Andy Pages is a Top 100 prospect, but the Dodgers outfielder is even better in another area: MLB The Show

TULSA, Okla. – It was a mismatch, and Cole Acheronti tried to get out of it. The Los Angeles resident is a video game streamer who goes by the username dudesadude — his Twitch channel has 2,200 subscribers — and he’s an accomplished gamer when it comes to MLB game The Show. But that night in February, he had tied a player who had MAG0_44, and that guy was more than accomplished. It was ranked among the top five in the world.

Acheronti asked for a “friendly abandonment”, a way to scuttle the match without affecting his win-loss record. MAG0_44 refused. What ensued was a tense showdown — “a grind,” as Acheronti told his streaming audience. He took a 2-0 lead after four innings. MAG0_44 fought back with four unanswered runs. Acheronti lost 4-3.

Then a message from his opponent pinged the cat: “Are you a fan of dodgers? Yes, replied Acheronti. MAG0_44 was then unmasked: it was Andy Pages, he wrote in Spanish, the fifth hope of the Dodgers. With that, he gifted Acheronti subscribers 100 subscriptions to his channel – worth around $600 – and left Acheronti with his head in his hands, wiping his eyes in disbelief. “I can’t say enough how awesome he is,” Acheronti said in a direct Twitter message to Athleticism.

That was indeed Andy Pages, the prospect confirmed earlier this month after batting practice with the Double-A Tulsa Drillers. He didn’t exaggerate his CV either. He is Los Angeles’ fifth prospect, according to Keith Law of Athleticism, and baseball’s No. 76 prospect overall. At just 21, he just wrapped up a year in which he hit 31 home runs and posted a .933 OPS at High A, and a major league finish doesn’t seem far off. But as talented as he is on the baseball field, he could be even better on the virtual field.

During his time playing Acheronti, Pages was ranked in the top five for the 2021 release of the video game. The 2022 edition was released two weeks ago, and Pages ranks somewhere between 10th and 50th globally, depending on how often it plays on any given day. And it’s not often, he admits. Due to the demands of the season, he plays maybe an hour a day. It is during the off-season that he climbs in the rankings. Then it can become a full-time job, taking “seven or eight hours” a day, Pages said through performer Jesse Guffey.

“I’ve never seen anyone play like him,” Drillers infielder Brandon Lewis said. “He’s the best MLB The Show player I’ve ever seen.”

Pages plays on the hardest difficulty level in the hardest division of Diamond Dynasty, an in-game mode that allows players to create super teams of current and historical players. The Pages team, Best Magos, is made up of today’s stallions – Mookie Betts, Jacob deGrom, Corbin Burnes – as well as legends of yesteryear like Mickey Mantle, Vladimir Guerrero Sr. and Chipper Jones.

More impressively, Pages got this voucher despite having a limited history with the game. This hobby was not available to him in his native Cuba, from where he emigrated several years ago. In fact, Pages started playing just two years ago. “I didn’t even know the game existed,” he said, explaining that he picked it up in the early months of the pandemic. He just “needed something to do”. Everyone was stuck, even though most of those who picked up a new pandemic hobby didn’t become the best in the world at it.

His fellow Drillers marvel at his abilities. Matches against Pages tend to follow a similar arc to his match against Acheronti. The outfielder spends the first rounds getting to know his opponents, studying their tendencies. He may even fall behind on a few races. But sooner or later, he understood them. “So,” Pages said, “that’s when I can really attack.”

Drillers shortstop Jacob Amaya knows that pain. He recently played Pages in an exhibition game — no superteams, just Pages with the current Dodgers roster and Amaya as the White Sox — and Amaya took a 9-0 lead. “I was in my head thinking, ‘This guy’s not that good,'” the shortstop recalled. Famous last words. Amaya lost, 11-9.

He’s not the only Drillers player to shoot the king and miss. “You’ll get him out of the first three innings and then he’ll know exactly what you’re throwing every time,” Lewis said. “Homer, homer, homer, homer. He is ridiculous. The real competition is for the team’s second-best player title — Lewis said it’s between Amaya and outfielder Ryan Ward — because Pages remains undefeated in the Drillers clubhouse. “He’s unreal,” Lewis said.

Unreal doesn’t mean he isn’t focused on his day job, though. On the contrary, the outfielder works more in actual baseball than most of his peers. It’s no coincidence that his talents in the virtual world mirror those in the physical realm. Although Pages has great physical tools – tremendous power and an arm that Drillers manager Scott Hennessey gave a 70 “if you don’t like it” rating – what separates him from the pack is his approach. mentality of the game.

It’s the drillers’ job hitting coach Brett Pill to help his hitters add sophistication to their hitters, but Pages, the coach said, “is already doing it on his own.” Pages spends up to an hour after each game on TruMedia, software used by teams to dissect pitching data. Pages “will research what guys throw, what are they used for, what the throws do, if they rolled or ran, and where he throws right-handers who have similar profiles to him,” Pill said. The next day, Pages will go to the park and do it again for half an hour, then head to the batting cage to put that information to good use.

As a result, Pages is an uphill battle. In that sense, he’s drawing comparisons to the Dodgers’ top prospect, Miguel Vargas. “They never seem to be fooled,” said Drillers infielder Michael Busch, a top 100 prospect in his own right. Busch was seeing Pages up close for the first time, but receiver Carson Taylor spent all of last year with the outfielder at High-A Great Lakes. “He’s one of the few kids I’ve ever seen who doesn’t look uncomfortable,” Taylor said. “You don’t really see him taking a lot of lopsided swings all year.” Dodgers farm manager Will Rhymes offers an even loftier comparison. During his playing days, Rhymes had a teammate who approached his bats in such detail. His name was Miguel Cabrera.

So while the home run numbers were showy last year, what’s more impressive is the on-base percentage. Pages averaged .265 in 2021 but had a .394 on-base percentage and 14% walk rate. And while he’s still looking for his first long ball this year, he sports a .453 on-base percentage and walks nearly 15% of the time.

A debut in the majors is likely waiting for you in a year or two, but unlike the pixelated version of baseball, Pages has a few rough edges to smooth out. He can play all three outfield spots, but scouts doubt he can stay in center field. He’s not particularly fast and has encountered a few strikeouts in a recent streak at Tulsa. And while most hitters strive to increase their launch angle at home plate, they risk hitting the ball in the air too often. According to FanGraphs, Pages’ average launch angle last year was 25 degrees, and his 24% ground ball rate was the lowest of any minor league player in a full-season affiliate.

Pages worked to lower his goal. “He’s going to come into the cage and do some low-line workouts,” Pill said, “and then when he catches him in front, it kind of goes.” The outfielder also works on fairly extreme inverted splits. A right-handed hitter, Pages crushed opposing right-handers for a .969 OPS last year. Against lefties, he had an OPS of .772. The key, Pill said, is that Pages had a habit of rushing over the plate against southpaws on pitches that hit him. This year, he’s trying to stay more stacked in his position, like he does against right-handers.

If he’s having a tough day at work, he can go home, fire up his PlayStation 5, and roast a few unsuspecting gamers. It helps him relax, he says, but it also does more than that. This forces him to think like a manager and strategize like a pitcher. It is the research of the opposition. “It improved my overall baseball mindset, Pages said. This only makes it more dangerous, with a bat and with a joystick.

“The guy knows how to hit,” Lewis said. “He’s a born hitter.”

(Photo: Rick Scuteri/USA Today)

Calvin W. Soper