Prospects heat up desert night with 3 straight homers

October 22nd, 2023

MESA, Ariz. -- Who let the Desert Dogs out?

There was much to bark and howl about in the dugout after Glendale claimed a 7-6 extra-inning victory over Mesa at Sloan Park on Saturday night, particularly the back-to-back-to-back home runs in the second inning that staked the club to an early lead.

Baseballs are known to gain some additional carry when launched into the night sky during the Arizona Fall League, with the favorable desert conditions and all. The triumvirate of Damon Keith (Dodgers), Bryan Ramos (CWS No. 7) and Kala’i Rosario (MIN No. 19) put that theorem to the test when they teamed up to record the rare feat against Solar Sox starter Trystan Vrieling (Yankees).

1st homer: Keith

When Keith found himself ahead in the count during the 2023 regular season with High-A Great Lakes, he hit .304 with a .970 OPS (as opposed to a .142 average and .432 OPS when behind). So when he worked himself into 2-0 and 3-1 spots against Vrieling with one out and no one on in the second, the 23-year-old outfielder was in a familiarly prime position to do damage.

Keith’s wallop off a hanging breaking ball gave him a hit in six consecutive Fall League games. While the 18th-rounder from the 2021 Draft has continuously hit the ball hard when making contact, he had gone without a homer in the AFL prior to kicking off the tater barrage.

“My main goal is just -- regardless of results -- trying to go out there and find the barrel any way I can,” Keith said. “And some fall and some don’t.”

2nd homer: Ramos

The axiom goes that when a hitter is locked in, he sees the baseball as if it was a beach ball. After a four-hit night Friday, it’s no wonder the 21-year-old Ramos took a cut on a first-pitch breaking ball and clobbered it.

“I just say [to myself], if he throws something in the middle of the plate -- something good -- I'm gonna swing. I'm gonna try to make good contact,” Ramos said.

After getting a brief taste of Double-A Birmingham in 2022, the Cuba native returned there in late May and proceeded to serve as one of the most potent hitters on the Southern League circuit. Ramos ranked inside the Top 15 in OPS (.826), wOBA (.374) and wRC+ (122), while having the third-highest percentage of baseballs in play going to the center of the diamond (28.9 percent).

Ramos stayed back on the curveball and drilled a towering drive to his sweet spot, just left of center field.

3rd homer: Rosario

When the two prior batters club homers and come storming into the dugout to a chorus of high-fives and head taps, it’s nearly impossible to not ponder doing it yourself, right?

“I mean, I was definitely thinking about it,” Rosario said. “I don't know how you can't when you see two bombs right before you and you're coming up.”

His thoughts were evident when he cut and missed at Vrieling’s first offering. After taking a pitch off the plate, Rosario geared back up and clobbered a 1-1 heater to right field.

The whole “homering in three straight at-bats” thing isn’t new to Rosario, who kicked off a back-to-back-to-back bonanza on July 22 with High-A Cedar Rapids. The 21-year-old would go on to claim 2023 Midwest League MVP, pacing the circuit in home runs (21) and RBIs (94), while his ISO (.216) ranked him third among all qualified batters.

Six of the seven Glendale runs Saturday came via the long ball, as the club collected five roundtrippers in total. Through 18 games, the Desert Dogs rank second in the league with 22 homers as a unit.

“Something like [the Fall League] where it’s a shorter span, the quicker that everybody comes together and we start feeding off each other, it just helps everybody in all facets,” Keith said. “Whether we're barking or whatever, we've definitely got it going on.”

“When I hit my ball, the whole dugout was screaming, so it kind of fired me up,” Rosario said. “I threw the bat and I saw it going, I'm like, ‘Oh, that's gotta get [up].’

“It's fun competing against everybody. The level [of competition] that this league has, I mean, everybody wants to be a big leaguer and this is where it starts.”