Brian O'Grady is raking the ball, and he has a batting cage session with Barry Larkin to thank.The Cincinnati first-base prospect belted two homers and plated five runs on a three-hit afternoon as Triple-A Louisville outslugged Toledo, 10-6, at Louisville Slugger Field on Memorial Day.
Brian O'Grady is raking the ball, and he has a batting cage session with Barry Larkin to thank.
The Cincinnati first-base prospect belted two homers and plated five runs on a three-hit afternoon as Triple-A Louisville outslugged Toledo, 10-6, at Louisville Slugger Field on Memorial Day.
O'Grady has eight long balls in the last eight games, and Monday marked his third multi-homer game over that span, including three solo shots on May 19 at Buffalo.
A bad start to the 2018 season which changed after that hitting lesson from the Hall of Famer seems so long ago now to the 27-year-old.
"I added a kind of leg kick in the offseason, but then I started out the year 2-for-19 in Double-A," O'Grady said. "I wasn't playing every day and then Barry Larkin came to town and we just hit in the cage during the first game of a doubleheader. We kind of talked things out. He was like, 'I just want you to think about diving into the ball at the plate and totally closing yourself off, anticipate the ball being on the outside corner and let's just see what happens.' Right from the start, it just clicked. For whatever reason, it clicked for me and I went out in Game 2 of that doubleheader and swung the bat well. It took off from there."
Gameday box score
After singling through the hole at second base in the fourth, O'Grady smashed a three-run shot on a 2-2 pitch from Detroit's No. 23 prospect John Schreiber over the left-center field wall.
Then O'Grady set his sights on Caleb Thielbar, belting a two-run shot on the left-hander's first pitch in the eighth.
The 2014 eighth-round pick has 14 home runs, only behind the International League leaders. Gwinnett teammates Adam Duvall and Austin Riley. O'Grady stands tied with Indianapolis' Will Craig and Charlotte's Matt Skole.
"That would be really cool to lead the league in home runs, but I don't go up there trying to hit home runs," he said. "I like being a hitter. In my little stint in Triple-A last year, I hit over .300 and that was big for me to do that after some struggles."
The left-handed hitter is batting .331 with a triple, 12 doubles, 32 RBIs and toops the circuit with a .717 slugging percentage. And he's still coming to bat with the goal of tearing the cover off the ball.
"I'm up there to do damage," O'Grady said. "I've always been pretty strong and with the way my swing is now I'm just letting that [power] come out more. You can see the ball carry all over the field."
But the steady rate of the power supply has been kind of new to him.
"Maybe when I was way younger, but no, this is definitely the first in college or pro ball," the Rutgers product said. "I made an adjustment with my approach and how I get set up last year and it's just been taking off. I've gotten to be more and more consistent with it, and it's just letting me stay on balls and drive the ball all over the field."
O'Grady also doffs his hat to Louisville hitting coach, Leon Durham, in helping his development.
"He's great too," the native of Warminster, Pennsylvania, said. "We work well together and we just kept progressing with it. It's something that I am confident in, I believe in and I've gotten results from it."
And the kinship with Larkin has lasted throughout his different Minor League stops.
"It's amazing," O'Grady said. "We have had a great relationship from the time I was drafted, and he's always really believed in me and my talent. He saw the talent that I have and believed in the player that I could be even when I was struggling and struggling pretty bad.
"It's tough not to believe in yourself when you have someone like that who believes in you as much as he believes in me."
Reds No. 8 prospectVladimir Gutierrez (2-4) allowed five runs on 10 hits while striking out six over six innings. Righty Wendolyn Bautista gave up one run on three hits while fanning three over three innings to pick up his first save.
Tigers' seventh-ranked prospect Willi Castro went 4-for-5 with a double, four RBIs and a run scored for the Mud Hens.
Brian Stultz is a contributor to MiLB.com. Follow him on Twitter @brianjstultz.