'A good day' indeed: 2 HRs for Isaac in Spring Breakout

Rays' No. 4 prospect adds an RBI double and a walk in spectacular showing

March 16th, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla. -- There might be only one hitter in the Rays’ system who can match the tremendous raw power of top prospect Junior Caminero.

Xavier Isaac showed it Saturday afternoon during Tampa Bay’s inaugural Spring Breakout game, as the Rays’ No. 4 prospect crushed two home runs -- a few hours after Randy Arozarena accomplished the same feat in the Rays’ 6-5 loss to the Twins on the same field -- and a double in the 8-8 tie against Minnesota.

“Can’t complain. Can’t really complain at all,” Isaac said, smiling. “It’s been a good day. I loved it.”

Isaac was limited to designated hitter duties on Saturday because he twisted his left ankle while running the bases during a Spring Training workout. The minor injury had restricted some of his work, but he recovered quickly enough to take live batting practice on Friday and get in the lineup on Saturday for his first real game of the spring.

Needless to say, he felt just fine afterward.

“Didn’t have to run too much,” Isaac said. “It works.”

Isaac was somewhat of a surprising first-round pick when the Rays selected him 29th overall in the 2022 MLB Draft. He was a big-bodied high school first baseman, typically not an alluring profile for clubs looking for athleticism and upside, and an injury had limited his looks on the summer showcase circuit.

But Tampa Bay believed in Isaac’s bat, and he has rewarded that belief at every turn so far.

Isaac has dropped between 40 and 50 pounds since his half-season professional debut two years ago. He entered last season with improved strength, agility and endurance and went on to slash .285/.395/.521 with 19 homers, 72 RBIs and 12 steals in 102 games between Single-A Charleston and High-A Bowling Green.

“The Rays were the only team to really have trust in me and see what happens,” Isaac said. “Every year, I feel like I’m getting better and better.”

Isaac entered this season as MLB Pipeline’s No. 58 overall prospect and the game’s top-ranked first base prospect. He played the entire Spring Breakout exhibition as the Rays’ DH and showed at the plate why he’s considered such a special prospect.

“That’s what he does, man. He hits. He takes good pitches. He makes you throw the ball he wants to hit, and when you do, he smashes it,” catcher Dominic Keegan (the Rays’ No. 6 prospect) said. “He’s really impressive. … I’m glad he’s on my team.

In his first plate appearance, Isaac took four pitches to draw a walk. In the third inning, he sliced a changeup from pitcher Charlee Soto to left field with an exit velocity of 103.6 mph. Shortstop Carson Williams, the Rays’ No. 2 prospect, sped around from first base and slid home safely to score.

Then, after the Twins scored eight runs against three Rays pitchers in the bottom of the third, came Isaac’s big smash.

Isaac unloaded on a first-pitch curveball from Twins pitcher Jack Noble and banged it off the batter’s eye beyond the center-field fence at Hammond Stadium. The 20-year-old’s solo blast sailed a projected 419 feet, according to Statcast, and came off his bat at 110.4 mph.

“X is something different. He has his days, for sure, and today was one of them,” said pitching prospect Trevor Martin, Isaac’s teammate with Charleston last season, who worked 2 1/3 innings to start the game. “He looks so effortless out there swinging the bat. It’s all effortless.”

Isaac wasn’t done, either. After getting ahead in the count, 3-0, against pitcher Alejandro Crisostomo in the sixth inning, Isaac crushed a 92.4 mph fastball out to left field for his second homer. This one came off his bat at 107.7 mph, according to Statcast, and traveled a projected 363 feet.

“Super excited about Xavier,” said Rays senior director of player development Blake Butera, who was in the television broadcast booth to see Isaac’s second homer. “Kid’s really special. The talent is unbelievable. His future’s going to be fun to watch.”

Here are a few other fun moments from the Rays’ first Spring Breakout game:

• Martin, the Rays' No. 20 prospect, showed his stuff in the second inning. The right-hander struck out the first batter with a nasty curveball, fanned the next batter with a high, carrying 93.5 mph fastball, then retired the final hitter on three pitches.

• Caminero went 1-for-3 with a third-inning single but produced one of the stranger moments of the game, trying to score from third base during a lull in the action because he didn’t realize the Twins had called timeout (they had). He scored anyway on a two-run single by Mason Auer.

• The Twins scored all their runs in the third inning, then the Rays’ bullpen shut them down with four scoreless frames to finish the game. Keyshawn Askew stood out, as he struck out two with his funky left-handed delivery.

• After the final out, former Vanderbilt teammates Keegan and Austin Martin of the Twins exchanged jerseys at home plate.