While many players have excelled across the showcase circuit this summer, Alex Verdugo may have seen his draft stock rise the most of all. The LHP/OF prospect from Tucson, Arizona displayed electric stuff on the mound and the potential for a plus hit tool at the dish, starring in events like the Perfect Game National Showcase, Area Code Games, and Under Armour All American Game.
I had a chance to watch Verdugo up close earlier this summer during the Perfect Game 18U World Wood Bat Championships in Marietta, Georgia. Verdugo’s Chi Town Cream team was playing the 18U 643 DP Cougars and it was an excellent stage for him to showcase his ability against quality amateur completion. The southpaw did not disappoint, striking out 14 over 7 innings, only allowing an unearned run to score on a 7th inning suicide squeeze. The only hit Verdugo surrendered was a dribbling ground ball that snuck through the middle of the infield.
Showing guts and competitiveness, he almost single-handedly willed his team to victory. Offensively, Verdugo delivered one of his team’s few hits in the game, going 1 for 2, while showing plus bat speed. Here are my observations and grades on one of the top 2014 prep prospects below:
At 6’1’’, 190 pounds Verdugo is a solidly built athletic prospect. He should gain strength as he gets older, but his body is mature and advanced for a prep player. He has a strong lower half, which he uses to create power at the plate and on the mound. Despite being only 6’1’’, he could easily gain 15-20 pounds in the coming years.
Both in the outfield and on the mound, Verdugo’s athleticism stands out. His motion is fluid and powerful, he fields his position off the mound well, and moves decently in the outfield. He only ran a 6.85 60-yard dash at the Perfect Game National Showcase, however, so it’s hard to see speed really being a valuable tool for him.
Despite this, his body control and ability to move in space stands out. In the game against 643 this summer, he made an unbelievable play on a suicide squeeze in the top of the 7th inning. The batter laid down a bunt to the first base line, but Verdugo was able to leap off the mound, field the ball smoothly, and fire a dart to home in time to beat the runner. Unfortunately, his catcher dropped the ball, but the mere fact he got the ball there in time was a prime showcase of his control and coordination.
Verdugo’s mechanics are simple but powerful. He has some drop and drive in him to generate extra power, but not too much where he can no longer get on top of the baseball. He pitches from a three-quarters arm slot, making his fastball-slider combination even more difficult for left-handed hitters to pick up. His arm action is loose, clean, quick, and efficient.
Typical of a lot of left-handers, at times he falls off the third base side. Also he can sometimes fly open with his front side forcing him to leave fastballs up in the zone. Both of these flaws are correctable, though, and should be minimized or fixed with more reps at higher levels.
In the game I saw this summer, Verdugo’s fastball sat in the 89-91 mph range, and he was able to maintain his velocity deep into the game. His fastball has explosive life and is extremely difficult for batters to pick up. The 643 team I saw him face had multiple hitters going on to play at Southern Conference or Big South Conference schools, and none of them were able to take good swings at it. I’m a firm believer that this life was what allowed Verdugo to succeed at other showcase events throughout the summer. He also showed more velocity at events like the UA All American Game and the Perfect Game World Series, where he sat in the 91-93 mph range. With his arm action and added muscle he should be able to sit between 92-94 mph consistently in the future.
Current Grade: 50
Future Grade: 60
Verdugo’s best pitch is his slider. Even though he throws from a three-quarters arm slot he is able to get on top of the pitch and create sharp down late movement. The slider has tight spin and he has the ability to throw it to both lefties and righties. It has the potential to be a plus strikeout pitch at the next level. He generally throws it around 79 mph.
Current Grade: 60
Future Grade: 70
Trying to speculate how Verdugo will pan out, as a pitcher is a tricky call. If he can boost his fastball velocity slightly, with its electric life, he would have a second above average pitch alongside his slider. Throw in the possibility of him developing an average change up or slower curveball and he could project as a Major League starter. He did flash a change up at the Perfect Game National Showcase and the scout reviewing him believed the pitch could be effective. It’s likely he hasn’t had to use a changeup at the high school level to be effective, which is why he chooses not to show it often. If he can’t develop that third pitch, however, he would likely be a bullpen guy, where his competitiveness and intensity would fit in perfectly. There aren’t too many left-handed closers but Verdugo could fit the profile.
Verdugo hits with a narrow slightly open stance, toe tap trigger, and low hand set. He has a loose swing and does a good job of being quick to the ball. He has a slight uppercut, and tries to drive to each pitch. He generates a lot of his pop with great hip rotation and an efficient weight transfer. He already has above average bat speed
He sees the ball deep and his short, efficient swing allows him to square balls up regularly. According to Baseball America he showed a “patient approach” and “hit well in games” at the Area Code Games. This combined with his impressive performance at the UA All American Game (National Team MVP), makes me believe his hit tool can be above average at the next level.
With the lift in his swing though he has to make sure to focus on driving through the baseball. In his batting practice video from the Area Code Games you can see him drop his shoulder occasionally, accentuating his uppercut and leading to pop ups. You can also see that he sometimes moves his front foot so much he can end up off balance at times.
Verdugo might not have light tower power but he does have the ability to consistently drive the baseball to all fields. He showed this in the UA All-American Game with his double to left. The lift in his swing allows him to put balls in the air too, and as he gets older he should develop legitimate power. I see him potentially becoming a guy good for 25 home runs per year .
Arm Strength/Outfield Defense:
Verdugo was clocked from the outfield at 96 mph at the Perfect Game National Showcase this summer, showing his already plus arm strength. To go along with this, he has smooth fielding actions and the plus athleticism we already talked above. While, I don’t think he has the speed for center field, I think he can be a plus defender in right.
Position Player Role:
I see Verdugo as a potential everyday Major League outfielder. He has the potential to be a plus defender as a corner outfielder, hit between .270 and .300, and hit between 15 and 25 home runs.
Verdugo could go in the late first round/supplemental round and should at least be selected in the first five rounds. He’s a great competitor and athlete with the potential to be a real contributor at the major league level. He’s shown he can compete against the best in the nation on the showcase circuit this summer and really raised a few eyebrows. His versatility as both a position player and a pitcher will make him even more attractive, since if one doesn’t work out he could always try the other.
*All grades are on the 20-80 scale