The latest guest on C’s Chat is 2023 Vancouver Canadians shortstop/third baseman Josh Kasevich.
The pride of Palo Alto, California was a two-year letter winner at Palo Alto High School where he excelled as a two-way player. He batted .398 and .408 over his junior and senior seasons of 2017 and 2018 and was 5-1 with a 0.52 earned run average with 48 strikeouts over 40 innings as a senior with the Vikings. Though Perfect Game ranked him as the 33rd-best player in the nation and the fourth-best from California, Kasevich went undrafted.
Instead, Kasevich attended the University of Oregon and established himself in the classroom by making the Dean’s List during his freshman campaign in the Covid-shortened 2020. The original plan was for him to continue on as a two-way player but he would spend his last two years in Oregon as the shortstop after making 14 starts at third as a freshman. An Honourable Mention All-Pac-12 Conference in 2021, Kasevich hit .324 and drove in 50 runs. The Ducks got to host an NCAA Regional in Eugene but fell to Cade Doughty and the LSU Tigers in the championship final despite Kasevich going 2-for-8 with a walk, an RBI and a stolen base. He joined the Waterloo Bucks of the Northwoods League for a stint in summer college ball and hit .374 with 39 RBI in 40 games.
Kasevich was recognized for his play on both sides of the ball in 2022, earning a spot on the First-Team All-Pac-12 Conference squad and the Pac-12 Conference All-Defensive Team. The two-time member of the Pac-12 Conference Spring Academic Honour Roll batted .310 with seven home runs and 44 RBI and was successful on all of his six stolen base attempts. Kasevich stepped it up by hitting .455 with two doubles, a triple, four RBI and six runs scored in the Louisville Regional before being knocked out by the host club. Over his three-year college career, Kasevich only struck out less than 8.5 percent of the time over his college career, including a less than six percent rate in his senior season. He matched his 48 whiffs with 48 bases on balls.
The Toronto Blue Jays would select Kasevich in the second round of the 2022 MLB Draft and give him a signing bonus of $997,500. He launched his pro career with the Dunedin Blue Jays with a 3-for-5 effort with a double and two runs against Tampa on August 9. He got on base three times with a 2-for-5 performance with a hit by pitch and drove in the winning run with a two-run single in Tampa on August 30. That was the beginning of an eight-game hitting streak which included a two-double performance at Tampa on September 1. He also had back-to-back two-hit games that included a double and two runs scored to help the D-Jays complete a doubleheader sweep on September 4. After recording an on-base-percentage of .358 in 20 games, Kasevich got the D-Jays rolling in Game 1 of the Florida State League semi-final as he singled on an 0-2 pitch and scored the first run of a four-run rally to help Dunedin win Game 1 against Palm Beach on September 13. He had a hit, an HBP and a run scored in Game 1 of the FSL final on September 18 and had a base hit and base on balls in Game 2 on September 20. In total, Kasevich got on base at a .375 clip in the postseason.
Baseball America released its Report Card on the Toronto Blue Jays 2022 draft class and rated Kasevich as the top man with the leather.
BA rates Kasevich as the 11th-best prospect in the Blue Jays farm system.
“A well-rounded contributor on both sides of the ball in college, Kasevich is a sure-handed shortstop with a hit-over-power profile at the plate. Kasevich fits in with a Blue Jays system that values high-end bat-to-ball skills and advanced plate discipline. Kasevich possesses both of those characteristics in spades. With a simple righthanded swing, Kasevich shows the ability to hit anything thrown inside the zone with little effort, with loose adjustability in his hands and level bat path that generates hard line drives and hard ground balls on his best contact. Kasevich rarely strikes out and shows the ability to avoid chase swings. His game power is below average at present but his exit velocity data hints at average raw power in his lean 6-foot-2 frame. He is a fringe-average runner and not a base-stealing threat. Kasevich, while not a slick defender, is instead practical, polished and fundamentally sound. He rarely, if ever, makes mistakes in the field and shows enough arm strength to handle shortstop long term…A strong defender with above-average contact and on-base skills, but little power. Kasevich looks like an average everyday shortstop with enough offense and defensive value to play everyday.”
Kasevich made 16 starts at shortstop and nine at third base with Dunedin last season and he is toggling between the two positions again with Vancouver in 2023. His Northwest League debut came on April 11 and picked up his first hit in a win against Tri-City on April 11. His first run batted in was an RBI double against the Dust Devils on April 12 to continue a hit streak that reached five games and an on-base string of six. He reached base with a single, a walk and a hit-by-pitch in a victory at Everett on April 19. Kasevich had two hits in three at-bats and drew a base on balls in a win against Eugene on April 29. He contributed two hits and two walks and drove in the winning run at Hillsboro on May 7.
C’s Plus Baseball was able to chat with Kasevich during the Canadians homestand against Eugene in April. This interview has been edited for clarity.
C’s Plus Baseball – Did you have a favorite Major League team growing up?
Josh Kasevich – Growing up it was the Giants. They were just close to home. My parents used to take us to games growing up kind of back before they got good. The tickets were a little cheaper so we used to go up all the time. Then they started winning and everybody in the Bay Area kind of got on the bandwagon. But I like to think I was there before.
CPB – It looks like the Bay Area’s gonna be pretty soon just the sole property of the Giants. What do you think about that?
JK – Yeah, I like it. I only went to a couple of A’s games growing up. I had an old pitching coach. He was my pitching coach when he was in Double-A with the A’s and then he made his debut. So we went to his games whenever he would throw for the A’s, (and 2010 Vancouver Canadians pitcher) A.J. Griffin. But I never went to any Raiders games or anything like that and I’ve never been a basketball fan. So I’m not too upset about all the teams moving out. It kind of gives the Giants a little bit more presence there.
CPB – Take us through how you got started in baseball.
JK – Yeah, I got into baseball because of my older brother (Isaac), I look up to him more than anybody. Huge role model for me. So we moved to California from Connecticut because of my Dad, he was teaching at Yale and now is teaching at Stanford. So I moved to Palo Alto when I was really young and my brother was kind of just about the age where you start T-ball. My parents never played baseball. My Dad was a swimmer, my Mom was a tennis player in college and then they both rowed after college and so they had no baseball background. Some wity my brother, they were like, ‘Let’s make him some friends with the community, let’s sign him up for tee-ball. And so he kind of started a passion for that and I wanted to do everything he did. So after his tee-ball practice, we’d go and play whiffle ball and it turned into a thing every day after school we’d play whiffle ball in our front yard and that kind of started my love for the game and then it just took off from there. He ended up pitching in high school and then didn’t play after that and I kind of just ran with it.
CPB – Things really go well for you in high school. When you look back on your high school career, what stands out for you?
JK – I’m a shortstop/third baseman now but growing up in high school I was a little bit of a bigger kid so I played a lot of first in high school and then I pitched a lot. I didn’t really play shortstop until my senior year and then kind of from there, I played a little bit of third in college in my freshman year and then after that, in the Covid year, they said like ‘Come back and play shortstop.’ And I love that. I’ve always loved playing short so since then, I kind of just ran with that position.
CPB – You had some pretty good success as a pitcher, but that obviously wasn’t what appealed to you at the end. You’d rather be on the field instead of the mound?
JK – Yeah, I wanna play every day and hit. There’s nothing much better than hitting. So I’ve always had a good arm. Pitching was kind of a way for me to get seen. And then Oregon was one of the schools that wanted me to go in as a two-way and I loved that idea too, to get to go and hit too. So after my freshman year, they said ‘Let’s just get rid of pitching and just hit.’ And that was the best news I’ve gotten.
CPB – During your time with the Ducks, a couple of NCAA tournament runs, maybe the most notable one was against your current teammate now, Cade Doughty with LSU. I spoke to him about it. What do you remember about that NCAA regional?
JK – Yeah, that specific regional was funny. We won the first game so we were in the winners bracket. LSU lost and then we met in the finals and we had to win one game, they had to win Two. A couple of unfortunate events happened and we still joke about it today. So he won that one. But there’s a lot of back-and-forth banter that comes with that.
CPB – I heard that’s the way Cade kind of introduced yourself to him. And I guess you guys were roommates in Dunedin but how’s that been being his teammate now?
JK – It’s awesome. He’s a great guy to be around. He is funny, kind of keeps things loose and he is super-talented so it’s fun to talk with him and learn with him and kind of go through it together.
CPB – The learning continues on the infield. Sometimes he’s on second base, sometimes he’s a third. What’s been like working with him and trying to develop that chemistry on the field?
JK – I think we have the chemistry to turn a lot of double plays together. Kind of just talk through the game together when we’re out there. Yeah, I think the chemistry’s definitely there and it’s, it’s fun to play with him.
CPB – You get drafted by the Blue Jays. How did you find out about it? Was there a big party for you afterwards?
JK – (Laughs) I kind of knew from my (advisors) that I was gonna go somewhere on the first day and I knew it would be in the second round so I didn’t wanna have a huge party and have people sitting around all day. So it was my parents. My brother couldn’t make it. He works in New York. It was just my parents and my girlfriend. I wanted to watch the draft so it started at like 4:00. I don’t think I got picked till 9:00 or something and I was just sitting around waiting. So the day leading up to when I got drafted was just long and honestly dreadful because I was just waiting. I knew something was gonna happen but didn’t know when or how and then when it happened, it was amazing. It went from just a bad day to just one of the best days of my life. Something I’ll never forget.
CPB – Did you have any idea it was going to be Toronto to take you? Did you think maybe another team or two were interested?
JK – Yeah, I thought a couple teams were interested. I wasn’t sure about Toronto, to be honest. Like I said, I talked to their area scouts but I never talked to the cross-checkers or anything like that. I didn’t know. And then they called it and got a call from my (advisor) saying the Blue Jays want to pick you. And I said, ‘Let’s go.’
CPB – When did it become real that ‘Hey I’m a professional ball player now’?’ Was it when you signed the contract or maybe when you first went to Dunedin. When did that moment kick in for you?
JK – No, honestly it was probably this year, the start of this year. Last year I was still in a very college mindset because that was all I’d known. And then this year, kind of that mentality flipped and it’s ‘Okay, I’m a professional now.’ Like, taking care of my body in different ways. The grind is different. So yeah, I’d say the start of this year is when it really kind of clicked and set in.
CPB – The draft camp last year. What was that experience like?
JK – It was fun. It was just a lot of baseball stuff, kind of getting us incorporated into their system and the programs that they like to run. So that was the baseball side of things and it was awesome just to meet all the guys, meet all the staff that we’re gonna be working with and kind of getting us ready to go play.
CPB – Was there anyone you hit it off with? Obviously Cade Doughty’s one of them but anybody else from your draft class or maybe any of the coaches that you really hit it off with right away?
JK – Yeah, I think all the guys from our class, at least the position players. I don’t hang out with the pitchers a whole lot. They’re on a different schedule but the position players are all super close. A bunch of really good guys. So I’d say all of those guys, we’ve kind of formed a bond together.
CPB – Were you kind of itching to finally play after draft camp?
JK – Yeah, it was long. It was like two weeks and by the end of it we’d just been doing the same stuff, just like taking batting practice ground balls and we’re like, ‘When can we go play?’ And then finally we gotta go to Dunedin and get our feet wet a little bit.
CPB – Your first season with the Dunedin Blue Blue Jays, it just seemed as soon as the draft class reported, things really took off for the D-Jays. You make the playoffs and go all the way to the league final. What do you remember about that run?
JK – Yeah, it was fun. It was just a lot of guys that had that college background and kind of have just been trained to win. And so I think that showed when we showed up and started to play, we just would find ways to win games. Sometimes it wasn’t pretty but at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is wins and losses. So we found a lot of ways to win.
CPB – Heading into 2023, was there anything specific that you worked on to get ready for this year?
JK – Yeah, I made some swing changes in the off-season that were pretty drastic, so just getting comfortable with that and focusing on driving the ball a little bit more. That was the main goal. And then continuing where I’m at defensively and kind of building on the routines that I’ve created and things that I know put me in a good position to be on the field.
CPB – What is your approach when you step into the batter’s box? You’re known for being able to make contact and drawing walks, just getting on base, but is there anything specific you worked on with mechanical tweaks?
JK – Mechanical tweaks were a lot of just getting into better positions with my load and then kind of just relaxing a little bit, not being so tense, let my athleticism take over.
CPB – I know hitting for power is always considered a big thing, but how do you feel comfortable in maybe trying to tap into a little more power? I don’t think anyone’s expecting you to be the second coming of Aaron Judge but how’s that been going for you?
JK – It’s been good. It’s been a lot of hard work and a lot of time spent in the off-season and continuing that end of this season and yeah, just getting comfortable with it off pitching that we’re facing every day. I know that it’s gonna take time but I’m very, very comfortable and confident with the work that I’ve put in and where it’s heading.
CPB – The Player Development Complex (in Dunedin). Did you have any exposure to any of the bells and whistles maybe before in Oregon or was it a completely different world when you stepped in there?
JK – I mean Oregon was great. We had great facilities, kind of the top-of-the-line for college baseball. I didn’t know that the Blue Jays just put a ton of money into that complex when I got drafted and I got there and was blown away. They just got everything you need to get you better and kind of take advantage of your career. So that place is second to none in terms of baseball development.
CPB – Any certain technology that really impressed you that said, ‘Wow, I didn’t know this about myself’ or anything like that?
JK – Yeah, something that they got is they got a hitting lab which is just one tunnel and its own little building. It’s got force plates and it’s got all the cameras you could imagine. It’s got a bat sensor, it’s got TrackMan, Rapsodo, everything you could think of is all just put into this one cage and you go in there and you take swings and then you can see everything, everything about your swing, how your body moves, how it’s coming off your bat, stuff like that. I’ve never seen anything like that.
CPB – How have you been able to develop as a contact hitter? I mean, you seem to have a really good eye at the plate. How did you develop that?
JK – I don’t know. I’ve never thought about it too much. I think that’s something that I was blessed with and then once I kind of figured that out, it’s refining an approach that lets you use that to your advantage and finding ways to get on base.
CPB – Heading into this year, your first series against the Tri-City Dust Devils, you got to play against a former teammate of yours, Gabe Matthews. What was that series like and getting to see him again?
JK – Yeah, that was incredible. Gabe was one of the guys when I got to Oregon, it was Gabe Matthews and Tanner Smith, who’s still at Oregon. They kind of took me under their wing and they were the two older guys that would show me around, kind of show me the right ways to go about things. So Gabe is a huge mentor to me and getting to see him in that first series was awesome. I talk to him all the time. And so it was special to get to play against him again.
CPB – And now you’re taking on the Eugene Emeralds, I’m sure a team you’re very familiar with seeing, sharing the same field as the Oregon Ducks. ’em? I’m sure you probably saw maybe a game or two of theirs during your time with the Ducks, but what was that like playing against them, a team affiliated with the team you grew up cheering for?
JK – Yeah, it was special for sure. I’ve been to a couple games up there when we weren’t playing at school and gotta see them play and always wanted to play for them or play against them, just play professionally. And so it was really cool to get a play against them. And kind of just a full circle moment, I guess.
CPB – Final question, what are your goals for 2023?
JK – Just continue to work on driving the ball, find ways to help the team win and have fun. I mean, you get to play baseball for a finite amount of years and it’s a game so have fun doing it.
Josh Kasevich File
- Born – January 17, 2001 in Palo Alto, California
- Bats/Throws – Right/Right
- Height/Weight – 6-foot-1, 200 pounds
- Instagram – @joshua.kasevich
- Uniform Numbers – Wore numbers 45 and 4 with Oregon.Wore number 8 with Waterloo in the Northwoods League. and number 4 with the Dunedin Blue Jays in 2022.
- Fun Fact – Kasevich is the first Oregon Duck to be selected by the Toronto Blue Jays.
A million thanks to Josh Kasevich and C’s broadcaster Tyler Zickel for their efforts in this latest chapter of C’s Chat.