Going into Thursday night’s game against the Orioles, Red Sox outfielder Alex Verdugo has accrued a team-leading 62 hits so far this season. Out of those 62 knocks, at least three were infield singles where the 24-year-old found himself sliding head-first into first base.
That kind of approach is typically frowned upon due to the potentially painful consequences involved, but that has not prevented Verdugo from being aggressive coming out of the batter’s box. And because said approach is resulting in base hits, it has not been put to a halt by Sox manager Ron Roenicke, either.
“I know he plays all-out and some of that, he’s going to get banged up,” Roenicke said of Verdugo earlier Thursday. “The diving head-first into first. But, it’s hard to tell a guy not to do that. I mean, both times he’s done it lately he got base hits, so it’s hard to tell him not to do that. But, he’s going to get banged up because he plays hard. He prepares hard, he’s emotional, he’s got energy, he’s got all the things you like in a ballplayer that just loves to go out there and get dirty.”
In his first season with Boston, Verdugo has proven to be one of the more energetic players on the field at any given moment whether he is at the plate, on the base paths, or in the outfield. That is the kind of athlete he strives to be, and since that style has produced quality results thus far, the Arizona native is not planning on toning it down with his approach anytime soon.
“I don’t like scaling it back,” Verdugo said during his pregame media availability on Thursday. “I start scaling it back and I feel like I fall into the trend of what a lot of players do and that’s not running down the line hard. For me, I had my times where I did that and my parents would get on me and say that’s not the way to play the game. They’re right. They’re absolutely right. I just figured you got to bust your butt, you got to play hard. There are just times where the play is in front of you, and you feel like you can get there a little quicker diving and I do it. It’s just a natural habit.
“I’m very well aware of the injuries,” Verdugo added. “Your shoulder, jamming it, your thumb, anything like that. I also try not to hit the very front of the bag… I try to get the front part of the bag, but like on top so I slide right over it, so it’s not really like it’s that dangerous. Plus, I feel like I’m somewhat athletic enough to have body awareness and know how to get in there. When it’s out there right in front of you and you’re sniffing a hit, you’re going to do whatever you’ve got to do to get that hit.”
According to FanGraphs, Verdugo currently leads qualified Red Sox position players in runs scored (35), on-base percentage (.383), wOBA (.382), wRC+ (140), and fWAR (1.8). In other words, the former second-round pick has essentially been Boston’s most valuable player in an otherwise down year for the club. He also leads the majors in outfield assists (7) so far this season and could very well be in contention for his first Gold Glove Award.