Dug In

Alex Verdugo Has Become a Consistent Contributor for the Red Sox.

It’s no wonder that the Red Sox always put together stellar team-hitting numbers. The Fenway formula is simple. See that big green wall out there in left field? Aim for it! Well, maybe it’s not that easy, but you get the point.

The outfield’s unique dimensions enable a variety of approaches to get extra-base hits, and that’s exactly what they’ve looked for from Alex Verdugo since acquiring him in 2020 as the headliner in the Mookie Betts trade. Since joining the Red Sox, Verdugo has shown some spurts of growth into the most giant shoes to fill in recent memory, and now he’s off to a hot start looking to provide the everyday consistency of a potential franchise player. Alex Verdugo presents an exceptional toolkit of skills, and this year’s improvements are setting him up for an elite campaign.


10 Toes Down 


Verdugo has always been consistent with his approach and range of success. An elite contact rate is like clockwork with an exceptional xBA, Whiff%, and K%. Along with his elite throwing arm (96th percentile), the Red Sox and Chaim Bloom knew they were getting a player with high grades in important categories to replace their superstar in the outfield. A 2017 scouting report said Verdugo was “very quiet in the box; advanced approach for his age” and during a 2019 game against the Red Sox while on the Dodgers, Verdugo threw out Rafael Devers with a 97 mph throw from left field.

As previously mentioned, Fenway Park is a bit funky, and Verdugo uses the home park to lean into what he does best; sitting back on fastballs allowing them to get deep into the zone, and driving the ball the other way, while conversely driving inside pitches down the line passed the first baseman and into the tricky corner by Pesky’s Pole. This traditional approach fits the situation perfectly and causes the fielder to make decisive plays against the environment.

Doubles – All Fastball Types Chart:

Batted breaking balls are resulting in the majority of flares/burners being returned up the middle for singles, and the few barreled pitches being hit out of the ballpark.

Breaking Ball Spray and Contact Charts:


Between the breaking ball charts and the specific 4-seam fastball chart below, there is a clear difference in the batted ball location. Outside of deep drives to right field, Verdugo hits fastballs middle and away in the air.

4-seam Fastball Spray Chart:

Verdugo has rarely wavered from this strategy and will likely continue to implement it throughout his career. While the bat-to-ball skills will always be his wheelhouse, Statcast power metrics such as Brl%, Hard Hit%, and Exit Velocity (EV) have also remained consistently at or below the league average. So, while Verdugo may be able to put a charge into the ball from time to time, it seems that he will not age into a veteran slugger, but instead continue to rely on his steady approach to get him on base.

Other than changes to his Swing Agg %, Verdugo shows a minor variance from year to year according to PLV hitting metrics:

PLV Year-to-Year Metrics

It’s good to know you’re getting what’s expected, and Red Sox fans can’t be frustrated about that part. Don’t get too high and don’t get too low, something we hear often in sports psychology, and it looks like Verdugo has found the physical form of that in his game. But who doesn’t love that glimpse of some newfound upside?


The Enhanced Toolkit 


Alex Verdugo has seen improvement in new areas as well, with some steady and others more drastic. Noted above in the PLV data, Verdugo’s Swing Agg % (How much more often a hitter swings at pitches, given the swing likelihoods of the pitches they face) has dipped considerably in the last three years. This indicates that Verdugo has become more patient at the plate, even passing up on pitches that have a high probability of inducing batted balls. Seeing more pitches has netted encouraging results so far with positive differentials:

Statcast YTY Improvements

The xOBP number puts Verdugo in the top 25 most improved year-to-year in that category, along with a Chase Rate that has progressed each year since 2019.

Wrapping up Verdugo’s stat highlights, his Outs Above Average (OAA) is in the 90th percentile. Verdugo showed glimpses of strength early in his career but has become volatile in the last two seasons. It may be too early to judge so far, but this could be an indicator that he’s become more comfortable in the bizarre Fenway Park right field. Verdugo is in the mix with other outfielders at the top with 2 runs prevented so far (tied for 9th with 18 other outfielders). Still, considering Verdugo has been a negative dWAR player for two consecutive seasons this could be a nice icing on the cake for the Red Sox if he remains consistent defensively.


Addressing the Comparison 


While the trade wasn’t a 1:1, Mookie Betts for Alex Verdugo, it always seems to be compared that way. It’s good to remember, in fairness to Verdugo, that the Red Sox also received infielder Jeter Downs (DFA’d after 2022 and claimed by the Nationals) and catcher Connor Wong (who emerged in 2023 as the primary catcher). Although, with respect to the massive blow to Red Sox fans by losing a generational talent in Betts, it’s good to get a rough understanding of where it stands today.

Here are their Statcast percentiles for 2023 so far with Verdugo on the left and Betts on the right:

At a glance, not so bad! Verdugo has been strong in the field with his athleticism and Betts beats him out in EV, Brl%, and BB%. Unfortunately in the grand scheme of things, Betts has been an MVP-caliber player for many, many years. Since Betts’ 2018 MVP season with a 10.7 WAR, sure, he’s come down to earth a bit but continues to be a league-defining player in Los Angeles. Since the trade in 2020, Betts has accumulated 15.6 WAR including another league-leading 2020 shortened season with 3.6 in 55 games. In the same period, Verdugo has compiled a WAR of 7.2, and 1.7 of that is from this year’s hot start. In the high-level WAR statistical perception, Verdugo is half as productive up to the present, but maybe we are seeing a big swing into a new level of play.

As a Red Sox fan myself, it’s tough to be hard on such an exciting player. Verdugo is an at-bat I always want to watch and he’s filled in incredibly well. So why not find some fun intangibles to highlight his recent success?

PLV Hitter Ability Metrics are provided by Pitcher List.
Player Statcast information is provided by baseballsavant.mlb.com.
WAR information is provided by baseball-reference.com


The Clutch and Close 


Alex Verdugo has become a walk-off machine! Three timely swings have ended games with the Fenway faithful erupting in excitement.

Starting the walk-off fun for the season was an April 18th extra inning game, where there was some initial confusion if it was fair or foul into the right field corner:

And again in the 10th against the Guardians on April 29th, he drove a ball through a situational defense where infielders were pulled in to prepare for a potential play at home:

Why not another? Verdugo smashes a middle-middle fastball for a home run:

What else can you ask for? A player that bears the weight of a whole city’s expectations on his shoulders. Chaim Bloom trades an MVP, a Champion, an elite 5-tool player for a contact hitter? Alex Verdugo is much more than that.

Nearing his opportunity at free agency in 2025, the Red Sox avoided arbitration in 2023 with a $6.3 million 1-year deal with Verdugo reportedly stating that he desired a long-term contract to stay in Boston. This being his age 27 season (happy belated birthday, Dugie!), Alex Verdugo has already grasped his potential, but will he keep ahold of it throughout the summer? The consistent approach, improved patience at the plate, and clutch factor can all result in a perfect storm of individual and team success. Red Sox fans, dig in, Verdugo may be the answer at the top of the lineup for years to come.


Andrew Abramo

Andrew Abramo is a Staff Writer at Pitcher List. He's a lifelong baseball and sports fan, as well as a PC and Nintendo Switch gamer, cat dad, and proud husband.

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