Bats Bits Entering Spring Training
LOUISVILLE, Ky. - Pitchers and catchers officially report today for the opening of the Cincinnati Reds' 2020 Spring Training. With baseball on the horizon, here's five notables and storylines that helped define the Louisville Bats' 2019 season:
The heavy-hitting Bats rewrote their record book for home runs last season, setting franchise records for individual multi-home run games in a single season (21), matching club records for home runs by a single player in a game (3; OGrady/VanMeter) and team home runs in an inning (4), and establishing Reds-affiliation records for single-season home runs by both the team (163) and an individual player (28), as well as consecutive games with a home run by the same player (Aristides Aquino, 4 games).
Overall, 30 different players homered for Louisville during the 2019 season and seven finished with double-digit longballs on the year. Rookie standout Aristides Aquino and second-year Bats slugger Brian O'Grady led the way for Louisville's squad, lifting a Reds-affiliation record 28 home runs apiece.
All told, the team's 163 homers finished just three shy of the all-time record of 166 HRs from the 1999 Louisville RiverBats.
DOWN THE STRETCH
Despite finishing last in the International League's West Division with a record of 59-81, the Bats notched a winning record following the All-Star break with a clip of 26-25 (.501) from July 11 - Sept. 2. That stretch featured two three-game winning streaks and a pair of season high-tying four-game winning streaks from July 26-29 and Aug. 26-28.
Louisville's 26 wins following the All-Star break were tied for the most in the IL West and shared fourth among all teams in the entire league. Only Rochester (27), Gwinnett (29) and Norfolk (45) posted more wins than the Bats following the 2019 All-Star break.
IN A VAN DOWN BY THE (OHIO) RIVER!
Utility man, Josh VanMeter, took home honors as the IL's Player of the Month for April after hitting .358 (34-for-95) and leading the league in hits, runs (24), home runs (11), RBI (28), total bases (24), slugging percentage (.758) and OPS (1.204) in 26 games last year. VanMeter's 11 home runs and 28 RBI were both April record for the Bats' Reds affiliation history, while his 34 hits were the most in April for Louisville in 17 years. The former fifth-round selection of San Diego helped fill a variety of roles for the Bats during his 49-game stint in Triple-A in 2019, suiting up at five positions around the diamond and even filling in as a designated hitter in five contests.
VanMeter ultimately spent the majority of the remainder of the 2019 season with the Reds, combining to hit .237 (54-for-228) with 22 extra-base knocks with 23 RBI and nine stolen bases. He made his MLB debut on May 5 vs. San Francisco, earned his first MLB start on May 8 at Oakland and lifted his first big-league homer (two-run homer) off former NL All-Star Miles Mikolas on July 20 vs. St. Louis.
Aristides Aquino laid waste to IL opponents during his Triple-A debut last season. The 25-year-old phenom was named the IL's Rookie of the Year after batting .299 (88-for-294) with 13 doubles, 28 home runs, 53 RBI and .992 OPS in 78 games. He ranked as just the second Bats player tabbed the top rookie in the IL and first since Joey Votto in 2007.
The Dominican Republic native capped his Triple-A stint having hit safely in 62 of his 78 games, notching the franchise's second-longest hitting streak with a knock in 22 straight games from May 23 - June 19 and becoming the first player in RiverBats/Bats history (since 1999) to homer in four consecutive contests. Aquino's contract was selected by Cincinnati on Aug. 1 and the slugger continued his torrid stretch at the Major League level by setting an MLB record with 14 homers over his first 28 career games with the Reds.
Louisville set franchise records last year by committing the fewest errors and posting the best fielding percentage in a season since the team's inception in 1982. The Bats committed just 90 errors last season to surpass the previous-best mark of 93 miscues in 2018 and posted a .98226 fielding percentage which topped the 2010 season's record of .98222.
The Bats' slick fielding last year was good for fourth in the league behind the remaining three IL West clubs of Toledo (.982), Indianapolis (.983) and Columbus (.983). In addition, Louisville finished second in the league in both putouts (3,667) and assists (1,318) and ranked tied for third with 134 double play turned during the 2019 campaign.
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