Chicago Cubs: Mass production of infield help
Nowadays when you examine the Cubs’ prospect pipeline, it seems as if another infielder is popping up out of nowhere. For Verdugo, this has sort of been the case in all actuality. Signed for $1 million, Verdugo was immediately transferred to the Arizona Summer League.
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While in Rookie ball over his first professional season, Verdugo played 47 games while amassing 199 plate appearances. Not a bad sample size for a then 17-year-old kid. Verdugo did unsurprisingly struggle in his first season, slashing just .193/.264/.295 with four home runs and 20 RBI. He posted a .271 wOBA and well below-average 63 wRC+.
The start to his career, however, did not deter Verdugo in the slightest. He came back this season as a fresh 18-year-old and was aggressive and impressive. Verdugo saw more time this go-around, playing in 53 games and registering 221 plate appearances. With that, Verdugo slashed .305/.367/.447 with five home runs and 38 RBI. Most impressive were his wOBA and wRC+ improvements, as he posted a .376 wOBA and 120 wRC+, respectively.
Another significant improvement of Verdugo’s game was his strikeout rate. It has been discussed that because of his long swing, Verdugo could end up being more prone to striking out. Time will tell in that regard at the big league level, but for now, it is improving. Verdugo dropped his overall K-rate from 22.6% last season to 17.6% this season. He also tempered the walk rate at nearly the same level, at 8.6%.
In looking at his fielding, Verdugo did struggle mightily in his first year in pro ball. He made16 errors in 319 innings at shortstop. This season has been much better; he has made only nine errors in 321 1/3 innings. Described as a guy who has excellent hands, range, and overall ability, Verdugo will hopefully continue to become a stronger fielder as his career progresses.