In April, Triston Casas barely qualified as a big leaguer. In May, he looked representative. In June, he took off.
Now he's a monster.
With the Red Sox so focused on the future, one of the most positive takeaways from this season has been Casas' emergence. He offered another example on Monday by launching the go-ahead three-run homer to left-center in a 7-3 victory over the Rays.
That he could drive a changeup 419 feet in that direction spoke to the sledgehammer he wields at the plate. Only the strongest power hitters in the game can go that way as regularly as Casas, and even if his final numbers may not show it, he has been one of the most dominant sluggers in the game for more than two months.
Since the All-Star break, Casas is hitting .340 with 14 homers and 32 RBIs. His 1.113 OPS in that span trails only Mookie Betts and Corey Seager, slotting just ahead of Shohei Ohtani and Freddie Freeman, a cohort that could conceivably include both the AL and NL MVPs.
Overall, Casas has started sneaking onto a number of full-season American League leaderboards, including on base percentage (.368, 10th), slugging percentage (.503, 7th), and OPS (.870, 7th). If it weren't for the runaway success of the Orioles and five-tool threat Gunnar Henderson, Casas would be the Rookie of the Year favorite. As it is, he shouldn't finish worse than third.
That bodes well for a Red Sox club using every day this month to determine who can be a long-term piece of the future. Even if his glove needs work, Casas clearly fits that description.
"At the end of the day, what he wants is to do damage in the zone," manager Alex Cora told reporters in Tampa, including Chad Jennings of The Athletic. "And if it's not there, he'll take his walks. So far, so good. You start looking at numbers, and he's becoming one of the best hitters in the big leagues without too many people talking about it."
What Casas has very quietly done over the last two months is supplant Rafael Devers as the most dangerous hitter in the Red Sox lineup. Early in the season, he controlled the strike zone to a fault, sometimes passively taking hittable pitches, but not anymore. When he sees what he likes, he unloads, and he's aiming to do serious damage.
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It's enough to make you wonder what kind of leap he'll make even next year, especially as he cements himself at cleanup in Cora's lineup. He's still only 23, with an advance understanding of the zone he should only continue to hone with experience.
His potential is downright scary.
"Numbers-wise, he's probably one of the top 10 hitters in the league," Cora told reporters. "And he keeps getting better."
The Red Sox desperately need it, because as the front office tries to convince a skeptical fan base (and maybe even ownership group) that the future is bright, it can't make that case without concrete examples. The hulking Casas certainly qualifies.
After all, what separates the truly great hitters from the merely powerful is an ability to use all fields, and Casas possesses it. Like Manny Ramirez or J.D. Martinez poking one into the bullpen from the right side, Casas easily leaves the park to left and left-center from the left side. More than a third of his homers have landed there, routinely at distances over 400 feet.
Just wait until he really knows what he's doing.
"That's been one of my MOs as a hitter, is being able to use the whole field," Casas told Jennings. "But now using it with power, I think unlocks a new sense of calmness at the plate, knowing I can go that way with the effort level that I have."
Whatever else we take away from the 2023 season, at least there's this: It's when Triston Casas gave us the first taste of the superstar he could one day be.