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Alex Verdugo Keeps Improving At Triple-A

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BEST PLAYER

At age 22, outfielder Alex Verdugo has already had a taste of the big leagues. In almost any other organization, he would be getting more than a taste. But the Dodgers’ depth has Verdugo refining his skills at Triple-A Oklahoma City for a second season.

"To Alex’s credit, coming up here, getting a taste, being up here for a little while then going back down—some guys can take a step backwards and kind of mope,” farm directo Brandon Gomes said. "He just kept playing.”

And he has kept playing at a high level. Verdugo hit .351/.396/.518 through 56 games while hitting seven home runs, which was one more than he hit in 2017 in twice as many games.

"I think what’s most impressive with Alex is he’s starting to understand when to take his shot at the plate and go for it a little bit,” Gomes said. "We know the bat-to-ball skills are elite . . . I think that’s been the most impressive part—holding the elite control of the strike zone and beginning to impact the baseball more.”

BIGGEST LEAP FORWARD

When 22-year-old lefthander Caleb Ferguson made his big league debut in early June, Dodgers manager Dave Roberts had never seen him pitch before, not even in spring training.

The 21-year-old had spent all of last season at high Class A Rancho Cucamonga, where he recorded a 2.87 ERA with 140 strikeouts in 122 innings, and started this season at Double-A Tulsa—and that’s where he expected to spend his summer.

It was certainly a fast rise for a pitcher who had Tommy John surgery as a high school senior, was drafted in the 35th round by the Dodgers and was persuaded to forego college.

"When I came on board in 2016 at instructional league, Ferg had just gotten done at Low-A, coming off TJ,” Gomes recalled. "It was more of, ‘This guy kind of knows how to pitch. There’s some physicality that needs to be addressed. He’s a good pitcher.’ But we didn’t really know what we had.”

Gomes said Ferguson’s leap forward since then has involved more sustainable velocity, a better understanding of his delivery and the ability to be more of a "carry-type of pitcher” with his fastball at the top of the zone.

Injuries in the Dodgers’ rotation led to the call for Ferguson in early June, but he has shown well enough to stick around to work as long man in the bullpen.

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