter in which the Dodgers make plenty of trades. If the Dodgers feel they milked all they can get out of Matt Kemp, he should be dealt with plenty of cash to pave the way for Alex Verdugo in 2019.