BOSTON -- A Minor League season would have been nice for No. 2 Red Sox prospect (per MLB Pipeline) Triston Casas, but he wonders if he might be gaining more from the alternative.
Though Casas wasn’t added to the 60-man player pool originally, he did get the call to the alternate site at Pawtucket, R.I., on Aug. 20 and has spent the last two weeks reveling in the experience of competing with and against upper-level Minor Leaguers and quite a few who have played in the Majors.
For someone who has yet to play above Class-A, this has been a unique opportunity for the heavy-hitting Casas, who smashed 20 homers and had an .830 OPS in his first pro season last year.
“I haven’t got the call to the big leagues but I feel like it’s the closest thing to it,” Casas said. “I was really excited to get up here. I knew the level of talent was not anything like I’ve faced before. I was really excited to test what I had against the best guys in our organization besides the guys in the big leagues. I’ve definitely come up here and tried to take full advantage of the opportunity, take every at-bat with purpose and go out there and compete.”
In Casas, the Red Sox have a big -- as in 6-5, 250-pound -- lefty slugger who also has the gift of a strong batting eye.
The Red Sox made the Miami native their first-round selection (No. 26 overall) in the 2018 Draft out of high school, but he displays the talent and the maturity of someone who could rise faster than a typical high school draftee.
A corner infielder, Casas has a savvy response when asked if he feels more comfortable at first or third base.
“I always tell them I feel most comfortable in the lineup,” said Casas.
Put a bat in his hands and let him rake, Casas says. He will then put whichever glove on he needs to and figure out how to get it done on defense.
“I don’t really care where I play on the field,” Casas said. “In all honestly, I feel as comfortable as I do at third at first. I played all three outfield positions in high school. I’m not saying I’m an outfielder at the big league level. And the shifts they have us at shortstop, so I feel pretty comfortable all over the place. They haven’t told me for sure anything in terms of position wise, but I’m staying ready and agile to play anywhere.”
Prior to being invited to Summer Camp, Casas did something interesting in lieu of playing in games. He watched a Major League game every day and tried to visualize at-bats.
“I just tried to be in the hitters’ heads, think about what they could be getting in that at-bat or how they were getting pitched throughout the games in terms of situations, counts, and I would just pick a couple of hitters out of a game that I thought I related to, or a left-handed hitter, that sort of thing,” said Casas. “I was definitely trying to stay in tune with the game that way and trying to focus on a couple of things every once in a while.”
Unlike many hitters in this strikeout-happy, launch-angle generation, you’ll notice that Casas shortens his stroke and even chokes up when he has two strikes. It turns out he has a hitter he loves to emulate in Joey Votto.
“Growing up, I loved watching Joey Votto. I love his approach. I love his swing. I love the way he approaches the game, and the way he takes his at-bats are second to none,” Casas said “The stats speak for themselves. He’s one of the best hitters of the 2010s, and that’s when I was growing up watching baseball, and being a left-handed first baseman, Joey Votto’s not a bad guy to emulate.
“I don’t really try to copy everything he does, but the other day I hit a home run in the sim game, and looking back on it, I was like, ‘Wow, I actually do look like Joey Votto.’ So, yeah, growing up I really did like watching him play.
“The choke up on the bat and two-strike approach, it was just something that I watched him do, and I tried it out for myself and I liked the results I was getting. I liked the way I felt in the box. I liked the way I would compete when I did formulate a good two-strike approach. I’m looking to keep that [approach], because I’m feeling really comfortable now.”