Not many guys can say their first official major league at-bat was a 447-foot home run.
Then again, most players who hit a home run in their first at-bat have it happen just that way, on their first trip to a major league plate.
Not Zack Collins, of course. The OBP machine got his first plate appearance vs. the Chicago Cubs on June 19, an end-of-game, pinch-hitting sip of coffee to wet his batting beak — and, natch, he walked.
But two days later, Collins stepped up to the plate in the first at-bat of his first major league start (not at catcher, but designated hitter) and walloped a 2-2 slider from Ariel Jurardo that slid right into the heart of the plate
“Honestly I was just in shock,” Collins told Jason Benetti and Steve Stone in a broadcast interview after the game. “I was running around the bases. It seemed like it lasted like three seconds and I felt myself sprinting around second, so I had to slow it down and enjoy the moment. But it was an awesome time.”
The ultimate three-outcomes hitter later whiffed three times in the game, but more than one fan has said if Collins can hit like a prime Adam Dunn, we’re going to be plenty happy.
The first round pick (10th overall) in 2016 has had a fairly direct path to the majors. Throughout his minor league time, Collins has struggled to hit for average, but put up terrific on-base and slugging numbers. His career slash over 1,372 plate appearances on the farm is .234/.378/.434, with strikeout numbers that aren’t phenomenal (essentially a K per game) but also don’t stick out in today’s baseball.
Where Collins has stuck out previously is with his defensive ability. Though it’s been long considered inevitable that his major league role will be at first base or DH, Collins’ catching has improved, at least statistically, in 2019. With Charlotte, Collins nabbed 9-of-27 (33%) runners stealing, with three passed balls and two errors in 255 2⁄3 innings. Those numbers are in line with his catching partner with the Knights, Seby Zavala, who is considered the more defensively-advanced backstop of the two.
Not that Collins has any designs on returning to North Carolina.
“On Wednesday night [vs. the Cubs] I stepped up, I had a little bit of jitters, had a little bit of butterflies and stuff, but I think that was the point of getting in there and getting all that out,” Collins told the broadcast crew. “It felt good tonight.”
Welcome to the bigs, Zack!
Screamer of the Week
June 26 Zack Collins