Brett talks up this rookie, who then blasts a HR

March 10th, 2023

SURPRISE, Ariz. -- As George Brett signed off his in-game interview with Royals broadcasters Ryan Lefebvre and Jeff Montgomery on Wednesday night, Brett brought up a name everyone should be watching this spring.

Wait, who?

Alexander is a first baseman who has played eight Cactus League games as a Minor League replacement for the Royals this spring. He was selected in the 20th round of the 2018 MLB Draft by the Braves out of State College of Florida, and he was the oldest player in the three-player package that the Royals acquired last year from Atlanta for the No. 35 overall Draft pick. That trade was headlined by No. 6 prospect Drew Waters and No. 14 prospect Andrew Hoffmann.

Alexander is hitting .727 (8-for-11) this spring, and although he didn’t come off the bench in the Royals’ 1-0 win over the Padres at Surprise Stadium on Friday, he’s been one of the standouts all spring.

And he’s caught the eye of a Hall of Famer and, oh, just the greatest Royal of all time.

“This guy can rake,” Brett said as the third inning ended Wednesday. “Wait until you see this guy’s swing. It is impressive.”

Four innings later, Alexander was getting ready to bat after coming into the game to replace Nick Pratto. Brett walked up to Alexander in the Royals’ dugout.

“He said, ‘I just talked you up to everyone on TV. If you strike out, I’m not talking to you again,’ or something like that,” Alexander said. “I was like, ‘Wow, thanks for putting the pressure on me.’”

But Alexander was calm as he stepped to the plate against White Sox righty Nick Avila. And a couple of pitches later, Alexander’s smooth left-handed swing was on display when he crushed a home run to straightaway center field.

Never doubt George Brett.

“That was probably like the greatest thing to happen to me in my baseball career so far,” Alexander said of the TV shoutout and subsequent home run. “It surpassed getting drafted. You couldn’t have written it up any better. It’s like a movie. Crazy how that transpired, and I’m just so, like, ‘What just happened?’”

Before the trade, the Royals had been hearing Alexander’s name from scouts for several years because of his swing. But his tools hadn’t translated to results yet. Alexander struggled in the low Minors in 2019 and ’21 but then found success last year, hitting .264 for the Braves’ and Royals’ Double-A teams. He finished the year in Northwest Arkansas with an .808 OPS, and he could go to Triple-A to start 2023.

At 6-foot-5, Alexander caught the eye of Brett in the dugout during one of the Royals’ early spring games.

“Somebody tapped me on the shoulder one day, and I didn’t recognize him because I haven’t ever really seen him in person before this,” Alexander said. “He goes, ‘Hi, I’m George Brett.’ And I was like, ‘Holy cow.’ It was really cool.

“It’s still shocking to me. I talked to my family every day about it. Like, ‘George Brett told me this today,’ or whatever. And they’re like, ‘What? How was that?’ It’s kind of surreal. He’s taking an interest in me and my career, and it’s just really pretty cool.”

Brett spends most Spring Training games in the Royals’ dugout, hopping between conversations with coaches, big leaguers and Minor Leaguers.

“Who wouldn’t want a Hall of Famer in there?” manager Matt Quatraro said. “The best thing that I’ve noticed about him is it doesn’t matter who you are or what experience level or how many years you’ve played -- he just likes to talk about baseball.”

Last weekend, Brett introduced Alexander and Cayden Wallace, the Royals’ second-round pick out of Arkansas last year. He told Wallace that Alexander was “the best pure hitter in this dugout right now.”

“Next thing you know, Alexander comes up and hits a screaming line drive up the middle,” Brett said. “Wally comes up to me and says, ‘Wow, that’s a pretty good swing.’”

On Wednesday night, Alexander’s parents were able to watch a Hall of Famer heap praise on their son, then watch their son crush a homer in a big league Spring Training game. Alexander admitted he stayed up “way too late” watching the video that night.

It’s been a surreal spring for the 26-year-old.

“I am trying to believe in myself and go at it with 100% confidence, but there are times where I got to tell myself to breathe, calm down, enjoy the moment,” Alexander said. “Mostly to relax my nerves.

“He’s taking an interest in me and my career, and it’s just really pretty cool.”