Though only four runs separated the White Sox from the Cubs in the ninth inning Wednesday night, it felt like a blowout when Zack Collins made his first trip to the plate as a big leaguer.
The No. 11 prospect in the organization was called up to the majors ahead of Tuesday's game, though he didn't see any action then, and he wasn't in the starting lineup for Wednesday night's Crosstown contest on the North Side, either.
But manager Rick Renteria called on Collins to pinch hit — an appearance perhaps only made possible by National League rules in a National League park — with two outs to go in the top of the ninth inning.
"It was huge for me. It was a dream come true," he said after the game. "Just stepping up to the plate, looking to the outfield, seeing the crowd. We were down four in the top of the ninth and obviously trying to get on base, trying to keep the train moving. I thought I put a good at-bat together and it was a lot of fun.
"Rizzo said a couple things to me, said congratulations and stuff like that. That was pretty cool. Other than that I was kind of in a daze out there looking around. Like you said, soaking it all in, enjoying the moment."
It only took one plate appearance for Collins to show White Sox fans what he's all about. He worked the count full and took a walk. Get used to that.
Collins made quite a habit of that kind of thing in the minor leagues, posting huge on-base percentages over the last few years. In 122 games at Double-A Birmingham last season, he had a .382 on-base percentage, and he wasn't far off that mark in his 50 games at Triple-A Charlotte this season, reaching base at a .374 clip. Last season, he walked 101 times for a 19 percent walk rate. This season, he walked 36 times for a 17.5 percent walk rate.
His walk rate in the majors is a cool 100 percent at the moment. The 1.000 on-base percentage looks even better.
"That's pretty good, right?" he joked.
Patience at the plate might end up being Collins' most valuable attribute at the major league level. His offensive skills have been lauded since the White Sox took him with a top-10 pick in the 2016 draft, and he hit 49 homers in his four minor league seasons, also showing off that power by winning the Home Run Derby at the Southern League All-Star Game last year. His defensive skills have remained a question, though, and while he'll most likely serve as the White Sox No. 2 catcher behind James McCann, who's in the midst of an All-Star campaign, he can also be utilized at designated hitter and perhaps even first base.
But it's that good eye that the White Sox are hoping to see from the get-go. They saw it Wednesday night, and it's something Collins said has always been a part of his game.
"I've never really worked on that, so I would guess it kind of came naturally. It's a good thing to have," he said. "Guys at this level have some pretty good stuff. I'm looking to be aggressive but also swing at strikes."
You only get one chance to make a first impression, they say. Collins' first impression was pretty emblematic of the kind of hitter he hopes to be in the bigs.
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