It’s been a season of opportunity for Dodgers rookies this season, with outfielder Jonny DeLuca the latest to join the party, per multiple reports on Saturday night. The outfielder will take the active roster spot of Trayce Thompson, who strained his oblique on Saturday and will land on the injured list.
The Dodgers have two rookie regulars in their lineup, with James Outman and Miguel Vargas fourth and fifth, respectively on the team in starts. Michael Busch had a two-week stint in the majors earlier in the year. Through Saturday, rookie hitters have accounted for 19.3 percent of Dodgers plate appearances this season, the highest rate on the team in seven years.
Dodgers rookies in 2016 took 21.5 percent of the plate appearances, with Corey Seager and Thompson the two rookies who batted at least 200 times that year.
When Bobby Miller starts on the mound against the Yankees on Sunday night, that’ll be the 11th start in 2023 by a Dodgers rookie pitcher this season — just shy of one-fifth of the schedule — along with Michael Grove and Gavin Stone. When DeLuca gets into a game, he’ll be the fourth Dodger to make his major league debut this season, joining Busch (April 25), Stone (May 3), and Miller (May 23). DeLuca is the only one who started this season in Double-A.
Drafted in the 25th round in 2019 out of Oregon, DeLuca played briefly that year (26 games) for the Arizona Complex League. The 2020 minor league season was wiped out by the pandemic, which meant his first full season would have to wait until 2021. Power and speed have defined DeLuca’s game, with 61 home runs over the last nearly two and a half seasons, plus 49 stolen bases in 54 attempts.
DeLuca has slugged over .500 at every stop along the way, save for his first go-around with Great Lakes in 2021, slugging .421 over the final 44 games after getting promoted. After ending last season in Double-A Tulsa, DeLuca was added to the 40-man roster in November.
That earned him time in big league camp in spring training, and he made the most of it, playing in 14 games and starting seven times, all but one coming before he was optioned to minor league camp on March 13.
Strong starts in Double-A got both DeLuca and Andy Pages promoted to Triple-A to join Oklahoma City’s outfield on May 16. Pages played only one game before injuring his shoulder, while DeLuca hasn’t missed a beat, hitting .292/.378/.574 with a 140 wRC+ between Tulsa and Oklahoma City this season, with 14 home runs and 12 steals in 49 games.
What DeLuca’s role on the Dodgers remains to be seen. He’s handled pitchers from each side, hitting .270/.365/.541 against right-handers this year and .253/.342/.502 over the last three seasons. But he’s tattooed left-handed pitchers, hitting .362/.423/.681 this year and .310/.388/.635 since the start of 2021.
If the 24-year-old plays on Sunday, his major league debut will be about 34 miles from where he played high school baseball in Agoura Hills.