BLUEFIELD — Most baseball players beginning their professional careers take some time to adjust to the higher level of pitching from college, but not Spencer Horwitz.
The Bluefield Blue Jay has exploded for a .405 batting average through the first ten games in the Appalachian League for the Bluefield Blue Jays with only 26 days between his last college game and professional debut.
“Not having to take that long break and just getting consistent at-bats has been helpful for sure,” said Horwitz, who played his college baseball at Radford University.
Horwitz was drafted in the 24th round by the Toronto Blue Jays and once signed he was assigned to Bluefield at the Rookie Level. He skipped the Gulf Coast League that many players first play in.
The lefty hitting first baseman and left fielder has started nine of the first ten games either batting third or fourth in a lineup with a number of run producers around him.
“It’s definitely helpful having (Leonardo Jimenez), (Miguel) Hiraldo, having Angel (Camacho), they’re all great hitters who have proven themselves in all different types of levels and having them around me just to bounce ideas off of and learn from each other is really helpful,” Horwitz said.
All of them have been the key hitters for the Blue Jays so far this season with Horowitz second in the league in batting average and Camacho fifth. Horwitz only has one home run this season but nine RBIs and five doubles.
Playing first base, left field and occasionally being the designated hitter has not affected Horwitz’s hitting which is at its best when there are runners on base and in scoring position.
The Timonium, Md., native had to change hit approach at the plate from college where he was looking more for walks to being more aggressive.
“It’s been definitely a learning curve but just swinging early in counts and hitting pitches you want to hit is what I’ve been trying to do,” Horwitz said.
In his three years of college Horwitz had 102 walks to 95 strikeouts and in a small sample size he has only two walks compared with six strikeouts in Bluefield.
When drafted Horwitz did not have to sign with Toronto because he had one year of eligibility remaining at Radford being a junior but he signed for $100,000 to begin his professional career.
“I definitely knew I wanted to play professional baseball and if the opportunity came this year then I knew I was going to take it cause I wanted to start my career as soon as possible,” Horwitz said.
Radford University was only one of two schools that offered Horwitz a scholarship coming out of high school and once he got on campus he became a starter in all three of his seasons there. He hits 25 home runs in that time and had 118 RBIs as he was a key hitter for the Highlanders who made the NCAA Tournament in 2017.
Horwitz is making sure to soak in all the information he can get from his teammates and coaches that have a vast array of different experiences that can help him.
“This is a great opportunity for me playing short-season my first year and just being around the guys that have been in the GCL and have their experiences and what they’ve learned they can pass it on to me,” Horowitz said.
His manager, Luis Hurtado, played seven seasons in the minors, and hitting coach Paul Elliott has coached in the minors since 1998.
Having gone to school at Radford, an hour away, the last three years there are similarities with Bluefield that give Horwitz a comfort level that another place other than near his hometown would give him.
“It’s weird, I never thought thought I would be back in rural West Virginia or Virginia… it kind of feels like home just being back here because I’ve been doing it the last three years but its a good experience so far,” Horwitz said.
In a league with a number of top draft picks and international prospects Horwitz has been one of the best hitters in the Appalachian League.
Keeping this hitting tear all season long will be a challenge for for Horwitz but if he does he could be be promoted by the Toronto organization and on his way to Single-A Vancouver before too long.