The Rangers’ No. 5 prospect worked as the designated hitter for the RoughRiders in their 8-1 win over Arkansas and crushed his homers a combined 921 feet, the first travelling 446 feet and the second going 475 feet. It was the slugging catcher’s first multihomer game of the season and the third of his career.
Jared Goedert, the RoughRiders manager, coached Huff with Low-A Hickory in 2019 and said he has never coached a player with this amount of raw power.
“That type of power is pretty rare. It’s very, very special power for sure,” said Goedert over the phone following the game. “Whenever you have somebody who can mis-hit balls and have them be homers and drive in multiple runs with one swing of the bat when they don’t even necessarily get all of it, that’s very rare and part of what makes him so special.”
The 23-year-old’s day began in the second inning with a well-struck line drive hit directly at Arkansas outfielder Zach DeLoach. He led off the fifth inning with Frisco trailing 1-0 and quickly tied the game on a 2-0 fastball down the middle, punctuated with a bat flip. The ball had an exit velocity of 108 mph and clanged off the scoreboard beyond left-center field at Riders Field.
Huff batted in the sixth inning and struck out on four pitches. He stepped into the box in the bottom of the eighth with Frisco leading 7-1 and subsequently demolished a 1-1 pitch up in the zone 475 feet and 108 mph off the bat over the Diamond Deck in left field and into the trees that sit between Riders Field and the building across Texas Rangers Drive.
“There’s some apartments across the street that I kind of jokingly thought that he may have hit,” said Goedert. “Tonight, he probably actually did.”
Huff is no stranger to hitting mammoth homers; his first dinger of the year was sent 511 feet and 115 mph off the bat while he was rehabbing a right knee injury suffered during Minor League camp with the ACL Rangers.
Huff also blasted a ball 502 feet for Frisco on Aug. 7 with a 112 mph exit velocity. The ball disappeared into the same trees beyond left field that he banished his second long ball of Friday's game into.
Since his return from injury and his eight-game stint in Arizona in which he had a 1.019 OPS, the seventh-round selection in the 2016 Draft has maintained his power but has struggled at the plate. In 29 games with Frisco, Huff has smashed seven homers but is slashing .207/.254/.396 for a .651 OPS with seven homers, 16 RBIs and 50 strikeouts in 29 games. In August, Huff is hitting .236, going 13-for-55 with four homers and 24 strikeouts.
“The limited time he’s been here this year, it’s been really close. There’s some times when it’s a little bit off, you can see it," said Goedert. "But he’s worked through it, he’s really been dedicated and worked with our hitting coaches a ton, getting back to where he’s comfortable and capable.”
Huff’s game at the plate has always centered around selling out for big power. In 359 career games, he has 66 home runs and 450 strikeouts, good for a home run rate of 4.5 percent and a strikeout rate of 30.8 percent. In 2018 and 2019, his only seasons totaling over 400 plate appearances, Huff totaled 44 doubles and 46 home runs while racking up 294 strikeouts.
In the 2020 season, Huff made his Major League debut with a 10-game stint in Arlington, going 11-for-31 and swatting three home runs. With his power and ability to stick behind the plate, Huff will have a valuable role in the big leagues as power hitting backstops are scarce at the highest level.
“It’s obviously extremely valuable. We’re not having him catch here this year, we want to not have that be a focus right now," said Goedert. “Hopefully Sam can finish on a strong note here and learn when he puts his head down and goes to work every day, keep working on his swing, keep working on his defense, being a good overall baseball player, all that other stuff takes care of itself.”
Huff showed his ability to hit for contact in the 2019 season with a .278 batting average and if he can return to that level of hitting figures to be a fixture in the Rangers’ lineup for years to come.
“If nothing else, I think a little adversity can be good for players in the long run if they use it the right way," said Goedert. “I’ve seen him hit for power and average so I know what he’s capable of just like everybody in the organization knows what he’s capable of.”