John Tomase

Triston Casas has superstar potential, as he proved with one swing

Could Casas be the most dangerous hitter in the Red Sox lineup?

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It was just one swing in an otherwise forgettable spring training game on Wednesday, but man did it hint at the impact Triston Casas could make this season.

In the battle of power vs. power against Yankees lefty Carlos Rodón, Casas delivered the knockout, launching a mammoth home run on a swing that was equal parts elegant and vicious. Rodón tried to beat Casas with a 97 mph full-count fastball, and the rugged first baseman pummeled it.

The blast left the bat at a shade over 109 mph and carried 421 feet. If it's a sign of things to come, the middle of the Red Sox order might be more dangerous than we think.

"I got it really well," Casas told reporters, including Sean McAdam of MassLive. "I think that's all I've got, so thankfully, that's all I need. I hit it well. Carlos is always a tough at-bat, so I was just trying to stay short and hit a head-high line drive, so maybe that's my thought going forward.

"His stuff moves so late that I feel like I have to make a decision when it's as close to the plate as possible. So I have to swing hard. I'm really trying to let the ball travel and take my best swing as late as possible. He hides the ball really well and his fastball has late life. I can't get out in front and try to ambush him."

It shouldn't surprise anyone if Casas takes the next step, because that process really started last year. After a first half marked by an overemphasis on selectivity, the patient and powerful Casas flexed his muscles down the stretch.

He hit .317 with 15 homers and a 1.034 OPS after the All-Star break, not only controlling the strike zone, but dominating it. His OPS during that span ranked fourth in baseball, trailing only AL MVP Shohei Ohtani, NL MVP Ronald Acuna Jr., and Braves All-Star Matt Olson, while checking in just ahead of former MVPs Mookie Betts, Bryce Harper, and Freddie Freeman.

At a hulking 6-foot-5 and 244 pounds, Casas already looks the part, and we shouldn't be surprised if the 24-year-old is soon acting it. He has received relatively little attention this spring, even though he has the potential to be the most dangerous hitter in a lineup that includes $300 million masher Rafael Devers.

The Red Sox recognize his value, which is why they've tried, but so far failed, to sign him to a long-term extension. His worth extends off the field, too, especially after a winter in which Casas was among the most engaged members of the team. He attended rookie development camp, Winter Weekend, and Trevor Story's infield workouts, making community appearances as well.

"He's been kind of like our MVP this offseason," manager Alex Cora said earlier this winter. "He came here to visit hospitals and all that stuff. He went to the DR when we had the group going there. And then he went to Dallas, he went to the rookie development program. So I think he understands who we are, where we're at.

"It's fun to for him to take that step forward. Obviously, it's been a great offseason for him physically, mentally, understanding who he is for us, and I'm very proud of him."

If the swing against Rodón is any indication, Casas's biggest impact is yet to come.

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