I’ve been a fan of James Triantos for nearly as long as I’ve been writing about the draft. Prior to the draft, I scouted Triantos closely. That’s challenging to do with a lack of video, especially on an emerging prospect who had recently reclassified from being 2022 eligible to 2021. But I pulled every lever I could. Diving deep meant I had to call high school coaches of rival schools and writers for Virginia high school baseball publications. I was in touch with a good number of people within the Northern virginia high school scene, but I was convinced. James Triantos was going to be a big prospect and not enough people were writing about him.

You won’t find a person save for a personal family member, his former head coach, or perhaps ace area scout, Billy Swoope, that needs to own the bias of being a believer in James Triantos. It’s clear that I have one.

With that preamble and acknowledgment out of the way, I also am a firm believer in being as objective about player analysis as possible. I sought out to reflect on my prior analysis of James as an amateur, learn from experts about assessing infield technique, and then apply those lessons towards Triantos as an amateur and professional.

Prior Assessments and Reflections

In my viewing of James Triantos on defense I provided the following assessment in 2021: “Triantos (SS/RHP) offers more of a future at the plate than the mound… He currently lines up at SS and proves capable of making all the plays. His powerful arm helps him field the ball in the hole and fire rockets across the diamond to first base. James is athletic and a good mover though likely doesn’t have the range to stick at SS. Ultimately, I believe he’s a third baseman where that arm could really play up. I think he ends up as an [sic] above-average at 3B.”

I’ve re-read this assessment of James’ defense multiple times in the past year and a half. It hit very close to home after reading Baseball America’s assessment of Triantos the fielder.

“Triantos is more likely to end up at first base. He does not move well in the infield at all. The 100% outcome is Ty France – a short 1B who can really hit. But there is also a real chance he ends up like Michael Chavis, another short, bat-first infielder who had to move to first and never hit enough. There’s some promising things with Triantos’ bat, but he’s got a long way to go and the profile will be tough.”

I won’t claim to know more than a senior Baseball America writer, but this passage bothered me. It made me question my assessment. While that’s a healthy reflection, I questioned the manner in which Triantos’ ability was characterized. This deep-dive was necessary and I appreciate the scouts, coaches, and individuals who have watched James as a prep and pro who could provide insight.

Re-scouting James Triantos, the amateur

  • Athleticism: This is one area that Baseball America and I disagree with. I believe James has the athleticism to stick at one of the main defensive positions in the infield, specifically second or third base.
  • Arm: Second, the arm plays. He’s able to generate powerful throws off-balance and on-the-run.
  • Fielding: After discussing infield technique with scouts and coaches, I would change aspects of my prior high school assessment of Triantos. I learned about the concept of developing “an expansive toolbox”. Infielders need to field the ball using different techniques. Balls take weird bounces and generate spin. If you find a fielder who fields the ball the same way every single time, it could prove challenging to continue to improve to be a major league caliber defender. Triantos didn’t field the ball the same way every time, but he had a less expansive toolbox. Fortunately, this is an area that can improve with repetition and hard work, which Triantos is no stranger to.

Through June 15th, I’ve cataloged every single ground ball and range play hit to James Triantos at South Bend. There are a tremendous number of routine ground balls right to him, but here’s the breakdown:

Forty-three total plays

  • 26 ground balls to him with 1 misplay/error and one play I would consider very difficult
  • 10 plays to his left with 4 misplays (several off throwing), 4 difficult plays, and 1 sensational diving play showing off range, athleticism, timing, and arm accuracy
  • 7 plays either coming in or to his backhand with 2 misplays and a great play on a short bounce

When James ranges to his left, he looks more comfortable. The misplays to his left were often timing in nature where he miscalculated the speed of the runner and had to rush the throw. He moved athletically in that direction and came in well on the ball. Triantos handled several tough bounces when hit directly at him and off to his glove (left) side. Where James looked most unsure was to his right side (towards shortstop) or coming in. This will be the area I would spend the most time refining. Second base is a position that gives him the most time to recover if there is a challenging bounce and he knocks it down. You could see several instances where Triantos knocked the ball down and still made the play.

My view is that Triantos could even continue to handle third base, but second base feels appropriate as long as the Cubs are going to commit to it. He played SS and pitched throughout high school, played primarily 3B last year, and is now lined up at second base. What Triantos needs is more reps and to continue to add to his “toolbox”, especially to his backhand and coming in on the ball.

James Triantos has the skills necessary to be a good fielder. At least one publication disagrees with that. But while I respect their opinion, I don’t share it. It’s important to remember he would only be a college sophomore for the University of North Carolina had he gone to school. Instead, he’s battled professional pitching and made strides offensively and defensively. He projects to be an average second baseman at the next level and a bat that can handle other positions. He could even be better. It doesn’t mean Triantos is a finished product or stellar every day in the field. There will need to continue to be growth. Triantos is ready for it and his play on the field is an excellent reminder of the importance of having a player development mindset.