Cards' Donovan shows pop, patience in AFL

November 11th, 2021

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As soon as it left the bat, knew it was gone.

The Cardinals’ No. 17 prospect hit a massive two-run homer, his second of the Arizona Fall League season in the sixth inning of Thursday’s game at Camelback Ranch. A go-ahead blast at the time, the ball loudly left Donovan’s bat at 107 mph and cleared the right-field bullpen, landing 416 feet away from home plate.

“It was just a fastball, middle-in, and I got the barrel to it,” Donovan said after Glendale’s 11-7 loss to Surprise.

Donovan has been getting the barrel on plenty of balls in Arizona. The South Alabama product is hitting .350 in the Fall League with hits in 10 of the 12 games he’s played. He's also working on a four-game hitting streak.

Donovan credits his improved approach, which he refined throughout the 2021 season, for the success he’s had this calendar year.

“Just get something over the middle of the plate and try to get a good swing off,” he said. “We’re only as good as the pitches we swing at, so that’s kind of been my approach day in and day out.”

The pitch selection and patience at the plate was on full display Thursday as the 24-year-old drew a trio of walks and finished 1-for-2 with two runs scored.

A seventh-round pick from the 2018 Draft, Donovan flies a bit under the radar but has been producing all year. His impressive AFL campaign comes after a regular season in which he set several career highs.

The third baseman began the 2021 campaign with just one at-bat above the Class A level. Not only did he work his way from High-A Peoria to Triple-A Memphis, but he did so while slashing .304/.399/.455. Each number in the slash line was a career best, as were his 12 homers and 66 RBIs.

“Just a little bit more maturity in the box,” Donovan said of what fueled his growth. “As you go up, there’s a learning curve at every level. Guys are attacking you different ways. When you get to Triple-A, you’ve got guys up and down from the big leagues who know how to pitch you. They’ve got their gameplan and they execute it, so it’s all about adjustments.”

On the strength of homers from Drew Millas (WAS 20) and Andres Chaparro (Yankees), Surprise mounted a comeback in the seventh. The Saguaros sent 13 men to the plate and struck for seven runs on four hits, five walks and a hit batsman.

The come-from-behind victory helped the Saguaros overtake the Desert Dogs at the top of the West Division standings. With just over a week to play, Surprise has a half-game lead in the division, but Glendale won’t go down quietly.

“Today was a big one,” Donovan said. “Every time you lace up, you want to win a ballgame. We’ve got some games left. Hopefully we can make a run at it.”