Written by Lindsey Archer
Since he was called up on June 3, 2022 from the South Bend Cubs, Jake Slaughter has carved himself a permanent spot in the Tennessee Smokies lineup. Slaughter is a five-tool player, which means he excels in five major categories: baserunning, throwing, fielding, hitting for average,
Written by Lindsey Archer
Since he was called up on June 3, 2022 from the South Bend Cubs, Jake Slaughter has carved himself a permanent spot in the Tennessee Smokies lineup. Slaughter is a five-tool player, which means he excels in five major categories: baserunning, throwing, fielding, hitting for average, and hitting for power. Not only is he batting .322, as of August 2, he also has 13 home runs and 18 stolen bases.
Slaughter has been on a hot streak since he arrived in Kodak, Tennessee. He explained that he made some adjustments to his mechanics during the off-season, and he believes they have paid off. When talking about adjustments to his mindset at the plate, he said “I'm playing with a lot more confidence, so I'm trusting myself more and knowing that I can face whatever’s out in front of me.” Knowing that a good mindset was important, he put in the work and made it a priority. Manager Michael Ryan weighed in saying, “Confidence in a player is a dangerous thing and when he came here, he didn't skip a beat.” Ryan elaborated further explaining that Slaughter is “an unbelievable hitter, he's a really good defender and he's our best baserunner. He's a middle of the lineup guy, and we probably wouldn't be in the situation we're in right now, if it wasn't for Jake.”
One of the most memorable Slaughter moments so far was his walk-off grand slam on June 22. He came up to bat with bases loaded in the bottom of the ninth inning and two outs. After falling behind in the count, Slaughter saw a pitch he could hit and let it fly. “That's definitely up there [as one of my favorite moments]. I had never hit a walk off home run before in my career. I was on deck, and I wanted to be up in that situation,” he said. “The last thing I was trying to do was hit a home run. We only needed one run and I got down 0-2, but I'm just blessed that happened and luckily I put a good swing on it.”
With around 40 games left in the season, Slaughter and his teammates have set their eyes on the playoffs. In order to qualify, the Smokies will need to win the North division. They are currently sitting at the top of the standings, with the Birmingham Barons and the Rocket City Trash Pandas three games back. The Smokies have not made the playoffs since 2013, but Slaughter is not fazed by any expectations. “I wouldn't say pressure as much excitement. It's hard because we have about  games until the season's over and there's a lot of time left, so you have to take it day-by-day,” Slaughter said. “A goal for this team would definitely be to make the playoffs and ultimately win the championship. We got the pieces to do it, so I would say it’s exciting.”
Throughout the season, several of Slaughter’s teammates have been called up to make their debut for the Chicago Cubs. Christopher Morel and Nelson Velazquez were both on Slaughter’s first professional team and he had played with them for multiple years. Seeing his peers succeed in the big leagues has given him greater motivation to make it to the show. “It gives you more confidence too because I played with them, and it makes you realize that it can be done. I can make it since teammates and former people you've played against have made it,” Slaughter said.
Up to this point, Slaughter has received recognition in the form of Southern League Player of the Week and Southern League Player of the Month. When asked about Slaughter’s performance this season, Ryan concluded by saying, “He's right on track where he needs to be, he's been impressive, and hopefully he can keep it going.”