VISALIA, Calif.—The Mariners hope Braden Bishop can become their dynamic leadoff hitter of the future.
In the California League All-Star Game on Tuesday night, Bishop showed just how tantalizing that possibility is.
Bishop went 4-for-4 with a double, a triple, two stolen bases and three runs scored out of the leadoff spot to win MVP honors and lead the North Division All-Stars past the South Division, 5-3, at Recreation Ballpark.
"I think the biggest thing for me today was just to have fun and try to see the ball," said Bishop, the Mariners No. 14 prospect. "I knew these guys were going to come after me. I was just lucky enough to have my barrel run into a couple."
Bishop made his presence felt immediately. He led off the bottom of the first with a double down the left-field line off touted Padres lefthander Eric Lauer, promptly stole third base and came home on Bryan Reynolds' RBI single.
He followed with a single in his second at-bat and quickly stole second base. In the fifth inning he punched another single through the right side of the infield and scored the tying run all the way from first base on Tyler Ramirez's two-run double. In his final at-bat, Bishop belted a liner into the right-center gap and raced around the bases for a triple.
"It's like this on a daily basis. It's fun to watch him play, man," said reliever Matt Festa, Bishop's teammate at high Class A Modesto. "He plays every out as hard as he can. He's the best."
Bishop was set to lead off in the bottom of the ninth, but didn't get the chance to complete the cycle after reliever Bud Jeter closed out the South in the top of the ninth for the victory.
"Everybody was telling me to drop my back shoulder and try to hit it as far as I can (if I got up)," Bishop said with a chuckle. "I'm not known as a power hitter at all, but I think just the fact that I had four hits and I was a home run away from the cycle, you never know what could happen."
It was a performance befitting of Bishop's first half. The 2015 third-round pick out of Washington hit .309 with a .411 on-base percentage, 16 doubles and 13 stolen bases for Modesto. Long known as a superb athlete with questionable hitting ability, Bishop lowered his hands in his stance this season and has seen an enormous uptick in his production.
"The biggest thing for me this offseason was getting myself in a better position to hit and drive the baseball," Bishop said. "I think I've been told for so long that I can't hit, it's made me work that much harder to show that I can. To be able to make the adjustments and have them pay off this year, not only for people watching but for myself, to show myself the adjustments I do make work, I think that's big for me and also the people around me."
NEWS AND NOTES
• Nick Neidert, the Mariners No. 3 prospect, drew the start for the North and pumped mid-90s fastballs with a swing-and-miss slider. Neidert was victimized by a bloop single, a broken-bat double and a sacrifice fly, but recorded a key strikeout of Cal League dynamo Brendan Rodgers and avoided major damage.
"The adrenaline was running through me pretty good," Neidert said. "I was thinking one inning, why not just blow it out? Give it everything I have for that one inning and however it turned out was fine with me."
• Rodgers, who is expected to be promoted to Double-A after the break, went 1-for-5 with an RBI double, likely his final hit in the Cal League. The Rockies No. 1 prospect hit .400/.419/.700 in 48 games with Lancaster. His Jethawks teammates Garrett Hampson and Sam Hilliard had two hits apiece and Brian Mundell drove in two to lead the South Division All-Stars.
• Rancho Cucamonga righthander Dennis Santana opened eyes, sitting in the mid-90s with his sinker and flashing a devastating low-80s slider and mid-80s changeup. The Dodgers prospect struck out two in a scoreless fourth inning, including Giants No. 4 prospect Reynolds.
• Lauer, the Padres No. 13 prospect, drew the start for the South and sat just 87-90 mph with his fastball. He allowed Bishop's leadoff double, walked Ramirez and gave up an RBI single to Reynolds before recording his first out. He escaped further damage by inducing a Marty Herum flyout and a ground ball from Aramis Garcia for an inning-ending double play.
• Host Visalia saw its bullpen have a perfect day in preserving the North's lead. Bo Takahashi, Mason McCullough, Cameron Gann and Jeter combined for four scoreless innings with seven strikeouts. McCullough was the hardest-throwing at 94-95 mph and will be promoted by the Diamondbacks to Double-A Mobile after the break.
• The highest velocity of the game belonged to Lake Elsinore righthander Gerardo Reyes, who hit 98 mph on the stadium radar gun. The Padres prospect's slowest pitch, 96 mph, was faster than every other pitch thrown in the game. He worked a scoreless eighth.