SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – No baseball Opening Night festivities are complete without fireworks, an accessory that Chase DeLauter made sure was delivered at Scottsdale Stadium on Monday night during the first day of 2023 Arizona Fall League action.
Earlier in the day, as batters got their first look at the 430-foot sign that looms in straightaway center, many wondered what kind of pop it would take to hit it out that way. DeLauter delivered the answer with a resounding wallop for Peoria in the third inning that landed just to the right of the batter’s eye, setting the tone for a seesaw 10-10 extra-inning tie with Scottsdale.
While DeLauter was minutes late from holding the badge of first homer on the premier prospect circuit, he wound up with arguably the most complete night of any hitter in the desert, going 2-for-4 with a career-high five RBIs, a stolen base and a walk. MLB’s No. 85 prospect kicked off his stint in baseball’s finishing school with a multihit, pack-the-box-score showing, a continuation of his successful 57-game foray into pro ball from this season.
“I'm just trying to get those at-bats back that I missed early in the season,” DeLauter said. “I feel pretty comfortable right now with myself and my body, my swing, the way I'm playing.”
Sidetracked by a fractured left pinky toe – which marked a further aggravation of a broken left foot that he sustained in 2022 – that occurred during the offseason, DeLauter, the Guardians’ No. 4 prospect, is looking to put a bow on a campaign that has seen him mash to the tune of a .355/.417/.528 slash across three different levels.
If there was one aspect of DeLauter’s production that waned, it came against left-handed pitching. The left-handed-hitting outfielder delivered just a .592 OPS vs. southpaws, which made his no-doubt rocket all the more impressive. Getting behind 0-2 against the Giants’ Seth Lonsway, a lefty, DeLauter worked the count even before putting himself in a spot where he could hunt a heater.
“I got something off the plate and then I knew he was going to go to the heater or at least I sold out to it – put a good swing on it,” DeLauter said.
Put simply, DeLauter has raked no matter where he’s played since stepping onto campus in Harrisonburg, Va., in 2020. It was just four years ago that the Guardians prospect with the highest-ranked power tool (60, on the 20-80 scouting scale) was lightly recruited coming out of Hedgesville (W.Va.) HS, leading to a stint with the Dukes where he clobbered collegiate pitching across three years to the tune of a .402/.520/.715 slash line.
DeLauter’s pro debut didn’t come until June, nearly a full calendar year after Cleveland selected him with the 16th overall pick out of James Madison University. But once he got his legs under him following a stint in the Arizona Complex League, the 6-foot-4, 235-pounder leapt straight to High-A Lake County, where he paced the circuit (among batters with at least 160 plate appearances) with a .366 average over 42 games. His .427 wOBA and 164 wRC+ placed him fourth among all Midwest League hitters under that same qualification.
DeLauter wrapped up his regular season on an 11-game hitting streak, including all six games that he spent with Double-A Akron. Despite citing the increased accuracy of hurlers at the level – a jump that often befuddles even the most experienced of bats – he felt that his preparation remained consistent, yielding success.
“You just got to take each day one at a time,” DeLauter said. “Focus on that pitcher for that game; get his report, kind of have a plan on what you want to do in the box and stick with it. I think that's the only way to really go about it instead of kind of looking through where these guys are at and what they've done.”
There will be ample adjustments for DeLauter to make throughout his six weeks in Arizona, as a bevy of arms from all levels will attempt to thwart his scalding start to the pro game. While he will turn 22 during his tenure in the desert, DeLauter has already faced a gambit of arsenals in just four months, making him uniquely prepared for the rigors of fall ball.
While DeLauter’s third inning roundtripper was the definitive shot of the night, he was one of 10 players to collect a multihit showing. Javelinas teammate Ryan Bliss (Mariners’ No. 14 prospect) was part of that group, adding a stolen base and a pair of terrific defensive plays at second base. Scorpions first baseman Sonny DiChiara (Angels) joined DeLauter in the homer column with an opposite-field three-run shot in the seventh.