Joe Kelly: Dodgers Rookies ‘A Lot Better’ Than Other Teams’ First-Year Players

Reaping the benefits of a consistently potent farm system, the Los Angeles Dodgers have again received significant contributions from a number of their rookies this season.

Alex Verdugo thrived with his first real opportunity to stick at the Major League level, excelling on both sides of the ball as the Dodgers’ starting left fielder. Unfortunately for Verdugo, he’s out through at least the first round of the playoffs because of back trouble.

Will Smith, who initially earned multiple promotions from Triple-A Oklahoma, eventually supplanted Austin Barnes as the club’s everyday catcher. Smith impressed with his offensive production and game-calling skills, even if there’s been some recent regression.

Verdugo and Smith aside, the Dodgers’ starting lineup consists of additional homegrown players such as Cody Bellinger, Corey Seager and Joc Pederson. The same can be said for the starting rotation, with Walker Buehler and Clayton Kershaw leading the way.

Joe Kelly is only in the midst of his first season with the Dodgers, but has already taken notice of the impact the club regularly gets from its rookie players, as seen on SportsNet LA:

“I’d say our rookies are a lot better than anyone else’s rookies, that’s for sure. It just shows the work ethic from top to bottom in our organization. You usually see young guys — I wouldn’t say afraid of the situation — but trying to get their feet wet, sometimes making a non-aggressive play because they’re worried about what’s going to happen. And from Day 1, the guys that we’ve called up have been playoff-caliber ready. It’s pretty incredible to watch.”

In addition to Verdugo and Smith, rookies to play for the Dodgers this season include Matt Beaty, Tony Gonsolin, Kyle Garlick, Gavin Lux, Dustin May, Edwin Rios and Josh Sborz.

Beaty is one of the many first-year standouts, as he has thrived in semi-regular and pinch-hit roles. In June, Beaty helped set a Dodgers franchise record when he and Verdugo hit back-to-back walk-off home runs in consecutive games — becoming the first pair of rookie teammates to accomplish the feat.

As for the pitching staff, Gonsolin and May have both continued to shine. That’s despite not having much of a settled role as they each have audition in starts and with pitching out of the bullpen.

The Dodgers figure to carry at least one of their rookie pitchers on the postseason roster, as well as Lux, and likely Beaty as well.