INDIANAPOLIS – He provided an offensive boost when the team needed it the most, showing his versatility in the process.
Lehigh Valley swept Indianapolis in a three-game series at Victory Field, as the Indians scored just one run in those games. Manager Dean Treanor, at the time, said his team seemed to be pressing at the plate. Somebody needed to be the one to provide a spark.
Enter, Jose Osuna. The 6-foot-2, 213-pound corner infielder and outfielder showed that his ability to hit for power seems to be increasing.
Osuna hit a home run in three consecutive games against Charlotte. And the home runs came in critical moments. His shot to deep center field in game one traveled 415 feet and was the lone run in a 1-0 win.
In the second game of the series, Osuna hit a home run to left-center field to put the Indians ahead, 1-0, in a game they went on to win. And in the third game of the series, Osuna broke a tie with a thee-run home run to right field.
Three days, three home runs, three different parts of the field. That sums up Osuna’s successful transition to Triple A: He’s hitting for power and extra bases. In 26 games with the Indians, Osuna is hitting .295 with a .909 OPS.
“I was told when he got here I would be impressed with him,” Indianapolis hitting coach Butch Wynegar said. “I never like to make judgments until I see for myself. For a big guy he has the ability to use the whole field.”
Osuna has 23 hits at the Triple-A level, with nine doubles and four home runs. He’s on a 12-game hitting streak entering Friday.
“I’m just trying to see the ball deep,” Osuna said. “I have better recognition of the breaking pitch. I feel better now because the first two weeks here they threw a lot of sliders to me and I was chasing that pitch. Now, I feel better I took it down and I think that’s the difference right now.”
Osuna hit .269 with .763 OPS in 70 games with Altoona this season before being promoted to Indianapolis on June 30. His adjustment to the Triple-A level has been quick.
He went 0-for-1 in a pinch-hitting role in his first game with the Indians and went 0-for-3 in his first start. In his third game, Osuna had a pair of doubles. Since that point, he’s only been held without a hit in four of the past 21 games. However, one of those games was just a pinch-hit at-bat.
“The pitchers get a little bit better [at Triple-A] and they don’t miss too much,” Osuna said. “They have better command of the pitch so I have to make an adjustment. I think my approach is just to see the ball deep. I was trying to do too much and that’s not my game.”
Osuna’s adjustment to the pitch sequence he’s encountering at the Triple-A level is made easier by his own efforts, studying his own game and that of his opponents. He is also showing early signs of being able to make adjustments on the fly, Wynegar said.
“For 23 years old you look at him and you think he’s older than he is,” Wynegar said. “He’s very mature. He’s a student of the game, he’s a student of hitting and he watches the pitchers. He’s pretty advanced for 23 years old at this level to go up there and kind of formulate his plan on what he is seeing before him and what they’ve done to him before. “
Osuna’s power surge via the home run is a matter of him taking advantage of mistakes made by pitchers, Wynegar said.
“That’s what you have to do,” Treanor added. “He has done that. And I think as everybody does, especially someone that is a corner outfielder or corner infielder – I think he can try to do too much at the plate. But if he can continue [to do what he has], then we have something for sure.”
A successful hitter is not just one that can hit for power, but know when to hit for power, Wynegar said.
“I’ve talked to these guys all year about when that second baseman is in double-play depth and you have a hole over there for a couple of trucks to drive through, take a shot at it,” Wynegar said. “That’s how guys hit .300. More times than not guys try to do too much in certain situations. They want to be a hero or they want to hit the ball too far, and next thing you know they roll one over to the shortstop and it’s s double play. [Osuna] seems to have that knack and smarts of when to go ahead and try to let it eat and when to just play the game.”
Osuna could carve himself a role in the major leagues in the future if he continues to hit for power. Granted, there’s going to be a backlog of players in front of him in the near future within the Pirates organization – whether in the outfield or at first base. But his ability to play those two positions would make him valuable off the bench if he continues to hit well.