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Alex Verdugo, Zach Lee named Dodgers 2015 minor league player, pitcher of year

Alex Verdugo, 19, hit .385/.406/.659 in 26 games after his promotion to Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Alex Verdugo, 19, hit .385/.406/.659 in 26 games after his promotion to Class-A Rancho Cucamonga.
Photo: Craig Minami | True Blue LA

LOS ANGELES -- The Dodgers on Thursday named outfielder Alex Verdugo and pitcher Zach Lee as their 2015 Branch Rickey Award winners, the minor league player and pitcher of the year, respectively.

Both players will be honored on Friday night at Dodger Stadium before the Dodgers' series opener against the Padres.

Lee made his major league debut with a bad loss on July 25 in New York, allowing seven runs while not getting out of the fifth inning, but the remainder of his season was solid. Repeating Triple-A but out of the launching pad in Albuquerque, the right-hander was 11-6 with a 2.70 ERA in 19 starts with Oklahoma City, and would have led the Pacific Coast League in ERA had he pitched two more innings.

Lee, who turned 24 on Sept. 13, increased his strikeout in Triple-A from 14.5 percent in 2014 to 18.0 percent this year, and also cut his walk rate in half, from 8.1 percent to 4.2 percent.

The Dodgers' first-round draft pick in 2010, Lee also won the Rickey Award in 2013, and now joins Chad Billingsley (2004-2005) and James McDonald (2007-08) as the only pitchers to win the honor twice.

Verdugo, the Dodgers' second-round pick in 2014, had a fine first full season as a professional, hitting .311/.340/.411 with 32 doubles, nine home runs and four triples in 124 games between Class-A Great Lakes and advanced Class-A Rancho Cucamonga. But in many ways it was a tale of two seasons for the 19-year-old outfielder.

Through the end of May, Verdugo was struggling, hitting just .213/.254/.274 in 40 games. But he caught fire in Great Lakes, hitting .346/.370/.471 over his next 61 games, including a 14-game hitting streak. That earned Verdugo a promotion to Ranch as well as Midwest League postseason All-Star honors.

Verdugo caught fire in the California League, hitting .385/.406/.659 in 26 games, with nine doubles, four home runs and two triples. During the Quakes' run to the Cal League championship, Verdugo hit .323/.400/.451 with a home run and seven RBI in eight games.