SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — In a year where the talent level in the Arizona Fall League is generally considered to be down, Astros infielder Will Wagner is increasingly standing out as a prospect to watch.
Wagner, the son of long-time closer Billy Wagner, went 2-for-5 with a home run and three RBIs to lead Surprise to a 9-4 win over Scottsdale on Tuesday night. The 24-year-old is now batting .346 with a 1.145 OPS—the second highest OPS in the league—and is posting some of the league’s highest exit velocities in what is quickly becoming a breakout AFL campaign.
“Offensively and defensively he’s had about as good of a fall campaign as you can have, and (he’s) really opening eyes within the organization,” said Surprise manager Mickey Storey, who is also the manager at Triple-A Sugar Land in the Astros system. “It’s one of those things where like, I’ve already called back to the Astros and been like, ‘Hey, what’s the plan for him next year? Because I know a guy in Sugar Land who would love to have him (on the) Opening Day roster.’ “
An 18th-round pick in 2021 out of Liberty, Wagner received just a $50,000 bonus as a senior sign. He quickly surpassed many players taken ahead of him and hit his way to Double-A in his first full season this year, batting .261/.374/.394 with 10 home runs and 53 RBIs.
Wagner’s ability to find the barrel and control the strike zone have long been strengths, but his power surge in the AFL has elevated him into a different tier of prospect.
Wagner has six doubles, two triples and three home runs in only 14 games with Surprise and is slugging .712. His latest home run was a three-run blast off Orioles reliver Nick Richmond that cleared the 10-foot high wall in right-center field with room to spare.
Hitting long bombs is something Wagner has been doing a lot of recently. After missing time with an illness, he has now homered in three of his last four games.
“I’ve changed my swing a couple of times here,” Wagner said. “Like, I was out a week because I was sick and I came back and I was late on fastballs, so I shortened up my swing and went to a toe tap and that seemed to help a little bit. And then spreading out on two strikes helped a lot, too. So those are my kind of two changes I made here, and it’s worked so far.”
It’s not just home runs Wagner is squaring up. His exit velocities this fall include a 105 mph groundout and a 102 mph triple in addition to a 419-foot, 103 mph home run he hit last week.
In the at-bat…