Shortstop Dawel Lugo watches as he hits a walk-off home run for the Bluefield Blue Jays against the Burlington Royals on July 19, 2013. Mandatory Credit: Jay Blue
After a brief hiatus, we are back with our list of the Toronto Blue Jays top prospects for 2014. Next up is one of the Jays’ very young international signings from 2011, infielder Dawel Lugo. Lugo’s bonus of $1.3 million was the most given to a Latin American infielder that year and based on his endearing offensive potential it’s very possible that the Blue Jays end up with a solid return on their investment.
Name: Dawel Lugo
Date of Birth: 12/13/1994 (19)
Acquired: Signed in July 2011 as an international free agent ($1,300,000 USD)
Born: Bani, Dominican Republic
Height/Weight: 6’0″/188 lbs
Awards and Accomplishments:
Stats and Analysis:
At just 18 years of age, Lugo was one of the youngest players in the Advanced Rookie Appalachian League and was part of a loaded squad in Bluefield to begin 2013. He didn’t put up great numbers the year before but a low BABIP made his final stat line less indicative of his true ability at the plate.
Last season Lugo started to make good on some of his promise and was one of the Appy League’s better players (and best prospects). He maintained a low strikeout rate of only 13.9%, which is doubly impressive when you consider his age. However he doesn’t walk much and only drew five base on balls in 202 plate appearances. Thirty-three percent of his hits went for extra bases and he tied for the team lead in home runs with six in the fewest number of plate appearances.
Lugo was moved up to Vancouver to finish the season and showed flashes of brilliance but struggled at times defensively. Talking with Charlie Caskey on the Blue Jays From Away podcast, he told us that Lugo appeared to struggle more with the easy plays than the more difficult ones. I took it as a positive indication about his ability as hopefully it’s something that can easily be cleaned up (or he was just having a bad week).
Video by Prospect D2J www.MLBProspectPortal.com
Lugo has above average bat speed and fast hands, which combined with a short, compact swing gives him an excellent feel for the bat. His lower body action has improved since joining the Jays organization and he’s striding better than in the past. He keeps his hands high and brings the bat through the strike zone with a slight uppercut, which creates good loft to his swing.
Baseball America rated Lugo as having the best infield arm within the Blue Jays system. He has a slow release but makes up for it with solid-average arm strength. He has a tendency to lose his footwork at times, which leads to inconsistent throws. He doesn’t have great range for a shortstop and may eventually need to be moved off the position. His glove is inconsistent and I’ve heard he can look very smooth on one play while clumsy moments later. He reacts well to the ball and is known to have soft hands. If transitioned to third I could easily see him as an average fielder at that position but I wouldn’t give up on him as a shortstop just yet.
Lugo’s strongest asset is his hit tool. He takes a fairly aggressive approach at the plate but has an innate ability to put the bat on the ball and displays excellent hand-eye coordination. With a little better understanding of the strike zone and improved patience, his hit tool could eventually play as plus or better. He drives the ball to all fields, rarely whiffs and makes solid contact even outside of the strike zone. He has a fair amount of raw power for just a teenager, which combined with his hit tool may very well play as plus in the future. From what I’ve heard, almost everything off his bat is loud. Lugo’s speed is below average and he’s not much of a factor on the basepaths.
Risk, Outlook and ETA
I’m expecting Lugo will be assigned to the Low-A Lansing Lugnuts to get his first shot at full season baseball in 2014. Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos indicate that Lugo will “get every opportunity to stick at short” (h/t Charlie Caskey) and if he is eventually moved off I would be very surprised if it happened this year or even next.
His future projection very much depends on his position. In a perfect world, he would beat the odds and remain at short where his offensive production makes him a future All-Star. However it’s much more realistic that he is eventually moved off and becomes a third baseman. He’ll need to meet the higher offensive benchmarks of that position but his bat profiles decently even at the hot corner.
There is a very high risk that he could eventually become exposed at the higher levels. It’s generally difficult for players to become more patient once they start moving up in the minors and Lugo’s minuscule walk rate does raise a red flag. He will need to develop a better understanding of the strike zone if he wants to excel or even play at the game’s highest level. His ETA will likely be 2017 but I think if he progresses there’s a (slim) chance he’s called up in September 2016.