Triston Casas has been in the big leagues for all of nine games and 30 plate appearances. On the surface, it’s easy see a 22-year-old struggling to adjust to the highest level of the game.
Casas is 3 for 26 with four walks and eight strikeouts en route to a .115/.233/.346 slash line, marks that are hardly electrifying. Yet beneath those numbers, Casas has not only looked the part of a big leaguer but has shown signs of emerging as a special offensive talent who is playing at a level for which he’s ready.
The homer against Yankees All-Star Gerrit Cole on Wednesday represented a landmark moment that highlighted the rookie’s considerable potential. Casas started the at-bat by taking a 97-mile-per-hour fastball, then a breaking ball below the zone to earn a 2-0 count.
Behind in the count, Cole tried to elevate a fastball. Casas was ready and stayed inside the 98-m.p.h. offering with a compact swing, crushing a 411-foot, opposite-field homer to left-center. It was no accident.
“No matter who’s on the mound, I’m always looking for his best fastball, his fastest velocity, and then trying to adjust off of that,” Casas explained. “So I was looking for that pitch right where he threw it and trying to do exactly what I did.”
That matter-of-fact assessment failed to do justice to what Casas did in his at-bat. Foremost, he refused to expand the strike zone against an elite pitcher, instead waiting for a pitch over the heart of the zone.
In so doing, Casas continued an eye-opening pattern. He has seen 63 pitches that were outside of the strike zone and swung at just seven. He is one of 612 hitters this year to see at least 50 pitches outside of the strike zone. His 11.1 percent chase rate — obviously, small sample disclaimers apply — is the lowest among that entire group.
He has likewise been stubborn about taking pitches on the edges of the plate early in the count, instead focusing on pitches — particularly fastballs — in the heart of the zone that he can drive.
“For the most part, I like the way that I’ve been handling my at-bats. I’ve been taking good pitches, swinging at good ones, taking the borderline ones,” said Casas. “Hitting is really hard but to hit a spot as a pitcher is just as hard, if not even harder. So I’m making sure that I’m making pitchers get in the zone and trying to execute perfect pitches. That’s my goal. If they make good pitches, I’ll tip my cap. That’s the game. But I really just try to focus on owning the middle of the zone and making them use the corners to get strikes.”
The ability Casas showed to obliterate a high-velocity fastball to the opposite field suggests a special combination of bat speed, strength, and approach. In eight years of Statcast data at Fenway Park, Rafael Devers (412 feet in 2021) is the only other lefthanded hitter to send a ball farther over the Monster.
Again, this is no accident, with Casas believing in an all-fields approach “since the first time that I could swing. It was always preached to me at a young age, just use the whole field,” he said. “I feel like a lot of guys pull the ball in the air for power, but very few can hit the ball to the opposite field with power. I think that’s the measure of a good hitter.”
That outlook truly does date back for nearly all of Casas’s life. He fell in love with the game as a 2-year-old who would remain captivated while watching all nine innings on TV beside his late grandfather, Richie Cromeyer.
“I had never really experienced or seen anybody take to the game like he did,” said Casas’s father, Jose. “That’s when I started recognizing that he had the mental capacity to sit and watch a game and he just built on that.”
From that starting point, Casas drilled deeper into details while falling in love with the game. He was on the radar of the Red Sox’ South Florida area scout Willie Romay by the start of his high school career.
Even as a 14-year-old, Romay recognized a hitter with unusual offensive hitting intellect and ability, a 6-foot-4-inch mountain of a high schooler — he’s now 6-5 and 260 pounds — exploring how to leverage his tremendous size, strength, and limbs while developing his skills as a hitter. For most high schoolers, driving the ball in the air to the opposite field is a rarity. For Casas, it was routine.
“He wanted to be more of a complete hitter, not just a power hitter,” said Romay. “He worked on hitting the ball to all fields. He worked on hitting the ball in all quadrants of the [strike zone]. He doesn’t just react to it. He puts in time on this.”
That commitment has only deepened. In Triple A Worcester this year, Casas was relentless about improving his swing decisions and forging routines to emphasize careful pitch selection and the ability to handle elite velocity — and he honed his approach ferociously even while sidelined for two months with an ankle injury. When he returned, Casas hit .296/.404/.504 with five homers and 17 extra-base hits in 36 games, setting the stage for his first big-league callup.
“His pitch selection has been really good,” said WooSox assistant hitting coach Mike Montville. “I’ve seen him get exponentially better with it just over the course of the year. [The Cole homer] was a big moment, but he put himself in a position to have success up here based on the work that he’s done and the focus he has . . . He’s almost making better decisions up here, that’s been really impressive.”
In his discipline and approach, Casas has looked mature beyond his years. He has not appeared in awe of his opponents nor uncertain of his own talents.
Perhaps that is because he is neither of those things. At 22, he carries himself as someone who has been preparing for this moment for decades — which, of course, is precisely what he’s done.
“He would have never taken joy from anything other than what he’s done,” said Jose Casas. “This is his life’s passion. This is what he was born to do.”