By Jon Weisman
He sat down in the Dodger dugout Tuesday afternoon, wisely ignoring the guy in street clothes on his left, in order to pick the brain of the Major League pitcher on his right.
To say the least, it’s been a big year for Gavin Lux. Taken in the first round of the 2016 draft in June, the 18-year-old shortstop posted a .365 on-base percentage in 48 Arizona Rookie League Games. Then on Wednesday, he took the next step higher with Rookie League Ogden, going 3 for 4 with an RBI and stolen base in his debut.
But before the promotion came what Lux called his highlight of the season. For the simulated innings being thrown by Dodger starters Clayton Kershaw, Brett Anderson, Scott Kazmir and Brandon McCarthy, Lux was among the group called upon to take swings against the MLB veterans.
“Facing all big-league pitchers is pretty sweet,” Lux said.
So is sitting in the same dugout with them. During a break between innings, McCarthy and Lux exchanged thoughts and ideas — McCarthy asking Lux about how the ball looked coming out of his hand, while Lux tried to learn as much as he could during the golden opportunity.
“I asked him a couple of questions on how he attacks lefties and what he does in certain situations,” Lux said, “so that was pretty cool.”
To that point in 2016, Lux had had something of a typical summer for a top draft pick moving from high school in Kenosha, Wisconsin to pro ball at Camelback Ranch in the desert.
There was learning to hit, and learning not to fry.
“Just playing every day, practicing in the Arizona heat every day, was an adjustment to make,” Lux said. “Just learning how to take care of your body better, eating the right ways and just trying to keep your body healthy and staying strong.”
Lux felt he struggled at the plate early on while adjusting to “the different velocities, different kind of pitching, how pitchers attack you, different stuff like that,” but he had a .372 OBP for the month of July, before dipping to .330 in August. Against righties in Arizona, his OBP was .407.
Looking ahead, Lux said one of his main goals for the offseason was to build strength, so that he can “try to do a little more damage hitting.” He is slugging .393 as a pro.
But the path is there, the promise is apparent and already, even while still firmly in his teens, the memories have already been ones to treasure.