There is certainly a lot to like about the 2017 Charleston RiverDogs.
It would be easy to sit here and gush about Blake Rutherford (which I will at a later time). Unfortunately, Thursday night he was DH, and I was really excited to see him field. At the plate, he wasn't able to show much either, as Rome -- perhaps with purpose -- pitched around the first-rounder all night. He did walk three times, which is promising, and got a hit so all was not lost.
But I was highly impressed with two RiverDog prospects that flew a bit under the radar.
HOY JUN PARK, SS/2B
This is Park’s second go in the South Atlantic League. Signed out of Korea for the 2015 season, Park failed to impress in his first year at full-season ball.
Park stands at 6-foot-1 and 175. He is wiry and quick and seems like he would be a regular threat on the base paths. That proved true last year when he stole 32 of 35 attempted bases. The problem was getting on base.
The 21-year old middle infielder certainly has a good feel for the strike zone. He’s been the model of consistency in the walk department over his first two seasons, walking 13 percent of the time each year. The problem last season was a four-percent spike in strikeout rate. Park struck out 120 times, or 23.2 percent of the time, which is entirely too high for a guy who makes his living on singles atop the order.
Thus far in 2017, he has reverted to his old self, striking out five times and walking four in his first 34 plate appearances. He’s slashing .314/.385/.543 and surprisingly already has as many home runs as he did last year (2).
Thursday night in Rome, we got to see a little bit of everything Park has to offer. There is something very Ichiro to me about his swing, perhaps even more defined as a lefty. While he starts whirling his bat over his shoulder unlike Suzuki, as the ball comes to the plate he extends the bat much in the ilk of Ichiro and even takes that running-start leg kick.
It worked. Park made constant contact all night. He was a menace to the Rome Braves, finishing 4-for-6, with three singles and a double. He showed off his speed, which is probably 60-grade-ish at the least, stealing his second base of the year. Park was responsible for six of the RiverDogs 14 runs, scoring three and driving in three more.
The most impressive stat for Park this season? He’s leading the team in RBI.
I’m not sure where Park fits into the future plans. He seemed to handle the infield just fine — he was at second on Thursday — and when he is hitting, he is a good cog atop any lineup. He won’t be a fast-riser by any means, but it was good to see Park back on track in the leadoff spot.
ANGEL AGUILAR, 3B/2B/SS
Aguilar is now 21-years old and a seasoned vet, entering his sixth season of pro ball. The Venezuelan was signed before the 2012 season and quite honestly, hasn’t shown much in his five years since.
This is Aguilar’s third stint in Charleston. As the saying goes, third time’s the charm.
The right-handed hitting infielder is on absolute fire. He is 8-for-14 over his last three games, driving in seven runs over that span. Thursday night in Rome, he had a huge night, going 3-for-6, driving in four of the RiverDogs 14 runs.
Most impressive about Aguilar was his play at the hot corner. Aguilar made two great snags at third, one in full extension, and made quality throws. After his second play, there was a collective, "Who is this guy?"in the press box. He certainly turned heads.
Aguilar may not have lost any glimmer he had as a prospect over the past five years. His .440/.464/.600 start definitely makes him one to keep an eye on.