Triston Casas put on a show for the Portland Sea Dogs last week, registering his first two-homer game Wednesday in a 14-3 win over the Hartford Yard Goats. Casas went 4 for 6 with six RBIs. He wasn’t done, however, blasting another homer the following evening. He was 2 for 4 with three RBIs in that one.
After a 4-for-25 start, Casas has been on a tear, hitting .500 (11 for 22), with 10 RBIs, a .955 slugging percentage, and a 1.455 OPS.
“I had high hopes for that opening week, especially at home,” Casas said. “But I’m glad I picked it up. It felt good to contribute a little bit.”
The minors can be a tough place to get a true evaluation of how a player might contribute to a big league roster. There’s a large gap in talent and approach at the major league level, and even if a prospect dominates in the minors, it’s not necessarily transferable.
It’s important to home in on the player, and look at the skill set, talent, and makeup that is already present to make your projection.
Casas has played in only 133 minor league games since being drafted in 2018, and though he is still in Double A, the Red Sox believe they have a player.
“He’s a good hitter,” manager Alex Cora said recently. “It’s good to see him putting good swings on the ball. He knows the game. He knows his swing. He knows what to do with his swing.
“There’s a guy that the future’s bright, the way we see it. And he’s a very important piece of this organization.”
Casas’s seasoned approach has been well-documented. His ability to control the strike zone and be aware of what he wants to accomplish is more like that of a veteran than a 21-year-old prospect.
He’s excited to be a part of an organization that is having success at the big league level so far this season, though he hasn’t kept up with the Red Sox closely. Why? He has to get there first.
“I just kind of keep up with my team right now,” Casas said. “Hopefully I can get up there soon and make an impact at that level. Because as much as I love playing here in Portland, it’s not the goal.”
Pitchers are dominating in the majors this season, holding batters to a .236 overall average as of Tuesday. With hitters being smothered with velocity, Casas has envisioned what his approach might be while acknowledging how tough it would be to have success.
“I know all the odds are against me,” Casas said. “Literally every factor is not in my favor. It’s supposed to be physically impossible to make contact with the ball coming at that speed.
“It’s still the same game, even though they’re throwing a little harder. I feel like I would have to do less if he’s providing the power for me. And I’m a big guy. I try not to overcomplicate things.”
Casas’s approach at the plate differs. It all depends on who is pitching.
“It changes every single at-bat,” he said. “I kind of really try to relate hitting to golf a little bit. You’ve got your driver, you’ve got your irons whenever you need them, and you’ve got your putter. You’ve got to have all the tricks in the bag.
“So when you’re going up there, you can’t just be cookie-cutter. It’s a very hard thing to do. But that’s why so few guys, you know, get to stay at the level that I’m striving for.”
Having a blast
Nick Yorke, the Red Sox’ 2020 first-round pick, is a long way from home. The 19-year-old second baseman from California is already playing every day at Low A Salem (Va.), which says something about how the Red Sox view him.
“I’m very grateful for the opportunity to be down here,” Yorke said. “It’s been a blast. The guys have been really nice and welcoming and have helped me a lot. I was fortunate enough that I met a lot of these guys at instructional league last year. So I knew a lot of them coming into spring training.”
Yorke has struggled out the gate, hitting .150 in his first 43 plate appearances. But that’s normal for a player his age, especially considering the lost minor league season in 2020. One of the biggest changes from high school to the minors, Yorke said, is the leap in velocity.
“I faced a lot of great talent in the summer-ball circuit, but the one thing that’s different is you’re getting this talent consistently every day [in the minors].
“In summer ball, one day you could face a guy throwing 95 that has some good stuff. And then the next day you’re facing someone that’s throwing 82 that maybe doesn’t have the greatest stuff yet.”
The key for Yorke is reps, in the games and in practice. Oftentimes he’ll find himself cranking up the velo machine just so he can see it and react.
“It’s been fun,” Yorke said. “You’re playing against the best competition.”