Within the last installment of this collection, we take a look at the 2 groups with the perfect common season data in baseball final yr. Each groups are loaded with expertise, so it takes particular expertise to be a breakout candidate.
In Los Angeles, Alex Verdugo may simply squeeze his method right into a crowded outfield, and in Cleveland, Francisco Mejia goes to catch some consideration, even when he has to study a brand new place to do it.
Right here’s a better take a look at each:
Dodgers: Alex Verdugo, OF
2017 stats: .174/.240/.304, 23 AB, 1 HR, zero 2B, four Okay, 2 BB
The Dodgers aren’t sporting a roster that may depart a number of room for anybody new to crack the depth chart, however Verdugo could be the man to do it. The 21-yr-previous was ok as a pitcher and hitter as an newbie to warrant questions on how he can be drafted, however to date Verdugo has rewarded the Dodgers’ choice to pick him as a batter.
The 2014 second rounder has mashed at each degree, and if given the chance it’s affordable to anticipate that he’ll do the identical in the majors. Final season, Verdugo had solely a handful of plate appearances, and he might not have impressed in that stretch, however his mature strategy and above-common hit software will make for a top quality main league hitter.
Verdugo’s first look in the majors was temporary, coming on the finish of the season when rosters expanded. He had solely 4 hits, however a type of — a pinch-hit solo blast towards the Rockies on Sept. 10 — confirmed a sparkle of the promise that Verdugo holds.
Why he could escape: Regardless that Verdugo didn’t do loads of hitting in his 23 at-bats with the Dodgers final season, there’s each indication that he’ll if given higher alternative. Verdugo has the beforehand talked about above-common hit software and the potential for energy, although it has not translated to in-recreation simply but. Even when it doesn’t, Verdugo’s plate strategy belies his years and professional expertise.
In his brief stint final season, Verdugo struck out solely sixteen % of the time, however this was up considerably from his traditional fee in the minor leagues. Previous to being recalled to the majors, Verdugo was putting out solely 10 % of the time in Triple-A. Although the pattern is small, his tendency to swing outdoors the zone is slight, and when he does enterprise past the strike zone he makes common contact. It will take greater than 15 video games to point out whether or not he can do that persistently, in fact, however his low strikeout price and comparatively excessive stroll price in the minors point out that Verdugo can keep his polished strategy over the long run.
With the glove, Verdugo has a robust arm and has proven that he can deal with all three outfield spots, although proper and middle are extra pure matches. That presents an issue, with Chris Taylor — who had one thing of a breakout of his personal final season — blocking the best way in middle, and Yasiel Puig doing the identical in proper. However regardless, Verdugo’s potential with the bat is legit, so Dave Roberts goes to seek out Cubs, Purple Pirates, Mariners thirteen AB, zero HR, zero 2B, three Okay, 1 BB
The eleventh-ranked prospect on MLB’s record and the highest-ranked catching prospect in baseball, Mejia jumped from Double-A Akron to the majors final season. In September, he obtained the decision, however with Yan Gomes and Roberto Perez in entrance of him Mejia didn’t get a lot alternative to showcase his expertise with the bat. He had solely two hits, each singles. Nevertheless, Mejia is certainly the actual deal, and his minor league monitor report speaks for itself.
Mejia gained’t flip 23 till almost the top of the 2018 season, so there’s loads of time for him to develop. And with the aforementioned logjam at catcher, he may begin at Triple-A this yr, however there’s a touch of a risk that Mejia may discover a approach to drive himself into the lineup at one other place. After his debut final yr, Mejia went to the Arizona Fall League, the place he hung out at third base, a place that’s one thing of a query mark for the Indians with Michael Brantley’s damage probably shuffling Jason Kipnis and Jose Ramirez to totally different spots on protection.
However even with the roadblock on the depth chart at catcher, Mejia may merely be ok to pressure Terry Francona’s hand sooner or later through the season, even when it’s not opening day. Ultimately, Mejia goes to make himself a presence in the Indians lineup.
Why he could escape: Don’t let Mejia’s paltry efficiency with the bat final September idiot you: He has the unmistakable capacity to hit, and hit properly. As a minor leaguer, Mejia has a .293 profession common, and it’s value noting that in his main league tenure Mejia was penciled into the lineup as a starter solely as soon as. That signifies that 10 of his 14 at-bats got here as a pinch hitter, an unenviable place for a 22-yr-previous nonetheless recent out of the Japanese League.
Nonetheless, when Mejia’s time does come, he’s going to tear the duvet off the ball. He’s a little bit of a free swinger, however he has persistently hit the ball to all fields as a minor leaguer. And in his small pattern final season, Mejia’s common exit velocity was about 7 mph above the MLB common. Earlier than reaching the majors, Mejia confirmed little propensity to strike out, and he hit additional base hits in bunches whereas in the Indians’ farm system, one thing that’s of nice worth coming out of your workforce’s backstop.
Defensively, Mejia continues to be a little bit of a query mark, however he has a showstopper for an arm, so whether or not he sticks at catcher or this scorching nook experiment goes additional, he’s going to point out it off. His bat is prepared regardless of being a bit aggressive, so look for Mejia to do much more than simply pinch hit this season.