Cleveland's Jesus Aguilar went hitless in 15 Cactus League at-bats this spring, but any underwhelming impression he left is fading with every swing he takes in Triple-A.
The 6-foot-3, 250-pound slugger blasted a pair of home runs -- including a long opposite-field shot in the seventh inning -- as Columbus held off Louisville, 6-5, on Tuesday night.
The Indians' No. 19 prospect finished 2-for-5 with five RBIs and actually dropped his average to .563 through five games this season. The 23-year-old has belted three home runs and two doubles with seven RBIs in his Triple-A debut.
"He's having really quality at-bats right now," Columbus coach Chris Tremie said. "He's not going out of the zone chasing pitches. … He's really balanced in his attack and is barreling up the ball really good."
Aguilar has as many walks as strikeouts (three) thus far this season, which Tremie credits to an improved ability to recognize strikes and lay off balls.
The first-base prospect struck out in 18.9 percent of his Double-A plate appearances in 2013, a sharp drop from the 27.6 percent strikeout rate he had with Akron in 20 2012 games. The Venezuelan's strikeout rate has dropped each of the past three seasons in spite of his rise from Class A to Triple-A.
Aguilar continued that trend in his home country this offseason, hitting .327 with 18 homers in 58 games with Caracas in the Venezuelan Winter League. The native of Maracay struck out just 43 times in 58 games.
"He's done an outstanding job laying off pitches outside the zone," Tremie said. "He's really put some good swings on pitches."
Aguilar's first homer Tuesday came against Cincinnati's No. 7 prospect David Holmberg. The first baseman turned on one of the left-hander's offerings and drilled it to left field for a two-run shot.
The second homer was even more impressive. Facing a 2-2 count with two outs and two on in the bottom of the seventh, Aguilar sat on Chad Rogers' outside offering and mashed the pitch over the fence in right-center, clanking the ball off Huntington Park's scoreboard.
"He's showed that [power] throughout his career," Tremie said. "He's got power to right-center and to right, and he has some pull power too. He's a good-looking young prospect with some good power."
Tremie added he's been pleased with Aguilar's play at first base. The prospect served as the designated hitter Tuesday, but in three games manning first, Aguilar has shown "good agility, good range," according to the Clippers skipper.
Columbus starter Travis Banwart picked up the win by limiting the Bats to an earned run on two hits over six innings. The right-hander struck out three and walked one, with only Ruben Gotay's sixth-inning homer blemishing his stat line.
Gotay added another homer in the eighth, giving him blasts from both sides of the plate in the contest. The Syracuse third baseman is hitting .389 this season with three homers and finished 2-for-4 with three RBIs and two runs Tuesday.