The Dodgers have done well so far in working to rebuild their organization once the McCourts left the building, and with that has come increased efforts at overall player acquisition and development. Gone are the days where the farm system, historically a strength of the organization, is ignored in favor of marginal major league gains, and it shows with the strength of the top of the system. The team has already seen Joc Pederson move into an everyday role, and both Julio Urias and Corey Seager are not far behind him. With that in mind, let's take a look at a prospect who is in the next wave of top hitters for their system, and could jump up rankings lists with a strong year.
Alex Verdugo was drafted out of a Tucson, AZ high school in the second round of last year's draft, and were able to sign him for a bonus of just under $1 million. He was a two-way player in high school, scouted widely as both a pitcher and an outfielder, but he and the Dodgers preferred him as an outfielder, and will continue to develop him in that manner. He remained in Arizona after signing, appearing in 49 games and posting a .347/.423/.518 slash line with three home runs, eight stolen bases, and an excellent 20 walks against 14 strikeouts. The organization moved him up to Ogden for the last week of the minor league season, where he went 8 for 20 with three more stolen bases.
Verdugo was given a full-season assignment at Low-A Great Lakes this year, although it was a soggy start for the Loons as they had their opening series postponed/cancelled due to rain and then poor field conditions from said rain. Verdugo has played in all nine games for the Loons so far, posting a .275/.326/.325 slash line with two doubles and a stolen base.
Obviously the performance so far as a professional has been nice, but will it continue to translate as he moves up?
The first thing that stands out to me watching Verdugo take his turn at the plate is his approach. Considered advanced for his age, he appears to track pitches well, and took a couple of close pitches that I was surprised he was able to lay off. He has shown the ability to take a walk in his first season, and reports from the offseason seem to confirm this as likely to continue. He has good bat speed to go with this approach, and has the potential to be a provider of a good batting average. This also bodes well for his value in on-base leagues, where he should get a bump in value over batting average leagues.
There are questions about how much power that Verdugo will eventually develop, which could limit his utility for fantasy owners somewhat. The best-case scenario right now is that he turns into a 20 home run hitter, with a fair amount of doubles. He hits the ball hard, but there seems to be doubts about how many end up line drives and how many end up as home runs down the line. He's not expected to provide a ton of value in terms of speed, but is considered at least an average runner right now and should provide at least a few stolen bases each year.
The Dodgers currently have Verdugo playing center field, but it is anticipated that long-term he will likely be moved to right field. It seems that between his above-average arm and the fact that he is anticipated to get slower as he continues to grow, right field will be a better fit overall. Obviously, if he doesn't develop as a hitter there is always the potential to move him back to the mound, but that's something waaaaaaaay down the road at this point.
Overall, the potential is for a corner outfielder that can provide solid but not spectacular production across all five categories. The only one he would likely have the potential to be well above-average would be in batting average, but don't forget that there is still a lot of value to a player that hits .270 with 15-18 home runs, 3-5 steals, and solid numbers in both runs and RBI. I had Verdugo as my #126 fantasy prospect coming into the year, and with a solid performance this year I can see him jumping into the top 75. He's a name worth watching, even though he likely wouldn't debut in the majors for at least three more seasons.