Triantos finding truly rare air in the Fall League

October 27th, 2023

GLENDALE, Ariz. – Name an offensive category, and through nearly four weeks of Arizona Fall League action, is at or near the top of the leaderboard.

How has a 20-year-old who hit just four home runs in 83 games during the regular season flipped the switch so emphatically?

“You know, it's really just staying consistent with what I do best, being able to repeat it,” Triantos said. “I go up there and I execute my plan. It doesn't really matter who's out there on that mound.”

Triantos isn’t just tearing through pitching in the desert, he’s doing so at a pace not seen in over a decade. With a 1.304 OPS through Mesa's 3-2 win over Glendale at Camelback Ranch on Thursday, the Cubs’ No. 9 prospect is in line for the highest on-base-plus-slugging percentage among qualified batters since Dustin Ackley (1.339) in 2010.

The 2021 second-rounder ran into his third homer of the fall circuit in the sixth inning, kicking off a decisive three-run frame for the Solar Sox. With a plethora of high-octane arms ready out of the bullpen on a nightly basis, less experienced hitters often scuffle to produce with frequency in the AFL. But getting ahead in the count against right-hander Josimar Cousin (White Sox) proved key as Triantos – serving as the designated hitter – deposited a heater beyond the left-field fence.

“I was just on time,” he said. “I saw the fastball good, took a good swing at it and good things happen when you stick to your plan.”

It took Triantos 48 regular-season outings to record three homers, and prior to arriving in Arizona, he hadn’t gone deep in more than two months. But equipped with a smooth swing that has drawn comparisons to past All-Stars, Triantos has begun to further impact the baseball during his time in the desert.

Even Triantos’ outs Thursday were hard-hit. Just prior to swatting his game-tying homer, he rocketed a grounder in the third that developed into a tailor-made double play. In the seventh, he sizzled a line drive directly to second baseman Tyler McDonough (Red Sox).

Two years ago, a Cubs player led the Fall League in OPS -- outfielder Nelson Velázquez helped slug Mesa to a championship en route to league MVP honors. Matt Mervis similarly showcased some significant pop last year, with both players parlaying their fall success into big league debuts the following season.

Across Triantos’ 16 contests for the Solar Sox (making appearances at five different positions defensively), he has collected hits in all but two outings. He sports a .424/.507/.797 slash line in that span, a considerable improvement from the numbers he put up between High-A South Bend and Double-A Tennessee this season.

A torn right meniscus threatened to scuttle Triantos’ year before it really began. He missed a month of action at the start of the year, making him a prime candidate to garner further valuable in-game reps in the Fall League. Despite getting his first taste of High-A this season at just 20 years old and facing a younger hurler in only 19 of his 363 plate appearances, his 35 walks and 39 strikeouts gave him the highest walk-to-strikeout ratio among all Cubs Minor Leaguers (0.9).

Camaraderie among Cubs prospects that was apparent even before the season started has carried over into the fall. Triantos and Pete Crow-Armstrong (CHC No. 1) were in attendance at the World Baseball Classic in March, cheering on Owen Caissie (CHC No. 3) and BJ Murray Jr. (CHC No. 18) as they played for Team Canada and Team Great Britain respectively. Now, Triantos and Kevin Alcántara (CHC No. 4) share a dugout with Mesa, continuing to engage in their daily contests of one upmanship.

“Man, I've been suiting up with Kevin since the [Rookie-level Arizona Complex League] in 2021,” Triantos said. “He's an unbelievable player. He's got a personality to himself. I love watching him go about his business.”

“Me and [Triantos], we compete every time,” Alcántara said last week. “You got three hits? I [want to] get four hits. This guy, he’s awesome.”

“Our farm system is loaded right now with guys,” Triantos continued. “Everybody can play, everybody is competing. It’s fun. You got to keep playing, keep getting better, keep working on your craft. I enjoy working with those guys because they’re so good, they take it seriously and they’re locked in all the time.”