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Verdugo remains a fantastically gifted hitter who added strength and began picking out better pitches to drive this season to increase his power output. His batting average and slugging percentage were on pace to be career highs in full-season ball, and his improvement was apparent in an early-season callup to Los Angeles. Defensively Verdugo plays a respectable center field, but inconsistent routes have most evaluators projecting him to a corner, where his cannon arm will be a potential game-changer. Despite pronouncements of increased maturity, Verdugo’s effort level and concentration on the field still receive negative reviews. The Dodgers acknowledge the criticisms but believe Verdugo is improving.
Ruiz’s confidence and ability to handle a pitching staff have taken huge steps forward this season. He’s improved his focus to become an above-average receiver on a day-to-day basis as opposed to just his best days, and he’s cleaned up his footwork and transfer to consistently show an average, accurate arm and increase his caught stealing rate from 22 to 32 percent. Ruiz’s focus on defense has sapped his offense, but he rarely strikes out and is holding his own at Double-A given his age and positional demands.
Major advancements to his pitch recognition and plate discipline have allowed Diaz to blossom even further after a breakout 2017. Diaz has posted more walks than strikeouts for the first time in his U.S. career, and is on pace to set career highs in all three slash line categories. Diaz’s outfield defense has leapt forward as well. He has taken over as the primary center fielder in Tulsa and shown the explosiveness and athleticism to stay there, while improving his communication and feel for the position.
Smith has split time between catcher and third base this season and shown well at both. He remains an above-average defender behind the plate with plus arm strength, and he’s looked like a natural at the hot corner despite a few errors as he learns the position. Offensively Smith is finding the balance between his natural contact-oriented swing and the lofted, launch-angle swing the Dodgers implemented last year, with an adjustment to get ready a tick earlier unlocking stunning power.
Lux bulked up to 195 pounds without losing any flexibility, allowing him to increase his power while maintaining the foot speed and range to stay in the middle infield. Lux has already surpassed his career highs in doubles and home runs, and is consistently pulling the ball in the air with authority with a retooled swing. Defensively Lux is showing the range, hands and arm strength to project as a solid-average defender at shortstop, but issues with his footwork and throwing accuracy have most projecting him to second base, where his improved bat profiles.
Santana jumped from Double-A to Triple-A to the majors in two months before a rotator cuff strain put him on the 60-day disabled list. His sinker/slider combination was already excellent, and the improvement of his changeup sent him skyrocketing. Santana’s control also got better after he moved from the third base to first base of the rubber to improve his direction to the plate. He still projects as a reliever for some, but his changeup development and control strides give him a better chance to remain a starter.
May has begun to fill out and add velocity, jumping from 89-92 mph on his fastball last year to 93-96 mph with heavy sink this year. His slider has morphed into a power curveball in the low 80s that projects to be above-average, and six weeks ago he began throwing a cutter to help neutralize lefthanders. May increased his fastball usage from about 55 percent per game early in the season to 70 percent recently, the impetus behind a sharp uptick in his performance since mid-June.
The holes in Peters’ swing have been exposed as expected at Double-A, putting him on pace for nearly 200 strikeouts. However, evaluators remain bullish on Peters because of raw power they grade as an 80 on the 20-to-80 scouting scale and his improved outfield defense. Peters remains a heavy runner, but his long strides and athleticism allow him to cover the requisite ground in center field as well as right. He’s working a lot of deep counts, so there is a sense he can cut his strikeouts if he becomes more aggressive earlier in his at-bats.
White missed the first month due to general soreness and struggled upon his return, but since June started has begun to rediscover his form. After initially showing decreased velocities, White is back to sitting 92-95 mph with a power upper-80s slider and an effective 12-to-6 curveball. The Dodgers made adjustments to White’s delivery and pace to help get him get his best stuff back, and he had a strong June (3.65 ERA) but took a step back in July.
A groin strain nagged Alvarez through the early part of the season and depressed both his velocity and control before he was placed on the disabled list on May 6. Alvarez looked excellent in spring training, sitting 94-98 mph on his fastball and showing above-average to plus on both his slider and curveball, but the injury prevented him from showing that when he got out to Tulsa. He is currently rehabbing at the Dodgers complex in Arizona.
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