By: Brian Frank
Spencer Horwitz has impressed at the plate since his promotion to Buffalo in early July. The Blue Jays thirteenth ranked prospect has shown himself to be a complete hitter since joining the Herd.
“I do not like striking out,” Horwitz said in a recent interview with The Herd Chronicles. “It’s definitely shifted in the game now where if you’re a home run hitter, sometimes strikeouts are okay – but I think the complete hitter can do it all – he can hit home runs, he can take his walks, he can hit doubles, he can hit backside singles when he needs to. He can do it all. So I think that’s what I try to be.”
“I think it’s something that I have been a little gifted with but I’ve also worked hard at it,” he his understanding of the strike zone and penchant for drawing walks. “I like to be challenged in batting practice – mixing it up a little bit and just keep that competitiveness even in the offseason. In this long season, you’ve got to mix it up during batting practice and early work and just keep that edge.”
Horwitz was promoted to Buffalo on July 5. Photo Credit: Brian M. Frank, The Herd Chronicles
Horwitz began honing is hitting skills as a child in Timonium, Maryland, where he grew up an avid Baltimore sports fan.
“Baltimore definitely has a rich history in sports and I was an Orioles fan and Ravens fan growing up,” he said.
“Early on when I was younger, I really enjoyed watching Brian Roberts and Melvin Mora. Those two guys were always fun to watch. Then in high school it shifted to the Adam Jones, Chris Davis, Manny Machado. Machado coming up was really exciting.”
Horwitz played three years of college baseball at Radford University. The highlight of his time playing for the Highlanders came when they won their conference tournament and advanced to the NCAA tournament.
“My freshman year we won the Big South Championship and then we went to the Louisville Regional that week,” he said. “That was one of the most fun weeks I’ve ever had in baseball. I’ll remember that forever.”
Following his sophomore season at Radford, Horwitz played for the Bourne Braves in the prestigious Cape Cod Baseball League, a summer wooden bat league for some of the country’s top college players. He slashed .279/.383/.382 in twenty-two games against top amateur competition.
“That was very eye opening, playing against all those guys from big schools,” Horwitz said. “Coming from a smaller school, it was definitely a little intimidating. But that’s when I realized I am good enough and I do belong. It’s definitely really good competition, but also an unbelievable experience.”
The Blue Jays selected Horwitz in the twenty-fourth round of the 2019 June Amateur Draft following his junior season at Radford.
“We had it narrowed down to two or three teams that we thought it was going to be – and the Blue Jays weren’t one of them,” he remembered. “But then they swooped in and got me. So yeah, it’s all worked out pretty well.”
Horwitz has shown himself to be a multifaceted hitter. Photo Credit: Brian M. Frank, The Herd Chronicles
Horwitz spent the rest of his summer in 2019 playing at Toronto’s Rookie League affiliate at the time, the Bluefield Blue Jays, before being promoted to Vancouver in late August. He slashed an impressive .330/.395/.471 in fifty-one games at Bluefield and was named an Appalachian League post-season all-star.
“There were a lot of ninety-five plus guys just throwing fuel,” he said of the biggest adjustment to playing professionally. “Just getting used to that and learning how to handle the velocity more consistently.”
The minor-league baseball season was cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but Horwitz found ways to stay baseball ready.
“I was home the whole time,” he said. “We got the news that the season was just getting delayed and then pushed back and pushed back more. I had a batting cage outside my high school and I would just go take a bucket of balls by myself and just hit off a tee like it was back in high school – not much was different. I got to learn a lot, got a lot more physical, and it actually helped me a lot.”
In 2021, Horwitz returned to play for the Vancouver Canadians, who were now the Blue Jays High-A affiliate after the restructuring of Minor League Baseball. However, due to the U.S.-Canada border being shut down, the Canadians were unable to play their games in Vancouver.
“We were in Hillsboro, Oregon, sharing the stadium with the Hops,” Horwitz explained. “It turned out pretty good. The one downside was attendance at the home games. There were nights we had three or four fans. That was the tough part. Coming back to New Hampshire and then Buffalo this year, I’ve realized how important fans are to the game. They really do make it a lot more fun.”
Despite the low fan turnout, Horwitz put together a fine season. He was once again named a post-season all-star and slashed .291/.401/.445 with 10 home runs, leading the league in walks with seventy and only striking out sixty-six times. He also had a twenty-eight-game hitting streak, breaking a league record that had stood for fifty-nine years.
“Me and Tanner Morris were doing it together,” Horwitz remembered. “We had the exact same hitting streak through like fifteen games – and someone brought it up to us. We were like – oh, that’s cool. I think he fell out around twenty and I just kept going. That’s when I kind of felt it – when he dropped out and it was just me. It was fun but streaks come and go.”
Horwitz earned a late-season call-up to New Hampshire, where he played five games for the Double-A Fisher Cats, going 6-for-16 (.375) with two home runs. He then reported to the Arizona Fall League, where he slashed .375/.460/.484 for the Mesa Solar Sox. He was named an AFL Rising Star and, along with current Bisons Gabriel Moreno and Graham Spraker, helped lead the Solar Sox to the league championship.
“That was similar to my Cape Cod experience,” he said. “I was coming off a good year in High-A, but most of the guys were from Double-A and Triple-A. So it kind of gave me that reassurance that I can do this and a belief that I am good enough.”
“We had a really good team. Just getting to bond with Moreno and Spraker was awesome because I hadn’t really had a chance to play with those guys much. We were with the Orioles, the Marlins, the A’s – so I got to meet a lot of cool people and made a lot of friends that are going to be around for a while in this game.”
Hurwitz chats with Otto López. Photo Credit: Brian M. Frank, The Herd Chronicles
His hot hitting continued into this season. He slashed .297/.413/.517 in seventy games at Double-A New Hampshire before being promoted to Buffalo. He says the biggest adjustment coming to Triple-A has been facing pitchers with more sophisticated game plans.
“These pitchers definitely know what they want to do,” he explained. “They have a plan for sure. That’s one difference I notice is that sometimes in Double-A you get a few guys that have their plan and they’re going to stick to it. But a lot of the time there were a lot of high velo guys that were just going to try to blow it by you. Here, it’s kind of like this is what I’m good at and I’m going to attack you with that. That’s when you have to be that complete hitter, like I said earlier, and just really battle.”
He’s concentrating on improving his defensive versatility this season. Drafted as a first baseman, he’s recently added left field and second base to his defensive repertoire.
“I played some left field the last few years,” he said, “but this year I’ve done more for sure – and that’s great for me just to get more versatile. I got one game last year at second base and then I got one this year and we’re trying to work that in more, so hopefully that works out too.”
“In high school I played shortstop and second base, so I have some history there – but it’s been a little bit. In the outfield, I’m definitely getting more and more comfortable out there. It’s the same thing, just getting those reps that I need to build that foundation.”
“It’s just getting that versatility. It’s finding a way to get my bat in the lineup. So far my bat’s proven to be good and we’re going to try to get that into the lineup – hopefully in Toronto where the lineup up there is already really good. So if I can get in playing left, get in at second, at first. Just making me more versatile is going to be beneficial.”