Cubs’ Triantos rakes his way AFL hitting honors

November 12th, 2023

MESA, Ariz. -- came to the Arizona Fall League with a reputation for advanced bat-to-ball skills. They’ve been evident since his days as a Virginia high schooler, when he drew comparisons to Alex Bregman and David Wright and earned an above-slot $2.1 million bonus as a second-round pick in 2021.

The Cubs’ No. 9 prospect hit .285 with an 11 percent strikeout rate this summer as one of the youngest regulars (age 20) in High-A. So it wasn’t really a surprise that he came to the AFL, a developmental circuit that always favors hitters, and finished second in the batting race at .417.

But Triantos also showed more power, more plate discipline and more aggressiveness on the bases with the Mesa Solar Sox than he had previously in his young pro career. He led the Fall League in triples (five), ranked second in slugging (.679), OPS (1.144), hits (35) and total bases (57) and placed third in on-base percentage (.495).

Triantos’ performance earned him the AFL’s Offensive Player of the Year award. He’s the fourth recipient since its introduction in 2021. Marlins outfielder J.J. Bleday and Cardinals first baseman Juan Yepez shared the honors the first year, followed by Rockies outfielder Zac Veen last fall.

Triantos said his Fall League experience was everything he hoped it would be.

“I expected to face good competition and that's exactly what I've done since being here,” he said. “It's been a lot of fun. It's been a great experience. Just being able to be around all these different guys from different teams, I’ve had nothing but fun since being here.”

Triantos repeats his right-handed swing well and has good feel for the barrel. He’s still young and adding strength to his 6-foot-1 frame, and he did hit the ball consistently harder in 2023 than the season before.

Nevertheless, Triantos slugged just .390 with four homers in 80 High-A games after missing the first month of the season following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee. He went deep three times in 22 games with Mesa and drove the ball better than ever.

Triantos attributed his increased power to a subtle adjustment with the timing of his swing.

“The only thing that I've changed since being here is starting a little bit earlier. That’s it,” Triantos said. “I feel like I'm best when I'm simple, so there's not a lot of things going on in my head right now. That's what I have confidence in, so the more I can stick to and execute that over and over again, the better I'm going to be.

“I don't even think about what my body does when I swing or when I take, honestly. I just go up there. And if it looks good, I'm going to swing, and when I swing, I hit it hard. And if I'm not going to swing, I'm going to walk. Just keeping it as simple as possible and starting early. That’s it.”

With fringy speed, Triantos won’t be a prolific basestealer in the big leagues. But he has been opportunistic in the Minors and was downright aggressive with the Solar Sox. He swiped nine bases in 10 attempts and enjoyed the chance to work on that aspect of his game.

“I think keeping a sense of urgency on the bases is very important for me,” Triantos said. “Because when I'm going, I feel like it's hard to throw me out. I’m able to get better at understanding how pitchers work, timing, everything like that, just trying to get to be a better baserunner.”

The next step in Triantos’ development will be finding a defensive home. He lacked range and had issues with throwing accuracy at third base in 2022. He looked more natural at second base this summer, though he doesn’t have ideal quickness for the keystone, and Gold Glover Nico Hoerner mans the position in Chicago.

Triantos played a bit of center field for the first time this year and started games at second, center, third and left field for Mesa. He also spent four innings at shortstop. His long-term position still has yet to be determined.

Ultimately, it will be Triantos’ bat that gets him to the big leagues and provides most of his value there. After dominating the Fall League, he looks like he’s on the verge of a breakout in 2024 and could arrive in Wrigley Field sooner than anticipated.