FORT WAYNE – Yeison Asencio didn’t get much sleep the night before the final day of the regular season.
Fort Wayne’s right fielder was in a battle for the Midwest League’s batting crown.
Asencio beat out a bunt in his first at-bat Monday at Bowling Green. He flew out in his second and final at-bat of the season to finish with a .323 average. That figure put Asencio just ahead of former Lansing Lugnut Kevin Pillar (.322) and was good enough to give Fort Wayne its first batting champion.
It’s an honor to be the first one, Asencio said through translator Jonathan Borges, the team’s strength and conditioning coach.
Asencio and the TinCaps begin their Eastern Division opening-round series against Lansing tonight at Parkview Field. Games 2 and 3 (if necessary) take place at Lansing, Mich.
Asencio has been a fixture in the middle of Fort Wayne’s lineup since arriving from extended spring training May 19. He has eight home runs and 61 RBI.
We were missing that type of offense, Fort Wayne manager Jose Valentin said. You never know what you’re going to see from him. He swings at everything he sees. He can take some ugly swings, he can take some nice ones. But the thing is, he makes contact with everything.
It’s tough to pitch to a guy like that. He’s swinging at balls in the dirt, he’s swinging at balls over his head. It doesn’t matter where the pitch is, he swings. He’s aggressive. And he makes contact.
Asencio struck out just 38 times in 350 at-bats. He had 21 doubles and four triples. He led the team with a .474 slugging percentage.
I always go in relaxed, Asencio said of his approach at the plate. I always keep my eye on the ball and pretty much try to hit anything that I can.
San Diego signed Asencio as a nondrafted free agent in 2009. The 22-year-old from Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic, hit .241 with five home runs and 37 RBI in the Dominican Summer League in 2010. He had a .348 average with seven home runs and 46 RBI for the Arizona League Padres last season.
He’s continued to improve, and learn, this season.
I have learned to be more observant and adjusting to all the pitchers and what they throw to me, Asencio said. I’ve learned to be more alert on how to hit the ball.
Asencio has also improved defensively. Valentin noted his strong throwing arm.
He wants to be better. He asks for opinions, he asks for help, Valentin said. He understands when he does something bad, makes a mistake, he’s the first person to come and ask what to do. He wants to be good. He wants to show and prove the type of player that he is. He’s going to get better and better.
This is only his second year in pro ball. If he gets everything together, this organization is going to have a player for a long time.