New young Express slugger: 4 home runs in 1st 5 games


Highlights

Willie Calhoun’s 2 home runs sink Albuquerque late Sunday.

22-year-old slugger already has 27 Triple-A home runs.

Willie Calhoun could get used to this. Chances are, he won’t have that opportunity too much longer.

The new Round Rock Express power hitter launched four home runs in his first five games at Dell Diamond, belting two balls over the right-field fence Sunday night in a 5-4 win over Albuquerque.

Round Rock now embarks on a 12-game trip and, by the time the team returns home Aug. 19, the 22-year-old prodigy could already be up with the Texas Rangers. More likely, they’ll wait until Labor Day weekend when the Triple-A season ends.

“That would be sick,” Calhoun said of the possibility of getting his first big-league shot. “For now, I’ve just got to keep it simple, stay focused and concentrate on what I can control.”

Calhoun, the top prospect of three players acquired from the Los Angeles Dodgers in the Yu Darvish trade, is second in the Pacific Coast League with 56 extra-base hits and third in home runs with 27. He’s fifth in slugging percentage at .588 and top 10 in RBIs with 75 and on-base-plus-slugging at .940.

“Willie has tremendous bat speed,” Express manager Jason Wood said. “At his age, he already does so many things well.”

Wood pointed to Calhoun’s understanding of how Isotopes starting pitcher Zach Jemiola was trying to set him up preceding the left fielder’s first home run of the night.

“He has a great idea what he’s doing at the plate,” Wood said. “He’s almost sitting on pitches, like he knows what is coming next. Some hitters just have a knack for knowing, and that’s part of what separates them.”

Calhoun, Texas’ No. 2 prospect according to MLB.com, already is becoming quite a fan favorite and generating a lot of social media reaction from Rangers fans eager to see his talents in Arlington.

“Yeah, I’ve noticed. I check a lot of those things after games,” he said. “It’s nice to get such a good reception from a new organization. I’m definitely having fun and trying fit in. I feel comfortable with this team.

“I’ve tried to keep the same approach that’s been working for me. I’m an aggressive hitter, and they’re throwing me a lot more offspeed pitches. But I’ll take what they give me and hit the ball to the opposite field.”

Calhoun’s bigger challenge is finding a position to call home. A second baseman by trade, he is learning how to play left field. Rangers outfield coordinator Dwayne Murphy has been in Round Rock helping Calhoun.

“He’s approachable and coachable,” Wood said. “He wants to learn and get better. In fact, when Willie’s done working with Dwayne, he goes to his locker and jots down notes, just like you (media) guys.”

In the middle of this long road trip, the Express will visit Oklahoma City, where Calhoun played his first 98 games this year.

“That will be weird,” he said. “My best friend (Dodgers top prospect) Alex Verdugo is there and so many other guys I got to know. This is the first time I’ve been traded, so it’ll be a new experience being on the other side.”



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