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Alex Isola Trusts His Work


Twins Daily Contributor

In a recent interview with Twins Daily, Alex Isola discusses hitting, participating in a no-hitter, and keeping focus during a grinding season. This interview was edited for clarity.

 

It may have taken until the 29th round for the Twins to draft Alex Isola, but don’t let that pedigree fool you; the right-handed hitter is in the midst of a breakout season with the Wichita Wind Surge, potentially forcing his name into discussions for a major league future. Following Saturday's game, Isola's slash line stood at .294/.385/.487 over 221 plate appearances at AA.

Isola’s path to the present is unique; a Utah-to-Yavapai (JuCo)-to-TCU pipeline making him something of a journeyman at 24 years old. He didn’t plan for such an odyssey; other events, such as the recruiter who brought him to Utah leaving, forced him to follow his baseball instincts, blazing a trail that will likely remain untouched by another player. While unusual, his backstory led him to meet his current girlfriend at Utah, and his stint at TCU allowed him to catch Nick Lodolo and Brandon Williamson, pitchers currently in the upper levels of the Reds organization. (Williamson is a Minnesota native, a graduate of Martin County West HS in Sherburn.)

As for his strategy at the plate, Isola has always understood the strike zone well, but recent changes have unlocked extra-base authority in his game. “I think I started to tap into that power last year,” said Isola; “I kind of learned how to use my legs a little bit more…this year was just kind of being a little bit more aggressive and just knowing what I’m trying to look for.”

If strikes aren’t on the menu, Isola is okay with taking a walk; he’s done so at a 13.1% clip with Wichita. 

Working on his swing has been critical: “I think, for me personally, I haven’t always been the most talented [hitter]. I had to really work and learn about the mechanics of the swing because to me hitting is two things: mechanics and then your approach; like, are you swinging at the right pitches? If you don’t have a good swing, but you swing at the right pitches, you can give yourself a chance.”

With both, however, you can find great success.

 

 

Advanced training has also aided Isola’s growth; the Twins are a forward-thinking club, and their tools include a particular device that can mimic that day’s starting pitcher, giving Wichita hitters a chance to understand their opponent before stepping into the box. “A lot of teams have this,” explained Isola; “we have one of these machines where you put an iPad in, and you can basically simulate the starter or whoever you’re facing, that pitcher’s pitches, and it’ll shoot out the way his pitches move.” 

As a catcher, Isola’s baseball perspective is different than your typical position player; he plays part athlete and part psychologist when handling pitchers. “The fun part of catching is that everybody is different, so what I’d say to one guy I’m not going to say to another guy.”

“I think it’s my job to kind of get them right, know how to get the most out of them, when to push them, when to not say anything, when to keep it light.”

The most important thing? “They need to feel that you’re working your butt off. It’s not about me; it’s about them. When they have success, I’m successful.”

Naturally, the topic of Wichita’s recent no-hitter came up in the conversation. While Isola handled 1st base, not catcher, that day, he illuminated the game and breathed life into an exceptional performance. Daniel Gossett, the pitcher on the mound for that game, had lost his mechanics recently; “Goose (Gossett) for like two weeks has just been trying to search for his mechanics…that day he was just frustrated before the game.”

Of course, Gossett pitched a gem of a no-hitter, striking out 10 batters while allowing just three walks. “As the game went on, he just kept getting better,” described Isola; “We had some amazing defensive plays in there; Austin Martin made a sick play early in the game, and then [Anthony] Prato made a really good catch at the wall.”

Most did their best to follow no-hitter protocol, but “a couple [of] people” broke the rules. “[A no-hitter] is one of the coolest things in baseball…I don’t know if I’ll ever be a part of another one.”

Isola understands that consistency drives performance; his brush with Twins players during spring training 2020 (pre-COVID) taught him that focused work separates the minor league players from the major league regulars. “They’re no different than me or any other person; they have the same wants, desires, [and] fears.”

Their ability to be consistent stands out. “We all have a stretch where we could be in the big leagues, but can you do it day in and day out? The number one thing I took away was watching their process of how they go about it; there’s no wasted practice.”

 

 

 

Finally, Isola likes the group of guys they have at Wichita. Despite graduations and trades upsetting the team’s infrastructure, the Wind Surge keep a calm and relaxed clubhouse. “We’re a really loose group; we have fun.”

The hitters specifically have an identity: “We’re just tough at-bats; [Derek Shomon] calls us “the wOBA dogs.” 

While some may ignore minor league standings, Wichita remains adamant about winning the division and advancing throughout the playoffs. “The minor leagues are about development, but we’re already here; we might as well win it.” Wichita finished Saturday's play with a six-game lead in the Texas League.


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I've said going back to last year that I really believe that Isola will play in the big leagues. Love his approach at the plate. Patient. Knows the strike zone. But also has some serious power. Defensively, he's solid behind the plate and at first base. In terms of makeup, he's as solid as it gets. 

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35 minutes ago, Seth Stohs said:

I've said going back to last year that I really believe that Isola will play in the big leagues. Love his approach at the plate. Patient. Knows the strike zone. But also has some serious power. Defensively, he's solid behind the plate and at first base. In terms of makeup, he's as solid as it gets. 

Seth  what your thoughts on Chris Williams and Camargo as big league catchers?  What ive seen of Williams is his bat seems decent at AAA but getting a lot of time at 1B rather then C.  That have him seen as less then capable MLB catcher?  How about Camargo?  I thought he was seen as a good defensive catcher with a poor bat, but bat seems to be showing up at AA thus far. 

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