If Alexander Canario had been on this kind of tear in late July, the Cubs probably couldn’t have pried him loose from the Giants as part of the trade for Kris Bryant that also netted righty Caleb Kilian. And if Canario keeps up anything close to his recent production, he’ll find himself ranked higher than his current position of No. 7 in MLB.com’s list of the Cubs’ top prospects.
Even our own Todd Johnson underestimated Canario’s talent, ranking him fifth among the 10 prospects the Cubs picked up during their fire sale. To be fair, though, I don’t think anyone saw this explosion coming. With a booming home run Wednesday night, the 21-year-old outfielder has homered in four straight games and has collected at least one hit in all nine games he’s played for the South Bend Cubs.
And, folks, we’re not talking about wall-scrapers here. Canario’s swing is a thing of beauty, starting with a very upright posture and slightly open stance before exploding into a smooth, two-handed finish with a plane built to produce extra bases.
Alexander Canario. Yet again. Three-run bomb. pic.twitter.com/PvV69iB4gH
— RushingBaseball (@RushingBaseball) August 12, 2021
Just look at what he did to this curveball for his third dinger, which apparently went into orbit. You have to love the way he waits back on this ball and then uncoils with a controlled ferocity that looks to the untrained eye like a less bombastic Javier Báez. More on that in a bit, but let’s watch a couple more bombs first.
So Cubs Alexander Canario hit a homer that, not to be dramatic, literally left the planet pic.twitter.com/SIJA6UaYUf
— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) August 11, 2021
I don’t know if you’ve ever gotten out to Four Winds Field — and you absolutely should if you’re anywhere near — but that Tiki Hut is out there a little ways.
Alexander Canario made his last at-bat of his first Four Winds Field homestand count yesterday with another towering 💣 to left! #AlexanderCanarioIsGoodAtBaseball#SBCubs #Cubs pic.twitter.com/j0KXaTfz4Y
— South Bend Cubs (@SBCubs) August 9, 2021
Finally, we get to Canario’s first homer as a member of the Cubs organization, a tank that resulted in whiplash for at least five different people seen in the video. Seriously, he hit this ball so hard that the right fielder gave up at least 20 feet shy of the high wall it cleared with ease. Then you can see several different fans craning their necks to follow the vapor trail because it just kept going.
Alexander Canario with an absolute TANK. The hype is gonna be off the charts soon. pic.twitter.com/ImEEfO0viR
— Trevor Hooth (@HoothTrevor) August 8, 2021
Now, I know what you’re thinking: Jesus, this guy hits a ton. How come nobody else picked up on him? Well, just as a big swing can yield bit hits, it can also produce big misses. Canario has struck out 12 times in nine games with South Bend and is striking out at almost a 29% clip in over 300 plate appearances between two A-level teams. That’s a bit of a red flag since pitchers tend to get a little better as they mature.
Hitters can do the same, though, and Canario is currently 1.5 years younger than the average player in the High-A Central. Based on my amateur analysis of the four swings above, I think I’ve got some ideas of what hitting director Justin Stone and his team might look to tweak over the winter as they get to work more closely with the young slugger.
The first is the upright posture, which might not allow for enough plate coverage to fight off low and/or outside pitches. You’ll notice that all the homers above appear to be mistakes that were left either up or too much over the plate. While it’s great to crush mistakes, particularly when you’re terminating them with extreme prejudice, literally every professional hitter can do that. As the mistakes grow fewer and further between, hitters need to be able to handle good pitches as well.
Another facet of his swing that might need a little fine-tuning is the open stance and toe “tap,” neither of which are problems in and of themselves until you see how they finish. Upon further review, Canario doesn’t actually tap his front toe as a timing mechanism. Instead, he has a relatively understated kick that sees him lift the front foot and then put it down in what appears to be the exact same position as where it started.
That’s a great way to load and fire the hips because Canario uses his leg lift to produce counter-rotation that leads to the explosive swing we see above. However, that counter-rotation is also taking him only to a neutral position, so he may be finishing more open than would otherwise be ideal. If the timing is off just a bit, his shoulders could follow suit and he could end up pulling off of the pitch locations mentioned earlier.
I could be speaking out of school because I haven’t seen enough of his plate appearances to judge fairly, but I feel at least mildly confident in this assessment based on what I’ve seen and the box score results. Again, this is really nitpicking a young man who clearly has loads of potential and has gotten very good results so far with his new organization.
What I’m going to be following more closely as Canario comes up through the ranks is whether and how he’s able to tweak that swing to expand his plate coverage and cut down on the strikeouts without sacrificing power.