Los Angeles Dodgers: Alex Verdugo will be the biggest difference-maker

The Los Angeles Dodgers have not yet made any big acquisitions but will see a big improvement on the team from second-year outfielder, Alex Verdugo.

The only addition that the Los Angeles Dodgers have made this winter has been reliever Blake Treinen. After falling short in the NLDS, despite winning 106 games, fans have been hoping for that big move that could shake things up in Los Angeles.

That has not yet happened and now the worry is that the Dodgers will be complacent and be worse in 2020 than they were in 2019, which is definitely a possibility. It is understandable to think that the Dodgers are getting worse by staying static because everyone else is getting better.

However, the team is going to get some internal improvements that last year did not have. Minor League Player of the Year Gavin Lux will undoubtedly make an impact and the young trio of Julio Urias, Dustin May and Tony Gonsolin are all highly touted and will only improve from last season.

Will Smith will have an offseason of work under his belt and could pick up where he left off in what was a mind-boggling pace. Walker Buehler is going to be even better and even Corey Seager should improve. Seager had a down year last season that was still pretty impressive.

Out of everyone, though, the one player that will make the biggest leaps and will be much more important to the Los Angeles Dodgers than we currently realize is Alex Verdugo. Verdugo quickly became a fan-favorite last season with his production and his swagger and will be the difference between the 2019 Dodgers and the 2020 Dodgers.

The Dodgers missed Verdugo at the end of the season and in the playoffs and his presence undoubtedly would have had an impact. We might not have realized it while he was healthy, but Verdugo was a huge component to this Dodgers’ offense.

First of all, he is someone who has great gap-to-gap power and gets on base at a good clip. He might not hit 30 home runs, but he can easily hit .300 with 20 home runs and 30 doubles.

Having Verdugo in the lineup would have undoubtedly helped the Dodgers in the postseason as the rookie outfielder hit .286 with runners in scoring position during the regular season. While that number is not mind-boggling, it is great for a rookie and if he naturally progresses then he will likely be a .300 hitter with runners in scoring position in 2019.

More importantly is the fact that Verdugo does not need to be platooned. Despite being a left-handed hitter, Verdugo thrives against both hands. In fact, he hit left-handed pitching better last season and had the 22nd best batting average (.327) among hitters with at least 100 plate appearances against southpaws.

He was the best left-handed hitter in the Major Leagues against southpaws, as a rookie. It is not like it is a fluke stat, either, as Verdugo hit .368 against southpaws in the minor leagues in 2018.

Verdugo’s .281 batting average against right-handed pitching is not too shabby either and that will likely get better in 2020 as well. With these splits, Verdugo is playing himself into two different platoons at two different positions, making himself essentially an everyday player.

He can start over Joc Pederson when the Dodgers face a southpaw with A.J. Pollock (who slugs lefties as well) in left field and then start over Pollock with Pederson in left field against right-handers.

He is a consistent presence at the plate that can use all parts of the field and does not really have a weakness in terms of pitching hands — these are the kind of players that make a difference when every single pitch starts to matter in October.

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It also helps that he is a great fielder with an above-average arm. Alex Verdugo is not just going to be great for the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2020, he is going to emerge as a potential all-star so long that he makes the natural progressions of a player in year two.