O's Cook comes up clutch with walk-off in Fall League

October 8th, 2023

MESA, Ariz. -- has a flair for the dramatic.

The No. 27 Orioles prospect hit walk-off homers in consecutive games during Double-A Bowie's final homestand of the season in September, and he struck again in his first week in the Arizona Fall League.

The Orioles right fielder jumped on right-hander Orlando Ribalta’s (Nationals) first pitch of the ninth inning, driving it for a 393-foot home run to give the Mesa Solar Sox a 1-0 victory over the Scottsdale Scorpions on Saturday afternoon.

Cook said he was looking to time up a fastball and did just that, hammering it with an exit velocity of 108 mph in front of his own personal cheering section.

“It’s fun to do it down here,” Cook said. “Hot day, get guys home, definitely a good environment to do it. I probably had 10 people here today, family and friends, old teammates. They came in for the weekend ...

“I do have a few under my belt. That’s definitely not the first but hopefully there’s a few more in the future.”

Cook had gone 1-for-13 with eight strikeouts in his first three starts with Mesa. He calmed things down against Scottsdale, reaching base three times in four trips to the plate and adding a stolen base.

“I think a put a little too much pressure on myself the first few games trying to show everybody I’m supposed to be down here, I can hang down here, instead of just playing the game,” Cook said. “Today I just tried to get back to simplifying everything, going back to what I did in the season, playing my game.”

Simplification also resulted in a big regular season for Cook. A 10th-round pick out of Pepperdine in 2021, he batted just .221/.298/.422 in High-A the following summer. Cook improved to .251/.320/.456 in Double-A this season while posting 24 homers and 30 steals.

Cook said he changed his approach at the plate after his first full pro season. He widened his stance, tightened up his right-handed swing and let the ball travel deeper, trusting his quick hands to allow him to make hard contact.

“Last year, there were a lot of strikeouts and swing and miss. I think I was swinging a little too hard, so I’m taking maybe a little step back and swinging 85 percent instead of 100 and just staying a little more loose to make a little more contact. When I do make contact, it goes.

“That’s what the Orioles said. They just said try to increase the contact and walk a little more. I’m an aggressive hitter, so just being a little more patient and trusting I can stay in my zone and work from there rather than expanding.”

Part of a loaded Baltimore system, Cook offers a combination of plus raw power and speed. He also has plus arm strength and the versatility to play five different positions in Double-A: all three outfield spots, along with second base and first base.

Before Cook went deep in the ninth, Mesa (3-3) and Scottsdale (3-2-1) had combined for just six hits and barely threatened to score. Solar Sox starter Trystan Vrieling (Yankees) made his professional debut and tossed two scoreless innings. The Yankees third-round pick in the 2022 MLB Draft, Vrieling missed this season with an elbow injury. Scorpions starter Davis Daniel (Angels), who posted a 2.19 ERA in three big league appearances, struck out five in four scoreless frames.