Vilade powers JetHawks' comeback

Rockies No. 6 prospect homers twice on first four-hit night

Ryan Vilade has 10 hits, including four for extra bases, in his last four California League games. (Jerry Espinoza/MiLB.com)

By Joe Bloss / MiLB.com | August 2, 2019 2:25 AM

Ryan Vilade hit .340 in June and .281 in July. If the first two games of this month are any indication, August is shaping up to be more like the former.

The sixth-ranked Rockies prospect homered twice and singled twice in Class A Advanced Lancaster's 11-10 comeback win over Modesto on Friday at The Hangar. The four-hit effort was the first of his career and came one night after a three-hit, three-RBI game.

Video: JetHawks' Vilade homers again

Vilade, a 2017 first-round pick, is starting to show some of the power that earned him the Eastbay Home Run Derby title in high school over the likes of No. 4 overall prospect Jo Adell and top Reds prospect Hunter Greene. With two long balls on Friday, he brought his season total to a career-high seven; he had five in each of his first two pro campaigns. His OPS has climbed to .807, nearly 100 points higher than what he posted last season with Class A Asheville.

So what's been the difference? Just some of the ideas that have permeated the game in 2019.

"I've pretty much had the same swing," Vilade said. "Consistently being able to put the barrel on the ball with some velocity -- high exit velocity -- is something that I've really worked hard on this year. Hitting the ball in the air, trying to do damage and drive the ball. I've also been put in some situations with some guys in scoring position and I'm trying to do a job. You know, hitting something in the air helps with that power, I think."


Gameday box score


While the slugging might be new, Vilade's overall production has been steady. Save for a .198 average in May, he's hit above .280 each month this year.

The credit, the Oklahoma native said, goes to how much Lancaster hitting coach Tom Sutaris tests his players in drills. Vilade has taken to machine work the most, with both high-velocity looks and a curveball machine becoming part of his routine.

"[Batting practice] is great and helps you time up the arm and get you to be able to see ball flight," he said. "But whenever you're doing machine stuff, it really challenges you. You know when you get beat, you know when you need to make an adjustment."

Vilade has done that while a good chunk of his attention has been on the defensive side of the game, where the Rockies -- as they do with most of their top infielders -- have tried to instill versatility. He played shortstop his whole life but has split time at third base this year. And he's learned there's a reason they call it the hot corner.

"Just to be able to slow the game down," Vilade said of the adjustments he's had to make. "I think as a shortstop you have more time to take your hop, go get it, make decisions. At third base, you just gotta be an athlete and go get it because it's on you quick."

So, too, were the Nuts on Friday. They scored five runs in the second inning and added one in each of the next three frames before tacking on their final two runs in the seventh to build a 10-7 lead.

Top Mariners prospect Jarred Kelenic doubled and knocked in a run, while Jake Scheiner had three hits, including his sixth homer of the year. Jack Larsen also went yard and leadoff man Joseph Rosa plated three runs.

2019 MiLB include

But Lancaster answered throughout. After Matt McLaughlin drew a one-out walk in the first inning, Vilade jacked his first tater to left-center field against right-hander Austin Hutchison. He led off the third with a first-pitch opposite-field dinger, also off Hutchison, that sailed out to right.

The 20-year-old singled up the middle in both the sixth and ninth, the first of eight JetHawks to face right-hander Kyle Wilcox (2-4) in that final frame. Three of them walked, two more notched singles, including Matt Hearn, whose two-run walk-off knock capped the four-run rally.

Modesto did not get a hit over the final two frames, blanked by relievers Salvador Justo and Hayden Roberts (4-1), and Lancaster earned its ninth win this season when trailing after eight innings.

"Coming back," Vilade said, "is in our blood."

Joe Bloss is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @jtbloss. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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