Jorge Bonifacio homered at First Tennessee Park in Nashville Sunday.
That shouldn’t be a big deal for a big-time slugger like the 23-year-old outfielder from the Dominican Republic. But it was the first of Bonifacio’s 12 long balls this season that didn’t come at Werner Park.
The youngest player on the Omaha roster can’t explain why he’s hitting .345 with 11 home runs and 37 runs batted in at home but is batting only .243 with one homer and 14 RBIs this year in road games.
“I just see the ball great on this field,” Bonifacio said. “And I try to hit the ball hard.”
The Storm Chasers wrap up their first-half home schedule with a four-game series against Memphis that begins at 7:05 p.m. Thursday at Werner.
Bonifacio, Kansas City’s No. 11 prospect according to Baseball America, is off to a strong start to his first regular season at the Triple-A level, batting .295 with 51 RBIs. On Tuesday, he and teammate Hunter Dozier were selected to play in the upcoming All-Star Futures Game in San Diego. Bonifacio will represent the Royals for the World while Dozier is on the U.S. team.
Omaha manager Brian Poldberg said he likes the progress Bonifacio has made since he suited up for the Chasers during the 2014 playoffs after finishing his first full Double-A season at Northwest Arkansas.
“He’s much more consistent,” Poldberg said. “He doesn’t take any pitches off. He’s all over the place in the outfield. Offensively, he’s able to make some adjustments. He still tries to do too much at times. When he relaxes and just lets it happen, the ball jumps off his bat. He can drive the ball to all fields.”
The Omaha manager said the future appears bright for the 6-foot-1, 195-pound Bonifacio, the younger brother of veteran big-league infielder Emilio Bonifacio. He’s consistently been one of the youngest guys at every level of the minors. Poldberg said he could be in a category with Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain and Paulo Orlando when it comes to defensive ability. And he can play anywhere in the outfield, depending on the need.
“He’s going to open a door for himself with how he plays,” Poldberg said. “He’s a big kid and moves well. He’s everywhere out there.”
Bonifacio was the most valuable player at the Texas League All-Star Game last summer and was among the league leaders in home runs (17) and extra-base hits (49) although his batting average was only .240.
He’s hit at a much higher clip this season while playing against more experienced competition.
“It’s the same baseball,” Bonifacio said. “You’ve just got more guys who know more baseball.”
The young slugger has continued to hit well in June, even though the Chasers have struggled after seeing key pieces in their lineup promoted to Kansas City. Bonifacio tries to do too much at times, Poldberg said, because the Omaha batting order doesn’t have the punch it did back in April and May.
As for the difference in Bonifacio’s home and away numbers, Poldberg doesn’t get it, either.
“That’s something that amazes me sometimes — the home-and-road split,” he said. “Some ballparks you see the ball better than in others — this or that — but it shouldn’t be that big of a difference. Part of it might be mental. But you’ve got to get over that. You’ve got to find a way to get around it. In the big leagues, you’re playing half on the road and half at home. You don’t want a big disparity in there.”
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