Loperfido raking in Triple-A ... Is a promotion on the way?

April 13th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Brian McTaggart's Astros Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

HOUSTON -- Considering the struggles the Astros have had generating any kind of offense at first base this season, it’s hard to ignore the gaudy numbers being put up by , the organization’s No. 6-ranked prospect per MLB Pipeline.

Loperfido, who made a push to make the club out of Spring Training, has carried his hot bat into the regular season. A left-handed hitter, Loperfido went 3-for-7 with three homers and seven RBIs, including a grand slam, in Triple-A Sugar Land’s 16-2 win against Albuquerque on Friday. He was playing first base.

“I’ve never hit three before in one game,” Loperfido said. “I think those kinds of things happen on nights you’re not really thinking about it too much, or thinking about anything too much.”

In 50 at-bats this year, Loperfido is slashing .320/.390/.880 (1.270 OPS) with nine home runs and 22 RBIs in 12 games. He’s started seven games in center field, one in left and four at first base, a position the Astros told him at the end of spring they wanted him to specifically work on.

“I’m one of those guys that likes to check and call managers and hitting coaches just to keep track of our players, and obviously, he got off to a really hot start,” Astros manager Joe Espada said following Friday’s game. “We’re keeping track of him and many other players. But it’s nice the fact he continues to swing the bat well through Spring Training and has carried that into Triple-A. That’s a really good sign for Joey.”

The ball flies at Albuquerque, but Loperfido crushed three pitches Friday. He hit a homer in the fourth inning that traveled a Statcast-projected 420 feet and came off his bat at 104 mph. Loperfido hit two homers in Sugar Land’s nine-run seventh. The first one traveled 440 and left his bat at 113.9 mph and the other one traveled 416 feet and had a 105.3 mph exit velocity.

Loperfido slashed .382/.488/.588 with seven RBIs, a stolen base, seven walks and 13 strikeouts in 41 Grapefruit League plate appearances this spring, but there wasn’t a spot for him on the big league roster. His production was a credit to the work he put in with Triple-A hitting coach Aaron Westlake prior to the spring.

“What I didn’t want to do was put any of that added pressure on myself,” he said. “I didn’t want to say, ‘You need to get off to this start, you need to be hitting .300,’ or whatever, I kind of just wanted to play, give myself the freedom to go compete. Obviously, work hard at the things I wanted to get better at, and the things that will help get me to the big leagues.”

Loperfido saw the most playing time last season in center, and Espada said during Spring Training that he saw Loperfido as a center fielder. He also split time in 2023 among left field, right field, second base and first base. He gets as many reps at first as he can daily during batting practice and early work.

The Astros haven’t gotten much production from first basemen José Abreu and Jon Singleton. Entering Saturday, Houston’s .380 OPS at first base was the lowest in the Major Leagues. But Loperfido isn’t about to start thinking about what’s going on in Houston.

“I think you [can't] let yourself kind of get sucked into that. Regardless if things are going good or bad, you’ve just got to be ready when that time comes,” he said. “If you’re looking for it too much or trying to time it up yourself, I think you just do yourself a disservice. [I’m] just trying to stay locked in. Obviously, if you do well, that’s possible, but I’m just trying to stay present here.”