YOKOHAMA, Japan — The hope for Red Sox prospect Triston Casas is that he not only wins an Olympic gold medal as the youngest member of the United States baseball team, but that he also uses this experience to expedite his path to the majors.
The 21-year-old designated hitter/first baseman is hitting cleanup for manager Mike Scioscia’s team filled with major league prospects and aging free agents. Casas, who is hitting .271 in his first season with Double A Portland, has developed into a weapon in the middle of the order as Team USA opening its medal run Friday with an 8-1 win over Israel at Yokohama Stadium.
For those Sox fans unfamiliar with Casas, he’s the organization’s top prospect, according to MLB.com. He was the team’s first-round pick in 2018 out of Plantation, Fla. He is a power hitter who has risen from rookie ball to Portland in two seasons. (He did not play in 2020.)
Casas was approached by Red Sox minor league outfield and baserunning coach Darren Fenster, also a Team USA assistant coach, about trying out for the team and participating in the qualifying rounds. Casas would have to sacrifice a chunk of his Portland season but the benefit was playing for his country and getting exposure to former big leaguers in the clubhouse.
“Overall, the experience has been awesome,” he said following the win. “It’s something I never dreamed of doing, being an Olympian and walking through Opening Ceremonies. This opportunity has been life-changing to say the least. I’m making the most of it, picking all these guys’ brains, asking questions.”
On the USA roster are veterans such as Todd Frazier, David Robertson, Scott Kazmir and Edwin Jackson. Instead of spending the summer around his peers in Portland, Casas is studying players who have been in his position. They are offering him guidance and he’s accepting of all the knowledge.
“I haven’t come into contact with this many big leaguers and this much experience ever,” Casas said. “Getting to play with these guys is awesome. They’ve all been great to me, sharing information, answering all my questions, helping me on the field, teaching me the ropes about how to act on and off the field.
“I’m spending a lot of time with these guys, not only at the field but also in the village.”
One of Casas’s roommates is Jackson, the super veteran who has played for a record 14 major league teams. Frazier stays down the hall.
“They’re the ones who are making this experience for me really easy,” he said. “I’m just going out and play ball and try to do what I do best.”
Casas said he understands the journey to Fenway is a process that requires multiple steps. He is flourishing so far for Portland, with six home runs and 30 RBIs in 45 games before the Olympic break. The next step is likely either another full season in Portland or a stop in Triple A Worcester before hitting the bigs.
He’s at that age when prospects start breaking into the bigs, but he said he’s content to work his way through the minor league journey and then wait for the call. But he’s definitely can’t wait to get to Fenway.
“It’s definitely tough but I know it’s not a matter of if but a matter of when,” he said. “I’m working my butt off to get myself up to Boston and be part of that winning culture that so many great players before me have established.
“It’s a dream that I think about every day that I wake up, playing in Boston, playing in Fenway, playing deep into the postseason, winning championships, that all on my agenda. But I definitely know I have to take it one day at a time and enjoy the process. Because once my career is over I am going to look back at my career and think about these times and think about how lucky I was to go through it with the guys that I am with in Portland.”
Casas said he’s cherishing this Olympic experience. Team USA is in a six-team pool chasing gold with heavyweights such as Japan, Korea and the Dominican Republic. And this truly a rare opportunity. Baseball returned to the Olympics in Tokyo after a 13-year hiatus, but the IOC announced in December it will not be a sport in the 2024 Games in Paris because countries such as France and other European nations have not embraced baseball.
The hope is it will return in 2028 in Los Angeles. So these times to represent the USA are precious for Casas. It’s a once-in-a generation opportunity.
“I know in the back of my mind I’m playing for something bigger than just my stats or getting to the big leagues,” he said. “This is definitely something special. I am trying not to get too hyped about it. I want to play the game hard, smart and fast like I always do. I put in the work to be here and I deserve to be here.”
Red Sox Nation would be giddy to hear what Casas thinks he needs to improve on before reaching the bigs.
“I think I need to improve on everything,” he said. “My at-bats need to be of higher quality to be big-league material. It all starts with plate discipline and picking good pitches to hit. I think that comes with time, repetition, getting at-bats under my belt. My swing hasn’t changed since I have been 7 year old, it has to do with the mental side of the game, coming to the ballpark ready to play.
“I don’t feel like there’s any ceiling for me right now. That’s the beautiful thing about baseball. You can never perfect it. There’s always stuff to learn. All the attributes of my game can be improved.”