“Unpredictable” is the best one-word summation of the game of baseball. On June 22, I was in Las Vegas to attend a Pacific Coast League matchup between the hometown 51s (Triple-A affiliate of the New York Mets) and the Salt Lake Bees (Triple-A affiliate of the Los Angeles Angels). In a game featuring a couple of top prospects on one team and an overflow of Quad-A players on the other side, one would think the main attraction would be the prospects, correct? In this instance, the young stars of tomorrow were completely overshadowed by the offensive light show put on by the Bees. One would also expect plenty of runs with a pitching matchup of Donovan Hand and Luis Diaz on tap, but the scoring was surprisingly one-sided.
These observations were evident from the moment the first pitched was delivered. The Bees got to Hand right away in the first, notching three runs out of the gate. They only slowed up for one inning, as the second inning turned out to be the only frame that they would fail to tally a run. Meanwhile, Diaz hummed along, tossing seven strong innings of two-run ball while fanning six.
On the prospect front, I didn’t get to see the results on the field necessarily, although the shines of Amed Rosario and Dominic Smith were evident nonetheless. Rosario had his fair share of struggles in the contest, striking out twice and committing an error at shortstop, although his first at-bat was a great example of what he can bring to the table even on days in which he’s not at the top of his game. The 21-year-old shortstop drew a five-pitch walk and proceeded to swipe second base to move into scoring position for Smith. Although he doesn’t walk overly much, he has worked to improve his approach at the plate in an effort to cut back on his strikeouts as he prepares for a full-time gig in the big leagues. His combination of speed and contact can make him a valuable fantasy asset for years to come, especially as he fills out more throughout his career.
Smith also showed flashes of excellence. He only managed to collect one hit in his four plate appearances, although he was ripping the ball all night. After a first inning popout, the first base prospect hit a sharp groundball single and made two loud outs to right and left field. There’s a lot of power in his bat, and if he can continue his good approach at the plate, he could be a mainstay at first base in New York for years to come.
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The real story of the game was Kaleb Cowart, however. Cowart has consistently produced at the Triple-A level over the past few seasons but hasn’t been able to translate that success to the majors. This mastery of the minors was evident Thursday evening, as Cowart wound up hitting for the cycle in a 6-for-6 night at the plate. He bashed three doubles and clobbered an opposite-field homer, but the most impressive hit in my book was the triple to complete the cycle. Cashman Field’s center field fence lies a massive 433 feet away from the plate, but the 25-year-old burned the 51s’ center fielder Victor Cruzado with a one-hopper off the fence that would’ve likely left most major-league parks. Cowart’s big performance was rewarded shortly thereafter with a callup to the big leagues, where he’ll look to finally maintain his spot in the big leagues as one of the Halos’ primary infielders.
All in all, the game was an awesome experience. It certainly was not what I expected to see, but that’s the beauty of baseball. Instead of getting a show by some of the brightest prospects in all of baseball, I was treated to the first cycle I’ve ever seen in person, making for a fun and memorable evening at the ballpark.