Heredia finally finding groove with Loons

Dodgers No. 17 prospect homers twice, parked four in four games

Starling Heredia hit seven home runs over three different levels in the Minors last year. (Alex Seder/Great Lakes Loons)

By Chris Bumbaca / MiLB.com | May 17, 2018 11:54 PM ET

As the weather warms up across the country, Class A Great Lakes manager John Shoemaker expects the same to be true for Starling Heredia's bat. 

The last four games for the Dodgers No. 17 prospect might be a positive prelude to the rest of the summer, according to his skipper. On Thursday, Heredia clubbed a pair of homers and finished with four RBIs in the Loons' 5-4 loss to the Hot Rods at Dow Diamond. 

"It's tough to keep hitting home runs, but you could see a different look on that boy's face when he's hitting the ball well," Shoemaker said. 

Video: Great Lakes' Heredia blasts a three-run job

These days, Heredia is smiling more, the manager noted. The jacks marked the 19-year-old's third and fourth home runs in the past four games, going back to Monday. He has five dingers on the season.

"The fact that he's hitting the ball out of the ballpark is good," Shoemaker said. "We're just hoping we can see [consistent at-bats from him]. The home runs have been good. They've been big home runs too." 


Gameday box score


After Bowling Green starter Alex Valverde hit the first two Great Lakes batters of the inning -- Carlos Rincon and Marcus Chiu -- Heredia demolished a 1-0 offering over the left-field wall. That was the only offense the Loons got until the Dominican Republic native stepped into the box in the eighth with two outs.

Again in a 1-0 count, Heredia waited back on the pitch from Hot Rods right-hander Tyler Zombro, driving it to the opposite field for a solo shot and tying the game, 4-4.

"Both the home runs tonight were into the wind," Shoemaker said. 

Video: Great Lakes' Heredia goes deep for a second time

On Monday, Heredia tied the game in the Loons' last at-bat of the ninth with a line-drive solo homer to left. He'd tripled and singled earlier that game and finished with three RBIs. The 6-foot-2, 200-pound left fielder went yard again the next night and drew two walks before going 0-for-4 with three strikeouts Wednesday. 

For Shoemaker, the test lies in whether Heredia can keep hitting against the other teams in the league.

"He's got tremendous bat speed," the manager said. "It's a level of confidence now. I believe he's seeing the ball better. You might hit good against some teams, we don't know yet. We're happy he's doing well now. But we have a long season to go. We're facing a new team [Friday] and we hope that he can continue the streak.

"This is a competitive league. You're going to find a lot of young players here in the Midwest League, a lot of kids with good arms." 

Many prospects, Heredia included, have not yet experienced cold-weather playing conditions. With harsh climes dominating springtime in the Midwest, it hasn't been the easiest of adjustments for some of them, particularly those who hail from Latin American countries with year-round tropical climates. 

"Nobody likes to play in cold weather and some people have never been in it," Shoemaker said. "I think coming here early in the season was a big adjustment for him since it was so cold." 

Last season, Heredia got off to a solid start, hitting a combined .428 in 110 at-bats between the Rookie-level Arizona and Pioneer Leagues. He was promoted to Great Lakes on Aug. 3 and produced a .212/.291/.323 slash line in 110 plate appearances. 

The Loons staff realized Heredia looked uncomfortable at the plate to start the year. Clearly, more was going on than adjusting to the frigid air. So the coaches encouraged him to look for fastballs out of the pitcher's hand, then adjust to any offspeed pitches he might face.

"I think earlier in the season he was caught in between," Shoemaker said. "He didn't know what was coming. He didn't know what he was looking for. But now, he's committed to the fastball and he's adjusting to the other pitches." 

According to Shoemaker, the game-tying homer he hit Monday came on a breaking ball. 

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So Heredia's 2018 season got off to a slow start, with his average dipping to .170 on May 11. After Thursday, he's hitting an even .200 with a .639 OPS. But Shoemaker says the warmer weather has given the 2015 international signee more confidence at the plate. Better plate discipline and avoiding pitches outside of the strike zone have only helped his case at the dish, Shoemaker said. 

"Sometimes, when you're batting, it just depends on the pitches you're swinging at -- whether they're good or bad," the manager said. "He was struggling by chasing a lot of pitches outside of the strike zone.

"Everybody has weaknesses and the opposition is going to try and expose them as fast as they can. And if they can expose them, then you have to make an adjustment or it's going to be a long season for you. The positive is that he possesses power and he can hit the ball to all field. He's got decent speed and he plays the game hard."

Chris Bumbaca is a contributor for MiLB.com based in New York. Follow him on Twitter @BOOMbaca. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.

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