After seven seasons and eight years in the Cincinnati Reds organization, it was time for a change for Michael Beltre.
Signed as a 17-year-old out of the Dominican Republic, the affable outfielder was, expectedly, brought along fairly slowly, and had spent most of the 2019 season in Double-A Chattanooga, which was his first time at that level.
Still only 25, Beltre was a hot commodity on the minor league free agent market, and ultimately agreed to a deal with the Yankees. The decision, he says, was a relatively easy one.
“For me, the Yankees are the biggest organization,” Beltre told PatriotsBaseball.com in a recent one-on-one chat.
“I know they are the team that can help me get to my next level, that’s why I chose them. It’s a lot different (between organizations). There’s a lot more stuff here, more technology. The philosophy is different.”
It’s a move that’s worked out for both sides early on, as Beltre was named the Double-A Northeast League’s Player of the Week, thanks to a week in Hartford in which he hit .433 with one home run, seven RBI, 12 runs, and also added two stolen bases over the six game series. The 25-year-old is now leading the team with a .300 batting average, and finished a double shy of the cycle in Sunday’s 10-3 series finale against the Yard Goats.
“I’m really happy,” he said. “I’ve been working a lot with my coaches, and I’m really excited about (the award). I think it’s all about all of the work that we’ve been doing, and it’s been showing up.”
Beltre had the first chance to make an impression on his new organization at big league spring training, where he got into eight games and recorded a hit and a stolen base.
“For me, that was like a change in my life,” he said. “Being around some of the biggest players, that was the biggest thing. I was around a lot with Ryan Lamarre, who has been playing in the big leagues, and he taught me a lot about defense and hitting. I was glad to be around him. Just for a little bit, but also being around (guys like Giancarlo Stanton and Aaron Judge), that was big. Big league pitchers, they’re elite. If you can face them and be good against them, there’s nothing better than that.”
Beltre says the best arm he faced in big league spring training was actually Blue Jays lefty Nick Allgeyer. While, statistically, he would have liked big league camp to have gone better, it certainly hasn’t affected him in Double-A, where he’s off to a .286 start with two homers and 12 RBI in his first 17 games.
“So far, my first week I was sore, but the whole year so far has been good,” he said. “It’s really nice (to be back). I remember last year just being at my house and doing nothing. Finally, we are able to play now, and it’s a great thing. For me, the biggest adjustment has been with fans, and not to be able to sign baseballs or give a high five to a kid. That’s been the biggest change. The kids, they will be the future. If I can show them that, when you’re in this position, to do it this way, that’s big for me.”