By Bob Behre
Former Diamond Jack Brandon Wagner’s success in minor league ball has brought him back to his old neighborhood.
Wagner was elevated recently from the New York Yankees High-A Tampa Tarpons to the Double-A Trenton Thunder after opening his season in the Florida State League with 20 home runs, 57 RBI and a .270 batting average in 87 games.
Wagner, an Immaculata High grad, grew up in Hopewell, just a 20 minute drive from the Thunder’s home stadium, Arm & Hammer Park in Trenton.
The versatile Wagner, a 6-0, 210-pound bull, has been moved around the infield, playing both corner spots and second base and has even spent some time in the outfield, primarily left field. He is batting .242 in 17 games since his promotion to Trenton with five doubles, a home run and five RBI.
The lefty-hitting slugger had produced a very well-rounded batting line at Tampa prior to his promotion. He scored 52 runs, laced 13 doubles among his 82 hits, reached base at a .376 clip and slugged at a .510 rate. That produced an .886 OPS. He also drew 43 walks. His production in 2018 has been a significant leap from his 2017 batting line.
“I think it’s been not missing the fast ball,” Wagner told Sean Miller of the Trenton Times upon his arrival in Trenton. “I think in previous years I was a little timid to swing early in the count, making an early out. I think this year it has been a little more of an attacking approach.”
Wagner was drafted in the 39th round of the MLB Draft in 2013 by the Phillies but he opted for Howard College, a JUCO power in Texas. At Howard, Wagner had a monster sophomore season, batting .435, scoring 86 runs and driving in 80 runs in just 58 games.
Wagner turned his success at Howard into a much higher draft pick. The Yankees selected him in the 6th round in 2015 and sent him to Staten Island, the team’s Single-A Short Season affiliate in the NY-Penn League.
He spent 2016 with two of the Yankees’ rookie league affiliates before moving up incrementally to Low-A Charleston in 2017. At Charleston, Wagner began to make significant improvements that only hinted at what was coming at Tampa in 2018.
Wagner had 103 hits, including 20 doubles, a triple, seven HR and 51 RBI in 110 games for Charleston while batting .277. He also drew 57 walks and posted a .380 on-base percentage.
An internal scouting report by the Yankees drew raves on Wagner’s approach at the plate.
“He has a keen eye at the plate and uses a patient approach to work the count in his favor. He has found new confidence since his switch to first base last season.”
Wagner has just nine more home games with the Thunder this season not including potential playoff games.