Fairly or not, Mike Yastrzemski's life on the baseball diamond is always going to be compared with that of his grandfather, Hall of Fame outfielder and 1967 Triple Crown winner Carl Yastrzemski. That usually doesn't end well for Mike, so here's a stat a little more favorable to the 23-year-old outfielder.
Through 52 games this season with Class A Delmarva, Yastrzemski leads the South Atlantic League with eight triples. That ties his grandfather's Minor League high (1960 with Double-A Minneapolis) and sits one shy of his Major League best with the Red Sox (nine, 1964).
"Absolutely, I'll remind him of that," the younger Yastrzemski said. "Any edge I can get on him, I'll certainly take it."
Batting from the top of the Shorebirds lineup, the Orioles prospect took the Sally League lead Sunday when he tripled twice, doubled once and drove in a career-high six runs in Delmarva's 11-2 win over Lakewood at FirstEnergy Park.
Yastrzemski led off the game with a double, then his triples came in back-to-back bases-loaded plate appearances. His first three-run three-bagger gave Delmarva a 4-2 advantage with two outs in the sixth, and his second with one out in the seventh highlighted a seven-run frame that put the game away for the visiting side. The left-handed slugger wasn't really looking to duplicate his first feat in the second plate appearance.
"Honestly I just wanted to put the ball in play, and hopefully, we'd get a run or two in," said Yastrzemski. "But I got a pitch that was a little bit up and was able to get it pretty good. I'll certainly take it."
The six RBIs for the Orioles' 2013 14th-rounder out of Vanderbilt bested his previous high of three matched three times this season. Despite playing 39 of his 52 games this as Delmarva's leadoff man, Yastrzemski leads the squad and ranks eighth in the Sally League with 34 RBIs. He also leads the team and sits second in the circuit with 42 runs scored.
"It's always great to help produce runs instead of scoring them," he said. "A lot of the credit for that goes to the guys ahead of me. Justin [Viele] did a good job of working a walk ahead of me in the sixth, and that helped me bring in another there."
As for his eight triples on the season, which rank second among all Minor League hitters, Sunday's pair were Yastrzemski's first away from Delmarva's Perdue Stadium this season. While the word "triple" often invokes the idea of speed, the Massachusetts native admitted park factors have just as much to do with his production.
"Most of it is just hitting to the right part of the park," he said. "We play at a huge field at home, so when you hit it just right, you just have to put your head down and run as fast as you can. But it felt good to get a few away today. It gives me at least a little confidence that my legs still have some juice in them."
Yastrzemski owns a .301/.371/.524 slash line with six homers, 12 doubles and nine steals in 52 games during his first full season in the O's system. His early numbers are certainly impressive, but he says he still turns to his legendary grandfather, who remains a roving hitting instructor for the Red Sox, for plenty for advice as he begins his climb through the Minors.
"I actually talk to him a lot, mostly when I'm struggling," he said. "He does a great job of helping me and talking me through my approach, how I'm feeling at the plate, even from so far away."