Triston Casas and a different approach to power

Triston Casas provides big power, but that isn't all.

The first base position has gotten an infusion of talent recently with the likes of Andrew Vaughn and (maybe) Spencer Torkelson. Then there’s the young guns in the majors already like Pete Alonso and Evan White. One guy who isn’t getting enough love is Triston Casas.

I’m guilty of this too. Casas has always been intriguing to me for reasons I’ll get into later, but I’ve never been the high man on him. I had an unfair predisposition that he was just a big power profile. That came from the fact that he’s got some big power in his bat. His raw power is double plus.

Don’t get me wrong here, that power will be the driving force to his success because he has a lot of it. However, there’s so much more to his game that makes him a much more interesting prospect.

First things first, he’s listed at 3B almost everywhere. He spent the majority of 2019 playing first base, so let’s run with that. In the spirit of honesty his position doesn’t matter, it’s what he can do with a bat in his hand.

Now the inspiration behind this whole thing, the massive bomb that Casas hit off Nick Pivetta that caused me to dive into him in great detail. Keep in mind, he was hit by a pitch just before this and refused to take first. Then he pulled out his boomstick.

Interested yet?

Background

 

Casas was the Red Sox first rounder back in 2018, and his path to playing time looks a tad clouded at the moment. Between Rafael Devers and Bobby Dalbec, who are already in the MLB, and even the recent acquisition of Hudson Potts, there’s some competition. You can throw Michael Chavis in the mix as well. Now, all these are just names, but looking from a birds eye view they are potential roadblocks. Hitting cures all though.

If it’s not obvious yet, the big tool that Casas brings to the table is his power. That kind of profile generally comes with swing and miss. He obliged to the profile with as SwStr% of 13.6 and strikeout percentages above 20. He’s also held true to the OBP upside of the power profile with a walk percentage north of 10 percent last year.

Let’s be clear though, profiles almost never tell the whole story. They just give an idea of what the player can be. Casas is much more intriguing than a power-upside bat.

What draws me to Casas is the work he’s clearly put in to simplify everything. As a prep bat, it would be irresponsible to think he wouldn’t, but he’s made really nice strides in a matter of two seasons. For reference, here’s a homerun swing from 2017.

The most noticeable difference in the two home run swings is that he’s dropped the leg kick. He utilizes a simple toe tap now. It looks like he’s moved his hands too. They are not as loud in the homer off Pivetta than they are in the swing from 2017.

This isn’t to say he won’t strikeout, I want to be clear about that. Casas is a big dude standing at 6’4″ and his long levers will naturally breed swing and miss. But the power he creates in his swing is simply fantastic.

Here’s the interesting part, Casas is known to choke up on the bat with two strikes. It’s not an unheard of approach, and it can be very successful (See: Joey Votto), but for a guy known for doing damage to baseballs like Casas, it’s certainly noteworthy.

Numbers

 

Taking a peek at his splits from full season A Ball, where he got most of his 2019 playing time, it paints a small picture of what that does for him. Casas slashed .270/.500/.627 when ahead in the count and .277/.289/.453 when behind in the count. We can obviously disregard the OBP in each slash, because walks will go up when ahead in the count. The slugging number is expected too, it’s easier to get good pitches to hit when in a hitter’s count. I only included the full slash to tell the story. Really, the number to look at his the average. When he shortened up when behind in the count, he actually hit for a better average.

Just to show how impressive that is let’s look at a couple other examples. The Red Sox top prospect is generally agreed upon as Jeter Downs, who had a .336/.156 split when ahead/behind in the count at the Advanced A level. Last year on his way to winning MVP, Mike Trout had a .368/.140 split. Pump the MVP brakes on Casas, it’s just illustrating what choking up on the bat does for him.

It’s not hard to see prep bats as gambles. The Red Sox seem to like this, most recently taking Blaze Jordan in the 2020 draft. In the case of Casas, his ceiling as a middle of the order bat is still very well in tact. The plus raw power was never in question. Part of tapping into the power comes from mechanics and the actual swing. A lot of times, people worry that there won’t be enough contact made for the power to matter.

Being Joey Gallo is not easy. Casas is not Joey Gallo. In his 500 PA in 2019, Casas slashed a combined .256/.350/.480 with 20 homers, mostly in Full Season A ball, but also a handful of ABs in Advanced A.

 

Outlook

 

Casas’ power is going to be what provides value to his game, and there’s a lot of power there. The hit tool is coming along though. If he can keep improving upon that, there’s some real value to be had with him. His uniqueness in being the big power threat and shortening up make him a very interesting prospect, and frankly pretty undervalued in general.

While he’s still a known commodity, there’s an element to his game might allow him to explode up rankings. Let’s remember, too, that he is a lefty swinger and will call Fenway Park home. Those dimensions will be rather friendly for a player with the pop that Casas possesses.

In my book, Casas stock is rising. It should keep doing that. He’s pretty much a general consensus top 100 prospect. I think he’ll keep rising into the top 50, if not higher. The position might limit his ranking ceiling, but that’s just a number. He’s a very talented player.

The swing and miss is probably not going anywhere, but he does what he needs to in order to minimize its impact on his game. To say he’s breaking barriers of a profile might be a little hyperbolic, but he certainly doesn’t fit into one box. It’s highly unusual for a big power bat to want to shorten up and choke up on the bat. It certainly makes Triston Casas a unique case.

 

Featured Image by Cliff Welch/Icon Sportswire | Adapted by Zach Ennis (@zachennis on Twitter and Instagram) and Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

 

Trevor Hooth

Loves watching MiLB and talking about it. Millikin University alum and optimistic Tigers fan.

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