The Red Sox have some question marks surrounding them this season, including how Alex Verdugo will perform.
Verdugo was acquired by Boston as part of the blockbuster trade that sent Mookie Betts and David Price to the Los Angeles Dodgers in February. It’s likely the outfielder won’t be ready for Opening Day due to a stress fracture in his back, but is projected to hit with power.
It’s caused MLB.com to be optimistic the 23-year-old will be the Red Sox’s breakout player for the 2020 season because of said power and impressively low strikeout rate.
Here’s the explanation:
Traded as part of the Mookie Betts blockbuster, Verdugo will be responsible for replacing the 2018 AL MVP Award winner in right field, putting immense pressure on him from the get-go. The 23-year-old could be up to the task, however. After a few short stints in the Majors over 2017-18, Verdugo finally received a chance to showcase his skills on a regular basis with Los Angeles last season. In 377 PAs before his campaign was halted by injuries, Verdugo hit .294 with 12 homers, 22 doubles and a 114 OPS+.
Impressively, Verdugo struck out only 13% of the time (MLB average was 23%), and his 91.2% contact rate in the strike zone was the 16th-best mark in MLB (min. 400 in-zone swings). While Verdugo could benefit from hitting fewer ground balls, he has the tools to be a batting-title contender and a doubles machine during his inaugural season in Boston — once he returns from a stress fracture in his back, that is.
Whenever Verdugo makes his debut, it’s likely all eyes will be on him when he steps to the plate.