Wong keeps homers coming for Quakes

Dodgers No. 15 prospect belts two more to tie for Minors lead

Connor Wong only hit five home runs over 28 games in his first taste of professional ball. (Jerry Espinoza)

By Josh Horton / MiLB.com | April 23, 2018 12:05 AM

After Triple-A Salt Lake's Jabari Blash took sole possession of the Minor League home run lead with a pair of roundtrippers Saturday, Connor Wong responded Sunday. 

The Dodgers No. 15 prospect slugged two homers out of the designated hitter spot to bring his season total to eight and tie him with Blash, in Rancho Cucamonga's 8-6 loss to Lake Elsinore at LoanMart Field on Sunday. Wong chipped in four RBIs and a single on his three-hit night. 

Wong admitted that "never in his wildest dreams" did he fathom slugging his way to top of the Minors.

 


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"I've never really considered myself a home run hitter," he said. "I want to hit the ball hard wherever it goes, it goes. I can only control one thing, and that's hitting the ball as hard as I can." 

The Quakes gave Wong three games off to recover from general wear and tear from catching, and the Houston native's freshness paid dividends Sunday. 

"After a couple of days off, it was nice to get back in the box and compete again," he said. "Obviously I saw the ball well and I felt good." 

In just 16 games this year, Wong has shattered the previous career high of five homers he slugged for Class A Great Lakes last season. 

"He showed power last year, he's definitely got that tool in him," Quakes hitting coach Justin Viele said. "He has lightning hands that he uses really, really well. He does a great job of preparing himself for every pitcher that comes in and for every at-bat.

"I'm not surprised by it, I just think that he's hit some mistakes and put those in play and hit them very far. ... I think the biggest thing last year is that early on he was missing some pitches and fouling some pitches off. He could have hit eight home runs in his first 18 games last year, he just clipped some pitches that he didn't fully get crushed."

Both of the 2017 third-round pick's long balls Sunday came at the expense of Storm starter Emmanuel Ramirez. Wong belted a two-run shot on an 0-2 count in the first inning and the second on a 1-0 count in the sixth. Both were hit to center field.

"I'm just really swinging at pitches that I can handle," Wong said of his power surge. "(I'm) letting the pitcher's pitch be called a strike and continue to hunt for my pitch."

Wong also flicked an RBI single to left with the bases loaded and the Quakes down three runs in the bottom of the ninth to cut the lead to 8-6. Lake Elsinore reliever Gerardo Reyes retired the next three batters to close out the game. 

The final plate appearance was representative to his stellar approach and propensity for using all fields, according to Viele. 

"Sometimes you see guys that are a little bit more pull-happy, they struggle with getting in late counts," he said. "But Connor is so good hitting the ball to both fields. ... He gets more mistakes because he works at-bats and pitchers know they have to be perfect, and when you try to be perfect, you're bound to make a lot of mistakes. He's comfortable capitalizing on those mistakes."

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The 5-foot-11 backstop raised his average to .396 and his OPS to 1.440 in 12 California League games.

Wong claimed the starting shortstop job with the University of Houston as a freshman, then moved behind the plate as a sophomore to serve as utility player. He hit .287/.379/.494 with 12 home runs as a junior in 2017, leading the Cougars to the NCAA playoffs and prompting the Dodgers to select him 100th overall. 

The Dodgers values his positional versatility as a catcher and being in an organization that prizes that intrigues Wong greatly. 

"It's really encouraging that they want me to play other places too, because I get to experience the game from different viewpoints on the field and help the team win in different ways," Wong said. "It's a lot of fun day in and day out." 

Buddy Reed went 3-for-5 with a home run and a double and Luis Torrens added a home run, a triple and four RBIs to lead the Storm.

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

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