Verdugo 2023

Smiling Joe Hesketh

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Spinning this off from another thread.

Where does Alex Verdugo fit into the club's plans for 2023? At 26 years old he should be considered to still be in the prime of his career, but what does his prime actually look like?

One of the big issues this year for the club was the lack of power from the OF positions. Verdugo was the only player to play full time in the OF in 2022 due to injuries and ineffectiveness and trades. He put up this line:

644 PA, .280/.328/.405/.732, good for a 102 OPS+. 39 2B, 11 HR.

His OPS+ has declined in 3 straight seasons: 123, 107, 102. His OPS itself has gone from .844 to .777 to .732.

His WAR has gone from 3.0 to 2.1 to 2.2 to 1.2.

His defense seems to have settled in as average or maybe a touch below in LF, 0 BDFS this year, usually between 4 and 7 below average every year for him. In RF his defensive figures are slightly worse.

So his trends aren't what one would expect from a 26 year old young player. On the plus side he seems to have avoided the injury bug over the past three years, he plays hard every day, he's a positive influence around the team and seems to be somewhat emerging as a team leader.

He is also cheap as he earned 3.5 million this year and is arb-eligible for 2023.

So what should the Sox do with him? Should they seek to improve his position via trade? Keep him in LF and see if he improves in his age 27 season? Move him to RF and live with below average defense like they did with Renfroe?

Talk to me.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Well, they don’t have any OF in the system knocking on the door quite yet (although Rafaela is certainly pretty close), and they need to add a corner OF as is…so I think they probably keep Verdugo another year and find a power bat to play either RF or LF. If you move him, you just open up another hole. I guess if you could trade him for an area of need but I think it’s hard to find a great match.
 

jmcc5400

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I'd plug him into left field and let him go. I doubt he'll be sub-.700 OPS at Fenway again and a quick look at his season suggests he was more or less himself from June 1st on. He should not see RF at Fenway, however.
 

BaseballJones

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Verdugo is a solid major league player. That's it. Not an all-star (though it wouldn't be shocking if he somehow makes an all-star team at some point in his career). But not bad either. His career bWAR/162 games is 2.7, which is good, but not great.

Nothing wrong with having good, not great, players on your team. Though...you DO need some great players too. So if Verdugo is considered to be one of their best players, that's a problem. But if they have 5-6 other position guys that are better than him, then he'd fit in nicely and the Sox would be in good shape.
 

mikcou

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I think he is who he is at this point - the COVID shortened 2020 season (only ~200 PAs) is a clear outlier - hes a slightly above average bat (100-110 OPS+) who is average defensively in LF.

Hes cheap enough still that it makes sense to give him the LF spot for the next year or two and focus the money on finding a well above average starter in RF. Maybe he finally taps into his raw power that made him a top 30ish prospect and becomes a 3 win player (kinda doubt it); if not, so be it.
 

Smiling Joe Hesketh

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IIRC a starting player's WAR is considered by B-Ref to be around 2.1 Reserve players are considered to have WAR between 0.0 and 2.

Verdugo's 1.2 this year won't cut it for a starting fulltime player. To be a valuable contributor in that role he must improve that.
 

joe dokes

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Cora spoke specifically about him (confirming something I had thought from time to time. He was bigger):
Alex Verdugo tops Alex Cora’s list of Red Sox players who can make a leap next season - The Boston Globe

“Yeah, he hit for average,” Cora said before the Red Sox’ beat the Rays, 6-3, in the final game of the season Wednesday. “But he can be a lot better base-running wise and defensively. He’s getting to that area in his career, where [you ask] who is he going to be?”
---------
Verdugo’s not a burner on the bases but still average, ranking in the 40th-50th percentile in sprint speed for most of his career. This year, he was in the 38th percentile, well below average. Cora blamed that on Verdugo battling injury for much of this year.


“But also,” Cora said, “he put on some weight. Not in a bad way. He got bigger to hit for more extra-base hits, and I think it hurt him in other aspects of his game.”
 

E5 Yaz

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He's cheap enough still that it makes sense to give him the LF spot for the next year or two and focus the money on finding a well above average starter in RF.
This is the key point. He's a fine auxiliary piece, as a left fielder, at a time where there are far more pressing upgrades needed across the roster.
 

The Gray Eagle

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As mentioned above, we already need to add a corner outfielder so it'd be surprising to see them trade Verdugo.

But Cora was really publicly blunt about what Verdugo needs to improve on:
https://www.bostonglobe.com/2022/10/05/sports/alex-verdugo-tops-alex-coras-list-red-sox-players-who-can-make-leap-next-season/
When asked which player he wanted to see take another step in their development, he quickly answered: Alex Verdugo.
“Yeah, he hit for average,” Cora said before the Red Sox’ beat the Rays, 6-3, in the final game of the season Wednesday. “But he can be a lot better base-running wise and defensively. He’s getting to that area in his career, where [you ask] who is he going to be?”

Verdugo, who will turn 27 early next season, finished the year hitting .280/.328/.405 with 11 home runs and a .733 OPS. But he was minus-4 in defensive runs saved. On the bases, Verdugo’s decision-making can sometimes prove costly. In the Sox’ July 12 matchup with the Rays, the Sox were trailing by a run in the seventh inning but were threatening with two on and no outs. Yet Verdugo, the runner at third, was thrown out going back to the bag by catcher Francisco Mejia.

Verdugo’s not a burner on the bases but still average, ranking in the 40th-50th percentile in sprint speed for most of his career. This year, he was in the 38th percentile, well below average. Cora blamed that on Verdugo battling injury for much of this year.

“But also,” Cora said, “he put on some weight. Not in a bad way. He got bigger to hit for more extra-base hits, and I think it hurt him in other aspects of his game.”

Regardless, Verdugo could be better at running out ground balls, something he did consistently during the 2020 season.

To his credit, Verdugo was the Sox’ most durable player this season, playing in 152 games (two more than Xander Bogaerts).
I think Cora is right on his take on Verdugo. He needs to try to get lighter and faster to improve defensively and on the bases, and his decision making needs to get better too.
 

Sin Duda

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I'm surprised no one mentioned this post. "Yeah, he hit for average, but he can be a lot better baserunning, defensively,” Cora said. “He’s getting to that area in his career that’s, ‘Who is he gonna be?"
 

joe dokes

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He plays hard, but he's never been a smart player on the field. The baserunning has always been exceptionally poor due to his decision-making.
His non-galaxy brain is part of the package that's unlikely to change. (I know others disagree; but I think "playing smart" is a skill no different than "running fast." Change will be marginal at best).
That said, with a 110 OPS+ and above average-to-above defense in LF, that's a fine piece. He was neither of those in 2022.
I think his best use is as a leadoff hitter.
 

mikcou

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His non-galaxy brain is part of the package that's unlikely to change. (I know others disagree; but I think "playing smart" is a skill no different than "running fast." Change will be marginal at best).
That said, with a 110 OPS+ and above average-to-above defense in LF, that's a fine piece. He was neither of those in 2022.
I think his best use is as a leadoff hitter.
I dont think there's particularly good evidence that hes an above average defender in LF. The metrics are a bit all over the place (UZR likes him, DRS thinks hes average, OAA has him as pretty bad). Average seems like a reasonable estimate and passes the eye test as well.
 

Van Everyman

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Personally, I put a bit more value on lefties who can hit LHP (.266 BA in 2022). Without looking at his spray charts, Verdugo also seemed to not be a pull-happy ground-it-to-second lefty either and go oppo pretty regularly.

Also, from a personality standpoint, Verdugo seems like the kind of guy every team needs a few of: upbeat, fun and a little wild -- but particularly this team if they are going to be cycling through some longtime leaders in the Sox clubhouse (JD, Eovaldi, etc.). Doogie at his best is a pretty valuable player for this team, I think.
 

moondog80

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They can't spend the money/prospects to upgrade every position; if the rest of the lineup is adequately improved, Verdugo will be perfectly cromulent in LF as a cheap option that allows them to spend bigger in other areas..
 

Monbonthbump

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I liked to watch him play and in my statistically impaired, early-dementia brain consider him potentially a Trot Nixon/ Mike Greenwell type of Red Sox outfielder.
 

Smiling Joe Hesketh

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I don't recall O'Leary having so many brain farts in the field or on the bases. Verdugo, as others have noted, is far more a Greenwell type. Or maybe Puig.

Bill James used to talk about "percentage players", guys who were exceptional at all the smaller aspects of the game like baserunning or instincts or decision-making. Mookie was incredible at that. Verdugo is incredibly poor at that. He partially makes up for it by always playing hard and backing up other OFers (like Duran during his immense brain fart) and giving full effort, but the mistakes have always been there and always will be there.
 

Steve Dillard

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They can't spend the money/prospects to upgrade every position; if the rest of the lineup is adequately improved, Verdugo will be perfectly cromulent in LF as a cheap option that allows them to spend bigger in other areas..
Which, as we saw with the Benintendi/Renfroe discussion, is far more valuable than can be imagined. Fungible used to be bad, until we saw that finding fungible can be hard.
 

jwbasham84

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I see no reason to get rid of Verdugo at this time. He fills a need for the team, OF (LF only please), and will still be relatively cheap. The new ball sapped some of his power, like everyone else, but an outfielder that hits .280 with a little pop that doesn't strike out a ton (13.4% last year and 15% over his career) is certainly a useful piece for this team. Like many others have said, we have so many holes to fill that it would seem silly to deal him and create another.

Those are just the numbers behind him. On the other side is his character. He is a fun-loving guy that gives his all for the team and fans. I really enjoy watching him play. Yes, he does dumb things more often than I want. But he is a player I can cheer for and be happy to see out there. He doesn't carry himself as an entitled athlete, more of a regular Joe or even our cousin from Boston...
 

chawson

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I'm not a big Verdugo guy, but one of the rosier possible career arcs for him from this point is Michael Brantley.

Brantley played in a different era, with a different ball and defensive positioning, but he put up decently valuable years at Verdugo's age without any power to speak of. Both have had elite swinging strike rates for their era but unlike most contact hitters, neither are noodle bats. In fact, their numbers at the same age are remarkably similar.

Age 25-26:
MB: .286/.340/.399 in 1220 PA | 7.6 BB%, 10.1 K% | 47.8 GB%, 29.3 FB%, 22.9 LD% | 3.4% Swinging strike rate (9.5% league average)
AV: .284/.339/.415 in 1248 PA | 7.5 BB%, 14.6 K% | 47.5 GB%, 30.9 FB%, 21.6 LD% | 6.8% Swinging strike rate (11.4% league average)

It was Brantley's next season, his age-27 season, that he put it all together, jumping from a 101 wRC+ to a 151 wRC+, good for a .327/.385/.506 slash line. Brantley did it by figuring out how to square up fastballs.

Verdugo crushes fastballs but he struggles with breaking pitches, though he was substantially better against sliders after the ASB (.115 wOBA vs. sliders pre-ASB; .336 wOBA vs. sliders wOBA post-ASB). It's possible he figures it out.
 
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Sandy Leon Trotsky

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I’m expecting his next 3 seasons to be his career best. Small- but noticeable improvement- defensively and on the base paths. I think we’ll see a more consistent .800 OPS hitter with 20HR’s, then a decline to what he is now for another 3.
Some team will sign him for his last season’s Sox production for an ass-ton and we’ll be bummed out and then happy some other team signed him for his decline
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Verdugo was the teams best outfielder, by far, this season. Could have been better, sure, but he seems like a weird guy to call out.
 

P'tucket rhymes with...

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He's certainly worth holding onto as long as he's cheap. A guy who can hit some and not look like Dr. Strangeglove in the field has some value, even if not as a starter.

Parenthetically, we should all be relieved that a newspaper writer who defines the 38th percentile as "well below average" went into newspaper writing rather than statistics.
 

Petagine in a Bottle

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Given his meager 1.2 WAR, that’s damming with faint praise indeed.
1.2 WAR was tied for 5th best offensive player on the team! Hell, they only have 8 1+ WAR players in total under contract for ‘23.

(they also had as many offensive players with negative WAR as they did positive. Which seems hard to do).
 

RG33

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Darren Bragg, another guy who couldn’t hit enough to play any position he could handle defensively.
I mean, he kind of feels like the guy that he kind of replaced:

.273/.353/.431/.782 with an OPS+ of 109 and 16 HRs per 162 avg. (Benetendi)

Vs

.286/.341/.431/.772 with an OPS+ of 107 and 14 HRs per 162 avg. (Verdugo)

Let’s hope he can make a series-clinching sliding catch in LF next year, and then we can trade him for a raw prospect with big power potential that we can all argue about in gamethreads!
 

nvalvo

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Weird year.

Verdugo began the season crushing deep flyballs for 350 foot outs, and had a big xwOBA-wOBA difference for awhile. As the year went on, it sort of looks like he got better results from worse contact, to the point that his xwOBA (.329) ended up only moderately above his wOBA (.319). His expected stats were worse in the second half, but his results were much better.

I do think he's a bit more valuable than his baseline statistics imply because he has pretty mild platoon and home away splits. It helps a roster to have a guy who's pretty decent in a lot of different contexts.
 
I agree with the general sentiment that Verdugo is far down the list of this team's problems. The Sox offense was 4th in the AL and 8th in MLB -- perfectly fine for a competitive team, and as others have mentioned Verdugo was far from the worst hitter on the team. So even if we're talking about offensive improvements there are holes that are more urgent to fill as well as lower hanging fruit to pick. Verdugo as a starter is very much acceptable for a competitive team, as long as he's a low tier starter. If he's one of your best starters then that's a big problem.

The Red Sox real problem this year was the pitching: 25th in MLB and second to last in the AL in runs allowed. The pitching staff must be improved or the Red Sox are going nowhere. Perhaps Verdugo gets moved for pitching. That's a plausible path I see for him to leave the team. But other than that scenario I think he sticks around and will hopefully either improve as he starts to sniff some actual earning potential or will tread water in the bottom half of the team's positional starters. Maybe Bloom sees a real steal somewhere and picks up a better LF, shifting Verdugo to a backup position but I think this is by far the least likely outcome.
 

Diamond Don Aase

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Over the last eight weeks of the season Verdugo walked at a rate of 9.0%, which would have been consistent with the creep to cromulence that saw his walk rate increase from 6.9% to 7.7% to 8.4% from 2019 to 2021. It likely would be worth Verdugo’s arbitration award to determine if he can sustain such gains, in no small part due to the dearth of alternatives in the upper levels of the organization.
 

mikcou

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Darren Bragg, another guy who couldn’t hit enough to play any position he could handle defensively.
O'Leary seems a lot better - Bragg was legitimately an excellent defensive OF - he was very good in Fenway's RF and could play CF well too (solely moved in 1998) because Darren Lewis was an even better CF. He just couldnt really hit, but there's a reason that he had a 10 year MLB career in spite of that.

O'Leary on the other hand was an average bat who had a few seasons that he flashed more than that, but was limited to LF. I might still have trauma from watching him trying to play Fenway's RF in the mid 90s. He learned to play the wall pretty well and position himself and ended up being a decent cheap player for a while.
 

scottyno

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His low WAR this year was because he (like many others on the Sox) had a horrid start. From June 1st on he had a 121 wrc+ and was worth 1.8 WAR in 106 games. Before that he had a 58 wrc+ and was worth -.7 WAR in in 46 games. Whether it was the ball or injuries or the weird off-season who knows, but he certainly seemed to figure something out over the majority of the season.
 

EricFeczko

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I think one should always be making offers to assess the percieved value of players -- if there's a deal to be had that's a steal then go for it.

Otherwise keep him? Especially since arbitration will be cheap next year.

This is kind of a no-brainer. With deep holes at OF/CF, I don't see how letting Verdugo, a 26 year old who is only one year older than Duran, go makes any sense -- its the epitome of selling low and opening a hole.
 

ElcaballitoMVP

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I think one should always be making offers to assess the percieved value of players -- if there's a deal to be had that's a steal then go for it.

Otherwise keep him? Especially since arbitration will be cheap next year.

This is kind of a no-brainer. With deep holes at OF/CF, I don't see how letting Verdugo, a 26 year old who is only one year older than Duran, go makes any sense -- its the epitome of selling low and opening a hole.
I think that pretty much goes without saying, doesn't it? If someone is willing to give up a big prospect or a quality starting arm for him, you obviously do the deal. But no one is going to do that for the Alex Verdugo we saw this year.

So, I don't think the realistic options are 1. Try to find a "steal" or 2. Keep him. Of course they're going to look for a steal, but it's not very likely.

It's more like 1. dump him for one or two low level prospects, 2. Keep him and hope he improves while he's cheap. 3. Trade him with prospects to find an upgrade at a position of need. He's not going to be the centerpiece of a deal, but rather a cheap MLB level player that can be plugged into another team's starting lineup. For example, if Trout were to be available, he might be the kind of guy the Angels would want in return as a cheaper player they can put in their MLB lineup (along with the quality prospects, of course).

I don't think 1 or 3 are all that realistic, so we're probably stuck with #2. Which is fine. He's an average-ish player who can play all 3 OF spots if he had to, he's respectable against LHP, he's still pretty cheap with 2 more years of control through arbitration and he's only 26 so there's still time for him to improve.