Verdugo is a Tucson product from Sahuaro High who committed to Arizona State in his senior year, 2014.
Spring 2014: Verdugo, Baseball America's Preseason High School All-American utility player, entered the spring as the top two-way high school prospect in the class, though the consensus leaned toward him on the mound. He has had an uneven spring with blister issues that kept him out for a few weeks and question about his effort level.
Scouts have not liked his body language or effort at times on the mound early in 2014, and have noted immature behavior.
As a position player, Verdugo profiles as a corner outfielder with an above-average arm, below-average speed, and hitting potential. Some teams believe he wants to go out as a hitter, but his potential future is definitely on the mound.
In 2014, Verdugo got drafted by the Dodgers (see Transactions below).
In 2015, Alex was the Dodgers' Branch Rickey Minor League Player of the Year. Verdugo spent most of the season in Class A, before a late-season promotion to Class A Advanced. Verdugo had a combined 45 extra-base hits and a .781 OPS.
In 2015, the Baseball America Prospect Handbook rated Verdugo as the 5th-best prospect in the Dodgers organization.
He was at #4 in the winter before 2017 spring training. He moved up to #2, behind only RHP Walker Buehler, in the offseason before 2018 spring training. Alex was #2 again, in the spring of 2019, behind only C Keibert Ruiz in the Dodgers farm system.
Some scouts are concerned with his inconsistent effort, a complaint dating back to his prep days. (Spring, 2017)
Verdugo's father is Mexican. So Alex was able to travel to Japan as part of Team Mexico for a four-game series of exhibitions in preparation for the March 2017 World Baseball Classic.
“Going over there, it was just so different than anything I’ve ever been opened up to—the culture, the people, how they are and how they act and how much respect they treat you with. And they are nuts about baseball. There were probably 30,000 people in the stands . . . and they did not sit down.”
The Rangers kind of put Alex on a fast-track through their system.
“Out of high school, I didn’t really know anything about pro ball,” said Verdugo, a lefthanded batter who plays mostly center field. “I told everybody I wanted to be in the big leagues in two to three years.
“Then I got into pro ball and everybody was like, ‘That’s not really how it works. A lot of people spend a year in one spot and go up year by year.’ I was, ‘That’s awful. What?’
“But as players, we know if we’re doing everything right and we’re playing our best and doing our best to be great teammates, we know that we have that chance to move up.” (Bill Plunkett - Baseball America - 1/13/2017)
Alex represented the Dodgers in the 2017 All-Star Futures game. Verdugo was a hot name in trade speculation as the trade deadline approach at the end of July, 2017.
"Starting pitching with upside is probably the most valuable currency in the game," GM Farhan Zaidi said. "But Verdugo is a 21-year-old hitting (near) .350 in the Pacific Coast League. (He has) more walks than strikeouts and probably has the best outfield arm in the league—he's a terrific talent. And frankly, he's big league ready or close to being big league ready.
"So when you start making that calculation of somebody asking for him in a deal, it feels a little bit like robbing Peter to pay Paul, because you're not talking about trading the future for the present. You're trading a guy who's just about part of the present."
One of the youngest position players at just about every stop since he was taken in the second round out of his Tucson high school in the 2014 draft, Verdugo reached the all-star break batting .346/.416/.463 with three home runs in 79 games. He started in both the PCL all-star game and the Futures Game.
"In a lot of other organizations or situations, he might already be up in the big leagues," Zaidi said. "The feeling is, it's not a matter of if, but when, he comes up and makes an impact for us."
"I remember saying this about Julio and Corey and Joc and Cody—it's really hard to imagine a plausible scenario where it makes sense for us to move him." (Bill Plunkett - Baseball America - 7/15/2017)
Verdugo has been susceptible to criticism of his effort level. He needs better focus and more maturity.
MLB debut (Sept. 1, 2017): The Dodgers started Verdugo in the outfield in a 1-0 win over the Padres. He went 0-for-3 with a walk.
In the fall of 1989, an adrift Las Vegas teenager named Andre Agassi found Gil Reyes, then the strength coach for UNLV’s basketball team.
When the Runnin’ Rebels won the 1990 national championship, Reyes quit to tutor the wild, eager pupil. For the next 16 years, he mentally and physically trained Agassi, designing and building weight-lifting machines specifically to tone a body for tennis. The partnership fostered great success. Agassi became an international sporting icon and won eight Grand Slam titles. Within his 2009 autobiography, Open, Agassi described Reyes as his “surrogate father.”
Now, Reyes has a new mentee. He, too, is young, athletically gifted, and on the cusp of success at his sport’s highest level, if he can prove he is mature enough. But this one plays baseball. He is Alex Verdugo, the Dodgers’ top position prospect, who spent the entire winter training at Reyes’ Las Vegas gym. (MLB with KEN ROSENTHAL - March 2018)
In the spring of 2018, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts praised Verdugo for showing greater maturity. Roberts said Verdugo’s improved focus and professionalism came from conversations they had in September 2017, but also from the 22-year-old’s own initiative.
“It was a combo. But the credit goes to him,” Roberts said of the 2014 second-rounder out of a Tucson high school. “He’s just understanding what our guys do to be successful, and he’s taking it upon himself to make that his own.
“We had a conversation. But it’s got to be the player who has to buy into it. Alex is a player over the past couple years I’ve really tried to get to know and be clear what our expectations are for him.”
“For me, it’s knowledge,” Verdugo said of the lesson he learned from last September. “I was up there for a month. I got to see the game. I got to interact with the players . . . Even when I was in the minors, I watched the big leaguers . “Just to be out here and see them play, see them work, see their work ethic—that’s what I took from that experience. It’s not a game up here. Everybody handles their business and makes sure they’re ready. ”
Verdugo has the potential to be a high-average, moderate power outfielder like Nick Markakis, but only if he improves his effort.
- April 22, 2019: A week earlier, the Dodgers defeated the Reds to begin a three-game series. Afterward, manager Dave Roberts shot a text to Alex Verdugo to inform the 22-year-old rookie he was starting in right field the next day.
“I said, ‘I’m going to need you tomorrow,’” Roberts recalled. “And he said, “‘I got you.’”
That night, before Verdugo stepped into the batter’s box to face lefthander Zach Duke in the seventh inning with two on and two out, he and Roberts had a conversation in the dugout during a mound visit. The Reds had just intentionally walked Enrique Hernandez with first base open, electing to face Verdugo. Roberts and Verdugo discussed the situation. Verdugo oozed confidence.
“I told him, ‘Doc, don’t worry, baby,’” Verdugo said. “I got you. I got you.”
Moments later, Verdugo was standing at second base after splitting the left-center field gap for a two-run double. Dodger Stadium roared. Verdugo held his arms out in celebration. He looked and pointed at Roberts. The manager pointed back. He got him.
“I was like, ‘Yup. Mmm. Let’s goooo!’” Verdugo said.
After the game, Verdugo said he considered the Reds’ decision to intentionally walk Hernandez a sound baseball move but a slap in the face. The episode was an example of Verdugo making his presence felt before and after he showcases his well-rounded skill set between the lines. He’s lively and light-hearted. He dances. He speaks his mind. He warns everyone, “Don’t let the kid get hot!" Teammates laugh, go with it, and egg him on. Roberts said he finds Verdugo genuine and refreshing. Veteran third baseman Justin Turner calls his relentless energy and swagger entertaining.
But the front office had concerns before this season about Verdugo's maturity level, something Verdugo recognized and acknowledged. He said he tried toning down his personality during his brief stints in the majors the past two seasons to fit in. He was more mellow. Calmer. Breaking spring training with the team for the first time, he believes, has allowed his peers to understand him better and given him greater confidence to be himself.
“He’s a young guy who brings a lot of energy to the field every day,” Turner said. “And he’s a guy you kind of just got to nudge him in the right direction and sit back and enjoy the show that he puts on.” (Jorge Castillo - Apr 22, 2019)
Verdugo’s shows at Dodger Stadium open with his walk-up song, Vicente Fernández’s “Volver Volver.” It elicits a crescendo from the crowd before every at-bat, whatever the score, whatever the inning. The track is an ode to his heritage and his father, Joseph, whose love for Mexican music ensured it was included in Verdugo’s childhood soundtrack growing up in Tucson. Joseph would play it when he cleaned the house and picked up his son school.
The music became embedded in Verdugo’s identity. He was born and raised in Arizona but played for Mexico in the 2017 World Baseball Classic. He said his father and siblings speak Spanish, but he doesn’t. He wants to learn. He hopes to pick up the language from teammates — though he noted Julio Urias messes with him too much — before hiring a tutor at some point.
“I would just say I’m proud to be Mexican,” Verdugo said. “My dad’s Mexican. My mom’s white, so I’m half. . . . It’s kind of made me feel at home. I don’t hide who I am. I know I can’t speak Spanish. I know all that. Just because you can’t speak Spanish don’t mean you’re not Mexican, doesn’t mean you should hold back or not be involved with stuff.
The song has helped Verdugo become an instant fan favorite. His performance on the field has only catapulted his popularity. He exhibited his arm strength throwing out Hernan Perez at home from left field with a 98.4-mph one-hopper to end the eighth inning in the Dodgers’ win over the Brewers. Verdugo jogged off the field, his thick gold chains ricocheting off his chest, yelling to no one in particular.
“Hopefully, in the future, they’ll learn from it,” Verdugo said after the game of opponents wanting to test his arm.
At the plate, he’s batting .333 with three home runs, 13 runs batted in and a .986 on-base-plus-slugging percentage in 53 plate appearances. The success has come in a foreign role. Top prospects usually don’t arrive in the majors to find a bench role waiting for them. But Verdugo, who batted .321 the last two seasons with triple-A Oklahoma City, is the Dodgers’ fourth outfielder. He’s appeared in 23 of the Dodgers’ 24 games, but made just six starts.
“He’s exceeding everyone’s expectations,” Turner said. “Not that no one thought he couldn’t hit .300, .350, or whatever, and play good defense. We all knew that. But to do it in the role he’s in and be mature enough to handle it and take advantage of his opportunities, I think it’s something we’re all really proud of.”
While he’s become a weapon off the bench, going 4 for 10 as a pinch hitter, Verdugo has delivered, above all, in clutch situations. With runners on base, he’s 10 for 28. With runners in scoring position, he’s six for 13. With runners in scoring position and two outs, he’s five for nine with three doubles. He produced one of those doubles last Tuesday against Duke. It was Verdugo’s third hit of the game. He finished with three RBIs. He couldn’t conceal his fiery delight at second base.
“It’s good,” Verdugo said, “to have a little flavor.” (Jorge Castillo - Apr 22, 2019)
Alex was wearing pink spikes on Mother's Day 2019 personalized to pay tribute to his mom. He also had a nice shiny gift wrapped and ready to give her for Mother’s Day, with much bigger future plans if his career and salary continue the current uptrend.
Verdugo said that’s the least he can do for a mother that also served as the family breadwinner and his career advisor.
“She’s the reason why I’m here, taking care of all of us on her salary alone,” he said. “She paid for my baseball lessons. Baseball lessons, mental lessons about the mindset and strategies of baseball. She would find me the best instructors. We would drive from Tucson to Phoenix every weekend to play for a travel team based out of Phoenix, waking up at 4:30 in the morning. They made a lot of sacrifice for me and I’m forever grateful. My goal is to look out for my family for everything they’ve done for me.” (Gurnick - mlb.com - 5/12/19)
2019 Season: Verdugo, who ended up missing the final two months of the season due to a back injury. However, he showed great promise before the injury, so having him back at 100 percent next season could potentially be the missing link the Dodgers desperately needed in the 2019 playoffs.
Over 106 games, Verdugo had 101 hits and drove in 44 runs, while scoring 43 of his own. He hit 22 doubles, two triples, and 12 home runs, showing a knack for extra-base hits He was also a part of the rookie walk-off three-peat, as he hit the second of the three home runs on back-to-back-to-back days on June 22 against the Rockies. He ended the season with a .294 batting average, but there’s no telling what he might have done in September and into October for the playoffs.
Jan 3, 2020: One of the subplots to this offseason for the Dodgers is what to make of Alex Verdugo. At the Children’s Holiday Party at Dodger Stadium, the outfielder said his “goal” is to be ready for Opening Day, certainly leaving open the possibility that he won’t. He suffered a back/oblique/core injury that cost him the final two months of the regular season and the Dodgers’ National League Division Series loss to the Nationals.
Verdugo went on to say that as he continues to rehab, he has not resumed any baseball activities. Maybe that’s why the Dodgers haven’t dealt Verdugo or Joc Pederson from a position where the Dodgers have a surplus. Club officials say there is no concern with the 23-year-old’s health long-term, but initially nobody thought his injury was this serious.
“I think anybody that’s had something wrong with your back would understand,” Verdugo said. “Any activity you do, your back helps a lot. It’s a lot of frustration, but all I can do is stay positive. I’m going in the right direction. My goal is going to be starting Opening Day. We’ll just see how the days and weeks go and how I recover.”
The Dodgers have been vague about Verdugo’s specific diagnosis, which has included lower back soreness and a right oblique strain. Manager Dave Roberts said Verdugo first felt back discomfort after playing on the artificial surface at Tropicana Field against the Rays in late May. He was batting .311 with an .869 OPS at the time, having replaced the injured Pollock in center field.
He continued to play through the discomfort, but his production dropped off noticeably from mid-July on, when he finished 11-for-53 (.208) with one home run and one RBI before going on the injured list on Aug. 6 with what was listed as a right oblique strain. After rehabbing in Arizona, Verdugo seemed to be nearing a return when he suffered a setback during a Minor League rehab assignment with Ogden.
“Rehab is going good,” Verdugo said. “It’s just really about stacking together really good days. Keep testing it, incorporating more workouts in my routine. It’s about how I recover and come back the next day. If I’m sore, what am I feeling? We’re on a good pace right now with what we’re trying to do.” (K Gurnick - MLB.com - Jan 3, 2020)
Spring Training 2020: Verdugo saw it as a chance to put his own spin on things, to stand out from the crowd.
As the blue-chip return in the Mookie Betts trade, Verdugo will have many eyes on him this season. Slotted to take the beloved Betts’ place in the outfield after the Feb. 10 swap with the Dodgers, the 23-year-old has some big shoes to fill.
And now, Verdugo has an equally big number on his back. He recently switched from his club-assigned No. 12 to become the first player to wear No. 99 in Red Sox history.
“I looked through the roster,” Verdugo said, “and that was the one that kind of stood out the most to me.
“It’s just a number, but I think it doesn’t look too bad.”
There was a little more to it than that, though. The talented outfielder wore No. 27 during his Dodgers tenure, but those digits were retired by the Red Sox in 2000 to honor Hall of Famer Carlton Fisk. Boston, in turn, issued Verdugo No. 12, a solid consolation prize and a strong number worn by Hall of Famers Roberto Alomar and Wade Boggs.
That was precisely why Verdugo didn’t like it.
“I didn’t want to wear a number that a player had just previously worn, either,” Verdugo said. (Brock Holt wore No. 12 for Boston for the past seven seasons.) “This is kind of a little bit unique. It’s not like everybody’s number, so it just stands out a little bit more.” ( Dawn Klemish - Feb. 18, 2020)
June 2014: The Dodgers selected Alex in the second round, out of Sahuaro High School in Tucson, AZ. The club drafted him as an outfielder, even though Verdugo was viewed by many clubs as a lefthanded pitcher. And Verdugo signed for $914,600, via scout Dustin Yount. (Gurnick - mlb.com - 6/5/14) (Editor's note: In 2013, Yount signed another Arizona high school outfielder, Cody Bellinger.)
Feb 9, 2020: In a three-team blockbuster trade, the Red Sox got OF Alex Verdugo, SS Jeter Downs and C Connnor Wong from the Dodgers. The Dodgers get OF Mookie Betts, LHP David Price and cash from the Red Sox; and from the Twins RHP Brusder Graterol, OF Luke Raley, and the Twins' 67th pick from the 2020 draft. The Twins get RHP Kenta Maeda, a minor leaguer, and cash from the Dodgers.
- March 10, 2020: Alex signed a one-year contract with the Red Sox for $601,500.