Walker Buehler Zooms To Los Angeles
Best Player: OF Alex Verdugo
One of the youngest position players in the the Triple-A Pacific Coast League this season, 21-year-old Verdugo also was one of its best.
The 2014 second-rounder out of high school batted .314/.389/.436 with six home runs in 117 games at Oklahoma City. He earned a September callup to the majors, where he had a chance to play his way onto the postseason roster.
"Alex has really grown this year,” farm director Gabe Kapler, said. "His work on the field speaks for itself. He's a strong athlete who will contribute to any team he's on, in large part due to his gritty competitiveness between the lines. He's grown as a man as well, and he has improved his presence in the clubhouse. We are excited to see him in LA to finish the season.” Best Pitcher: RHP Walker Buehler
Buehler entered the season with just five professional innings under his belt, having spent most of the 18 months following his selection in the first round of the 2015 draft recovering from Tommy John surgery.
Once the 23-year-old Vanderbilt product got on the field, his potential became tangible. Buehler rose from high Class A Rancho Cucamonga to a September audition in the big leagues with an electric pitch mix and exceptional control. He made 28 minor league appearances (19 starts) and recorded a 3.35 ERA with 12.7 strikeouts and 3.1 walks per nine innings.
"His stuff plays,” Dodgers manager Dave Roberts said of Buehler, who logged 88.2 minor league innings and held batters to a .205 average. "He’s ultra-ultra-competitive and ultra-talented.”
Keep An Eye On: C Keibert Ruiz
The Dodgers have used high draft picks on college catchers each of the past two years, taking first-rounder Will Smith out of Louisville in 2016 and third-rounder Connor Wong out of Houston this year.
At the same time, a 19-year-old catcher has been drawing attention. Venezuelan Keibert Ruiz signed with the Dodgers for $140,000 on his 16th birthday in 2014 and this season hit .316/.361/.452 with eight home runs in 101 games at low Class A Great Lakes and high Class A Rancho Cucamonga. The Dodgers selected him as their minor league position player of the year.
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"Keibert has been nothing short of phenomenal this year,” Kapler said. "He has dominated his plate appearances even as a teenager. His routines, pre-game prep and leadership of the pitching staff has grown every day. He's impressed our staff with his openness and commitment to his craft. We expect great things from Keibert and look forward to seeing what comes next for him.”