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  • Writer's pictureGrant DeVivo

John Rhodes Is On Fire

Updated: Jun 29

The Orioles' No. 23 prospect is batting .349 this month, but am I the reason why?

*Cover Photo Credit: Grant DeVivo

After the Bowie Baysox' 7-2 loss to the Binghamton Rumble Ponies on Friday, June 7, I found myself outside Prince George's Stadium saluting the boys as they drove off for home. Almost after everyone had left, John Rhodes, the Orioles' No. 23 prospect, walked up to me to say hi. Both of us have run into each other many times over the years that he has played in the Orioles' organization, and we have had some great conversations.

For about 20 minutes, we caught up and talked about everything. We talked about each other's life off the field, life on the field, and hitting. We talked about timing the load, plate confidence, and "see ball, hit ball."

At one point Rhodes asked me to critique his swing and his offensive approach. I stumbled my words for a second because I've never been asked by a professional baseball player to critique them before. I was nervous but to be honest, quite honored that any pro baller would consider me like that.

"You've been to a lot of games," he said, "what do you see? What should I work on?"

If I recall, the main thing that I told him was to be more aggressive on the first pitch.

"Well, there are some very talented arms in AA ball whether they're ranked [on the prospect charts] or not," I told him. "They may give you a meat ball or a mistake pitch early on in the count but if you take it and if you get behind in the count on it, then you'll only see your best stuff after that. My best advice is to go get that first pitch especially against these arms in Double-A."

I told Rhodes that he could take it or leave it given that I am a DII club baseball player who hit barely above .120 this season and he is a pro baller who sees a whole other level of pitching in affiliated baseball, some of the best that the game has to offer. I have no where near the experience in this game that he has.

June is John Rhodes' (center, No. 5) month as he is batting .349 with 13 RBI this June. Photo: Grant DeVivo

I think he took it. Whatever I told Rhodes that night must have worked because he has been red hot since then. Since we chatted that night, the Kentucky alumnus is 9-for-27 (.375) in 7 games with a 1.069 OPS, 2 home runs, 7 RBI, and just 5 strikeouts. This includes a ruthless 5-for-5 6 RBI performance at the Harrisburg Senators on Father's Day, June 16. Two base hits came off the very first pitch he saw in the at-bat.

Rhodes also went 3-for-4 last night against the Altoona Curve. He had an infield single that died infront of third baseman Kervin Pichardo, a sharp line drive to left-center field his next time up, then a line drive home run in the bottom of the ninth for his fifth long ball of the season.

Maybe I'm John Rhodes' good luck charm after all.

Or maybe it is the fact that it is June and the weather is as nice (but bloody hot) as it has been all year. June is the month that many players get hot with the bat, and Rhodes is no exception. In 12 games this June, he is a .349 hitter with a .973 OPS, a .581 slugging percentage, 3 home runs, and 13 RBI. He is making loud contact too, as the ball is just absolutely jumping off his bat. This is a big step forward for him after he hit just .241 in April and .169 in May. The month of May incuded 24 strikeouts in 21 games and a 6-game hitless streak at one point.

Entering June, he was batting just .200. He has now raised his batting average to .236 and as the month nears its end, that number will probably go up thanks to the way he has been swinging it lately.

But it is not like Rhodes has had a horrible year either. Yeah, the .236 batting average may not be ideal, but he still has 29 RBI which is fourth on the Baysox. His 10 doubles are third on the team, and he has been reliable in clutch situations as evidenced by his .310 batting average with runners in scoring position and his walk-off hit on April 15. Double-A might be the most difficult level for a hitter to hit at, but Rhodes is handling it all way better than some of the stats may show.

Put a runner in scoring position for Rhodes, and he will most likely drive them in.

In addition to all of this, Rhodes might very well be the team's best hitter during day games with a .313 batting average under the sun.

John Rhodes pictured during the 2023 season. Photo: Grant DeVivo

There is so much potential in Rhodes, and he is coming off a solid 2023 season in which he mashed 17 home runs in 108 games while adding 68 RBI. He slugged .422 as well. Rhodes is built around hard contact, power, and the adrenaline in the cluch situation. As he continues to heat up in June and throughout the rest of the summer, the home runs and RBIs will come, he'll find consistent hard contact, and his numbers will gradually keep getting better.

Every player has stretches of ups-and-downs, and some players take a while before they click. Rhodes is seeing the ball really well right now, and I think this is the middle of a really big offensive stretch of his.

We caught up again last night, and he even said he is feeling great right now in the box. There is one thing that he said that stood out to me, and it explains why so many young hitters today mishandle adversity.

"I think so many people get caught up in finding the perfect swing," he said. "It doesn't exist. There is no such thing as the perfect swing."

There is only the swing that fits for an individual player, the swing that they feel like best fits them and their game. There was only ever one best swing for Willie Mays, there is only one best swing for Shohei Ohtani, for Tony Gwynn, for Gunnar Henderson, and for Rhodes. It is certainly working for him right now, and it is going to be exciting to see where the rest of June takes him as well as the rest of the season.

It is an exciting time to watch Bowie Baysox baseball, and it is an even more exciting time to watch John Rhodes swing the bat. I highly suggest you grab your tickets and check Rhodes and the boys out in Bowie right now.

Oh, and don't forget to thank me, hitting coach Grant, for helping Rhodes get hot.

Nah, I'm just kidding. Seriously, don't do that. I'm just a big fan. Just join me and help me cheer on John!

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