Angels prospect shows growth in Fall League with opposite-field power

October 5th, 2023

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- The first day game of the Arizona Fall League season was brought to you by Sonny Di.

Angels prospect Sonny DiChiara went the other way three times, most notably on a go-ahead grand slam, as Scottsdale topped Salt River, 5-4, on Wednesday at Salt River Fields.

"[Tigers prospect Tanner Kohlhepp] kept throwing me good sliders, and I finally connected on one," DiChiara said. "And I was able to keep it just inside the foul pole."

DiChiara wasn't sure whether the ball had enough juice on it to go out until right before it dropped into the right-field bullpen. With a 35-degree launch angle and a 98.6 mph exit velocity, the 368-foot dinger just cleared the fence.

Including a pair of singles in his latest contest, DiChiara has gone 4-for-10 with two homers in two games to start the Fall League, with every knock going the other way. Of the right-handed hitter's nine career long balls with Double-A Rocket City across two seasons, only two went to right or right-center.

"That's what I have to get back, to get back to my game," he said. "I'm just trying to hit the ball to the other side of the field and get some backspin on it, just like I have the past two games."

In 2022 while playing for Auburn, DiChiara was the Southeastern Conference's co-MVP with Dylan Crews -- this year's No. 2 overall Draft pick. The Alabama native was second in the NCAA with a .549 on-base percentage and among the best in the country with .777 slugging and a 1.326 OPS.

After selecting him in the fifth round, the Angels sent DiChiara right to Double-A, an aggressive move that proved to be a challenge. The 24-year-old has compiled a .215/.338/.320 slash line in 113 career games.

"In college, you got a couple 'guys' on each team and now you're playing [pro ball], every person on the team is 'a guy,'" he said. "So it's just being able to handle that and just knowing the next guy that's coming in is gonna be just as good. So the talent is definitely a difference."

DiChiara has had to battle back from a slew of surgeries, including Tommy John, brain, ankle, and most recently, shoulder surgery, which held him to 77 games in his sophomore campaign. After a "rough season," he's at the Fall League to make up for those missed at-bats and pinpoint what he needs to do to get back to being the player he was with Auburn.

"Just seeing it and believing in myself and not trying to do too much," he said. "That's just kind of been what I've been focusing on hard."

As DiChiara gets back in the groove, can he make it three games in a row with a homer?

"I hope so," he said with a smile. "That's what I'm trying to do."

Nationals' No. 8 prospect Robert Hassell III singled and swiped second in the first, then ended the game with a nifty snag in center, leaving the tying run at third. Organizational mate DJ Herz (WSH No. 16) worked around two hits and a walk with five strikeouts in three scoreless frames for the Scorpions.

For the Rafters, Rockies' No. 6 prospect went 3-for-4 with an RBI triple and a walk. D-backs' No. 27 prospect prospect fanned four in three scoreless frames in his Fall League debut.