Alex Verdugo's trajectory can help Red Sox move on from Mookie Betts

John Tomase
·3 min read

Tomase: How Alex Verdugo could help Sox move on from Mookie originally appeared on NBC Sports Boston

* Throughout this month we'll put a member of the 2020 Red Sox and one of their most notable statistics under the microscope while assessing their season and what lies ahead. Today's installment: Alex Verdugo.

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That's Verdugo's streak of seeing his average, on base percentage, slugging percentage, and OPS increase. It also happens to be the length of his career.

Verdugo debuted in 2017 with the Dodgers at age 21 and hit .174. His average has since increased each season, to .260, .294, and this year's .308, when he earned one fifth-place MVP vote. His OBP has similarly climbed from .240 to .367, his slugging percentage from .304 to .478, and his OPS from .544 to .844.

If Verdugo continues on this trajectory, he will be an All-Star and the Red Sox won't have to feel quite so bad about trading away MVP Mookie Betts. Verdugo may never be Betts, but he's already a mild facsimile, and he should only improve.

What went right for Verdugo in 2020

Verdugo was easily the team's MVP after hitting .308 with six homers and 15 RBIs. He also recorded a league-leading seven assists in the outfield, where he showed off a cannon arm in both left and right.

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Beyond putting up numbers, Verdugo played with an infectious energy that would've made him feel right at home with the "Idiots" in 2004. He's exactly the kind of player the Red Sox need if they want to win back fans and create some buzz, because he's got personality to spare.

He's also impressively calm in the box, especially against left-handed pitching, which suggests a ceiling of All-Star and everyday linchpin atop an order.

What went wrong for Verdugo in 2020

It's easy to forget now, but Verdugo arrived from the Dodgers with a broken back that required months of rehab. Had the season started on time, it's hard to say when Verdugo would've been available, but it certainly wouldn't have been on Opening Day.

The back -- which he injured on a swing in L.A. in 2019 and then reinjured almost immediately -- will be worth monitoring moving forward, because Verdugo generates impressive torque with his swing, which leaves him at risk of re-injury.

Early outlook for 2021

The Red Sox don't have a lot to feel great about heading into an uncertain offseason, but Verdugo's emergence certainly qualifies as the most positive development of 2020.

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He embraces the idea of being the center of attention in a baseball-crazed market, and one suspects that if and when the Red Sox return to contention, the well-rounded 24-year-old will be right in the middle of the action.