Dodgers prospect Alex Verdugo could be prime trade bait
Dodgers prospect Alex Verdugo fields a ball over World Team teammate Ronald Acuna during the All-Star Futures Game at Marlins Park on Sunday in Miami. (Mark Brown / Getty Images)
In establishing himself as one of the brightest prospects in the major leagues, Alex Verdugo is not following in the footsteps of his father.
His father played ball as a kid, but not for long. He got hit in the face by a throw.
“Never played again,” Verdugo said. “He never went back. He didn’t have any interest anymore.”
Verdugo, 21, represented the Dodgers in the Futures Game on Sunday. Baseball America ranks him as the Dodgers’ No. 2 prospect, behind pitcher Walker Buehler, and the No. 35 prospect in the game.
He ranks fourth in the Pacific Coast League with a .346 batting average, has walked more than he has struck out, and has reached base in 32 consecutive games.
He can run. He is an exceptional defensive outfielder. He could help the Dodgers, sure, but who’s to say they need any help right now?
“The team is on a roll. It feels like they’re never going to lose,” Verdugo said. “It’s unbelievable.”
The Dodgers have the best record in the major leagues. But they could use an outfielder that bats right-handed — Verdugo does not — a relief pitcher, and maybe a starting pitcher. The Dodgers have not made the World Series since 1988, and Verdugo could be a prime trading chip to help get them there.
So could pitcher Yadier Alvarez, the Dodgers’ $16 million bonus baby from Cuba. Alvarez started the Futures Game for the World Team and took the loss, giving up one run on two hits and a walk in one inning. His fastball was clocked at 94-97 mph.
The only Angels prospect in the game, Jaime Barria – a $600,000 bonus baby from Panama – pitched a scoreless inning, walking one and striking out two. His fastball was clocked at 92-94 mph.
Verdugo struck out and grounded out in two plate appearances.
“A lot of people from back home are like, ‘Man, I heard you’re about to get traded,’ ” Verdugo said. “You never know. It could happen. We always mess with each other at triple-A: ‘No, you’re getting traded! No, you are!’ We just try not to think about it, but it’s in the back of our minds.
“I hope I’m given the opportunity to go up there and help the team win. I think I can bring a lot to them. I can help in every aspect of the game.”
Verdugo would be a natural fit for the Dodgers off the field, too. He is a Mexican-American who grew up in Tucson but honored his father’s heritage by playing for Team Mexico in the World Baseball Classic.
His teammates there included Adrian Gonzalez, and he’d love to follow Gonzalez and Fernando Valenzuela — and maybe injured pitching prospect Julio Urias — as players of Mexican descent representing the Dodgers.
“I just want to follow in their footsteps,” Verdugo said. “I want to get an opportunity to do that.”
Verdugo goes way back with Cody Bellinger. The two were teammates at triple-A Oklahoma City this past April, and roommates in the Arizona rookie league three years ago.
“He’s a good roommate,” Verdugo said. “He’ll get sick a lot and start sniffling all the time, but he’ll pop some Nyquil and just be knocked out. He’s a really great guy.”
It has not escaped Verdugo’s notice that the Dodgers are 52-18 since Bellinger’s arrival — a .743 winning percentage, better than the .714 winning percentage of the 1927 New York Yankees, widely billed as the greatest team in major league history.
“Cody went up there and sparked it, and it’s still a spark. They haven’t let it go out,” Verdugo said. “It’s pretty special to watch.
“It’s fun to watch him succeed. It’s fun to watch him be an all-star. When I get my opportunity, hopefully I’ll take it and run with it like he did.”
Follow Bill Shaikin on Twitter @BillShaikin