Orioles outfield prospect Johnny Rizer, who was selected in the seventh round of the 2019 MLB Draft out of TCU, has spent the past three months with Double-A Bowie and is enjoying a great deal of success with the Baysox.
Rizer, 24, began the 2021 season with High-A Aberdeen and appeared in 15 games. The 6-foot, 192-pound left-handed hitter batted .288/.373/.542 with three homers and eight RBIs with the IronBirds. Rizer was promoted to the Baysox June 1, and he hit .288/.339/.413 with two homers and 17 RBIs in 24 games in June.
However, Rizer’s production declined in July. He batted .205/.253/.384 with four homers and nine RBIs in 20 games. That July slump forced Rizer to make adjustments at the Double-A level.
“I kind of got away from my approach. Instead of trying to stay through the middle, [I was] trying to pull that inside pitch and I was pulling off the ball,” Rizer said on Glenn Clark Radio Sept. 3. “It kind of messed with me and got in my head. I was working really hard at that, just trying to stick through the middle but be able to hammer that inside pitch as well.”
Rizer rebounded and has been on a roll these past few weeks. In August, he hit .289/.333/.513 with four homers and 15 RBIs in 22 games. That included a grand slam:
Rizer credited his slump with forcing him to make changes to his game.
“It’s just a learning experience and trusting the process, as cliché as it sounds. But baseball is a game of failure and the more you fail I think the more you’ll be able to succeed,” Rizer said. “It’s just being able to learn from the failures. Just building on what you know and just keep on pushing. If you fail, you’ll most likely be able to succeed in the future.”
Rizer believes he will be capable of hitting 20 to 25 homers per year in the big leagues, but he knows there is plenty of work still to be done.
“I try to be a line-drive hitter and if I just catch it the right way it’ll turn into a home run,” Rizer said. “I’m not too worried about trying to hit a home run. It just comes with it.”
It’s hard not to focus on power in pro ball, though, especially in Rizer’s case. His first professional homer came in 2019 off of New York Mets star Noah Syndergaard, who was pitching for the Brooklyn Cyclones on a rehab assignment. The Cyclones came to Aberdeen to face the IronBirds, who were the Orioles’ short-season affiliate at the time.
“I tried to remain humble but in that moment, I was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe I just did that,'” Rizer said. “That was a really cool moment, cool experience, and I will probably remember it for the rest of my life, for sure.”
However, a catch he made in late July against the Richmond Flying Squirrels would be a better career highlight than hitting a home run off of an All-Star pitcher … if the catch had counted.
“I’d probably have to go with the catch if that counted,” Rizer said. “I don’t understand that rule. … If I had my feet out of [play], then maybe that shouldn’t be a catch. But I mean, if you’re still in the air while making the catch, I think it should count.”
As the season winds to a close, Rizer took time to reflect on his time in Bowie so far. Rizer has made close relationships with new teammates and is making strides toward his dream of making it to the major leagues.
“It’s been unreal. Just to put into words, it’s been a pleasure. It’s just been an amazing time. I’ve been meeting a lot of new people, and just being in Bowie is a pretty cool place to be,” Rizer said. “… I’m just thankful and grateful to be a part of it.”
For more from Rizer, listen to the full interview here:
Photo Credit: William Vaughan/Bowie Baysox