Red Sox Prospect Alex Binelas Believes in Exit Velocity

Alex Binelas
Mike Watters-USA TODAY Sports

Alex Binelas has big-time power. The extent to which he can get to it will go a long way toward determining his future. The 22-year-old corner infielder has gone deep 23 times this season between High-A Greenville and Double-A Portland, but he’s also fanned 126 times in 418 plate appearances. As Eric Longenhagen wrote this spring, “Binelas’ calling card is plus-plus raw power… but it comes with plenty of swing-and-miss.” His left-handed stroke has produced a 104 wRC+ this season and a .206/.318/.445 slash line.

The potential for Binelas to do far more than he’s shown since being drafted 86th overall last year out of the University of Louisville is real. The Red Sox certainly think so. Enamored by his exit velocities and ability to hit moonshots, Boston acquired the Oak Creek, Wisconsin native from the Milwaukee Brewers last winter as part of the Hunter Renfroe deal.

Binelas discussed his do-damage approach and the in-progress mechanical adjustment he’s hoping will help him turn the corner prior to a recent game at Portland’s Hadlock Field.

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David Laurila: How would you describe yourself as a hitter?

Alex Binelas: “I go up to the plate looking to impact the ball. I obviously want to put together quality at bats — I want to swing at the right pitches — but my ultimate goal is putting the ball in play as hard as I can. I’m not trying to hit a home run every time, but when you try to impact ball hard with quality swings and are attacking the right pitches, you put yourself in a good position to do damage.”

Laurila: Exit velocity is a priority.

Binelas: “Yes.”

Laurila: When did you start focusing on it?

Binelas: “I would say at Louisville. We started getting more into seeing exit velo probably my sophomore year. That was the COVID year, and then obviously my last year, my junior year, we looked at it. You’d hit a ball and it would be, ‘Ooh, that felt good.’ It kind of turned into a competition with our teammates.

“I never really looked too much into it from a training standpoint. It wasn’t, ‘Let’s see how much I can get my exit velos to go up,’ It was more of, ‘I’m going to push myself in the weight room and get as strong as I can.’ Then when I’m in the cage, I’m going to be working on my mechanics. You put those two together and the ball will come off the bat pretty hard.”

Laurila: You said it turned into a competition with your teammates?

Binelas: “Yes. At Louisville we kind of made it a competition to see who could consistently hit balls the hardest. The more you get into pro ball, the more analytics are out there. Here in Portland we’ve got the exit velos on the scoreboard, so after every swing you can see it. It’s definitely something to pay attention to.”

Laurila: Did you come out on top in the Louisville competitions?

Binelas: “I did. Henry Davis and I would always get into it. He went 1–1 in last years’s draft, and we’re both uber-competitive. We’d always go back and forth to see who could hit the ball the hardest and the farthest. I got him on those, but man, he’s a great hitter all-around. It was good competing with him, learning from him, and us pushing each other to get better.”

Laurila: Was the competition on the field or just in the cage?

Binelas: “Both. In BP, sometimes we’d put the TrackMan up on the scoreboard, and we’d go back and forth see who hit the hardest ball. In the cage, we’d go hit at night — we never really had it on during practice — and the HitTrax would show us the ball flight on a computer. It showed us all the analytics. We’d go in there after practice or after study hall or whatnot. It was for bragging rights and who got to talk the most trash afterwards.”

Laurila: What is the farthest you’ve hit a baseball?

Binelas: “My last year at Louisville, I hit one 489 [feet] to right-center in a Saturday game in Virginia. I think that was probably my farthest. I think I hit one 472 in Low-A last year, which is probably my farthest in pro ball.”

Laurila: In a nutshell, you’re trying to hit the ball hard, and you’re trying to hit the ball far.

Binelas: “That’s my goal. I’m not up there swinging out of my shoes, though. I take great pride in what I do in the weight room, in all of the work I do, so that when I walk up to the plate I don’t need to do that. I just try to put a good quality swing on the ball. That said, I’m not just trying to make contact. I’m not poking at the ball. I’m trying to get extended and do damage.

“But again, I’m not trying to force power. I’m just letting my baseball swing play. We talk about not trying to create too much at the plate. We just want the swing to work, trusting all the work you put in.”

Laurila: Is your swing path designed to drive the ball in the air?

Bineals: “I’m actually not a big launch-angle type of guy where I’m trying to hit every ball at a certain degree. What I try to do is hit the ball as hard as I can in a range where it’s not a ground ball and also not a high fly ball. I don’t care if it’s a low line drive or fly ball that can get out of the park as long as it’s hit hard with a good quality swing and good intent.”

Laurila: Have there been swing changes over the years?

Binelas: “I’m actually working through one right now. Just the other day I started trying to get my hands a little farther away from my body in my start. Pretty much my whole career, I’ve been really tight to my body with my hands. Sometimes I can get stuck, to where my swing gets in and out of the zone really quick.

“I’m starting to push my hands a little farther away from my body, which gives them room to work — room to stay inside the ball, make a clean move, and stay short and through the ball so I’m not in and out of the zone. That’s something I’m working on as we speak. Other than that, nothing too crazy.”

Laurila: I assume making more consistent contact is the objective?

Binelas: “Yes. Not getting tied up, so there aren’t as many foul balls and swings and misses. When I put the ball in play… I like to say that nobody hits the ball as hard as me. At the same time, we’ve always talked about how often I can do that. If I can create more contact without losing the exit velo and the damage, that’s the next step in my game. It’s what I most need to work on.”





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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bosoxforlifemember
1 month ago

Chaim Bloom has put a huge amount of his currency on Alex Binelas. He was really the sole reason that Bloom weakened the Red Sox by several games in 2022 by sending the very useful right-handed power bat of Hunter Renfroe to the Brewers for the completely washed up Jackie Bradley. Now, in Bloom’s defense and there isn’t much there, he had reason to believe that J.D. Martinez wouldn’t turn into a singles hitting shell of his former self and that the Sox cleanup hitter might also have double figures in HR’s. The deal was universally hated by the fandom that comprises Red Sox Nation when it was announced and is screaming for his hide basically because of this frightful trade.

bosoxforlifemember
1 month ago
Reply to  bosoxforlife

Rather than a simple down vote how about a comment on what is wrong with my thinking so we can have a reasoned debate.

Sam Schuthmember
1 month ago
Reply to  bosoxforlife

Universally hated by the fans who think like you, possibly, but a reasoned debate rarely comes from unfounded sweeping statements like this. And good trade or not, it’s not nearly as consequential as you seem to think. Renfroe is no star, even if the trade is a total loss it won’t markedly change the direction of this organization.

bosoxforlifemember
1 month ago
Reply to  Sam Schuth

How can it be viewed in any other light? It certainly changed the direction of the organization markedly in 2022. You must not live in New England. It was very hard to find anybody who supported the trade. The Red Sox picked up Bradley’s contract, which is larger than Renfroe’s, and unquestionably weakened the team for 2022. This is a year when even 2 or 3 games are going to separate the wild card teams. 30 HR’s and 96 RBI’s, yes scoring runs still matter, would have looked very good in a Red Sox lineup with very little power production from a washed up J.D. Martinez and an aging Xander Bogaerts who has lost his power stroke as well. As far as it being universally hated, I will say that maybe 98% doesn’t qualify as universal.

tz
1 month ago
Reply to  bosoxforlife

Lifelong Sox fan here.

First, on the Renfroe deal alone, we’ll have to agree to disagree a bit. Count me as one who initially thought the Sox sold high on Renfroe, and also that both Binelas and Hamilton were good additions to a weak farm system. Renfroe has kept his 2021 value, and JBJ couldn’t even muster a dead-cat bounce this season, but at the time of the deal I thought this might be an OK Chaim Bloom move.

But on Bloom….let’s just say he strikes me as the type to try to win by showing the world that he’s the smartest guy in the room. If his simultaneous buy/sell crap at this year’s trade deadline isn’t the weakest-sauce impersonation of a day-trader trying to arbitrage their way to making a couple more basis points on their portfolio, then I don’t know what is. I mean, I have to believe John Henry (who knows a ton about investment arbitrage) must see right through how asinine it is for a team with Boston’s resources to try to finagle things this way. At least when Dan Duquette was churning through back-of-roster types, he was doing so as a way to supplement the talent he brought on (much as the Dodgers now do) rather than as his calling card. Same goes for Epstein and Dombrowski.

But for Bloom, it’s almost like he’s trying to prove he’s the polar opposite of Lou Gorman, but ironically ends up spinning his wheels in exactly the same manner. One year, you’re solving a vacant hole at second base by throwing a contract at the twice-failed Jose Peraza, then a few years later you fill it by spending your full ration of FA dollars on a second SS (Story) just so you can calm yourself to sleep at night when Bogaerts goes elsewhere after 2022.

And then, the deal that actually TOPS the Renfroe deal, was moving Groome for a couple of probably offsetting prospects just so Red Sox Nation can enjoy a poor man’s Bill Buckner occupying first base…but at the all-important value that, according to Bloom’s hyperanalysis, probably shows the world how brilliant he is to have Hosmer at a minimum salary. If he were as sharp an arbitrageur as he styles himself to be, Bloom would have squeezed something of far greater substance (say Groome plus a prospect for Campusano) from a desperate AJ Preller once Hosmer vetoed going to the Nats.

So Binelas isn’t the issue here per se. Bloom overthinking crap in the FO, much like 2022 Joe Maddon overthinking crap in the dugout – that’s what’s likely to drive to Sox into the AL East basement for much of the foreseeable future.

bosoxforlifemember
1 month ago
Reply to  tz

That is a good analysis of Bloom and coincides with what I am thinking. He seems to be obsessed with making that spectacular deal that shows everyone just how brilliant he is. Visions of Tyler Glasnow, Austin Meadows and Shane Baz for the grossly over-rated Chris Archer type of trade must fill his mind.

L. Ron Hoyabembe
1 month ago
Reply to  bosoxforlife

This is completely overblowing the trade. Bradley Jr. was projected to be slightly worse than Renfroe but it was not at all obvious that Bradley Jr. was/is completely washed up. In fact, he had a 107 wRC+ at home this season with the Red Sox. He was just abysmal on the road. Bloom took a chance that he could get roughly the same production out of Bradley as he would Renfroe with the upside of also having Binelas in the organization. It didn’t work out, but as you admit, missing Renfroe is the least of their problems right now. It’s true that as a team on the bubble marginal upgrades would make a bigger impact, but why the fixation on this particular margin?

bosoxforlifemember
1 month ago

i just couldn’t see that JBJ had anything to offer and also felt Renfroe was given a bad rap so I was pre-conditioned to hammer the deal when it turned out just the way I thought it would. There is a real value in a right-handed power bat in Fenway and while he wasn’t anything special as a RF he was absolutely able to control 1st to 3rd on singles and tagging up on fly balls with his great arm.