Yankees’ underappreciated outfielder is holding it down

MLB: Seattle Mariners at New York Yankees, alex verdugo
Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Wendell Cruz-USA TODAY Sports

While the spotlight is on Juan Soto and Aaron Judge as they vie for the MVP title next season, Yankees starting left fielder Alex Verdugo is quietly excelling in a pivotal contract year. The 28-year-old lefty has been flexible in the lineup, adjusting to fill gaps due to inefficiencies and injuries.

Recently, he has taken over the number two spot, compensating for Soto’s temporary absence, and even stepped into the cleanup role against the Kansas City Royals on Monday, contributing significantly with two hits and an RBI.

Verdugo’s Offensive Surge and Defensive Prowess With the Yankees

Verdugo is experiencing a strong offensive season, posting a .265/.320/.433 batting line, including eight home runs and 35 RBIs. His performance is marked by a commendable 115 wRC+, indicating he is performing 15% better than the league-average hitter. He also boasts a low 13.5% strikeout rate and a 7.9% walk rate, contributing to a 1.5 WAR so far, which sets him on track to surpass his career-best 2.1 WAR from 2019 with the Los Angeles Dodgers.

MLB: Seattle Mariners at New York Yankees, alex verdugo
Brad Penner-USA TODAY SportsCredit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Not only is Verdugo excelling at making quality contact, but he is also on pace to set a personal record in home runs, challenging his previous best of 13. His proficiency at the plate is complemented by exceptional defensive skills. This season, Verdugo has maintained a perfect fielding percentage over 560.2 innings in left field, secured nine defensive runs saved, and recorded two outs above average, underscoring his importance to the Yankees’ defensive strategy.

Verdugo’s slugging percentage is at its highest since the 2020 season, reflecting his increased power-hitting capabilities. His performance with runners in scoring position has been particularly robust, batting .292 with a .492 slugging rate and an .799 OPS across 75 plate appearances, adding three homers and 28 RBIs with just 10 strikeouts.

As Verdugo continues to showcase his capabilities in a contract year, he not only solidifies his role within the team but also positions himself for a lucrative deal in the future. While Jasson Dominguez may be poised to take over his role in the long term, Verdugo’s current form could be crucial for the Yankees, especially as they aim for a deep playoff run and potentially a World Series appearance.

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