Horwitz Eyes Big League Success

Horwitz Eyes Big League Success

The Jewish prospect in the Toronto Blue Jays organization has been putting up solid numbers in the minors this year.

For the second consecutive season, Spencer Horwitz has established himself as one of the top hitters in Triple-A. He now hopes to become part of the Toronto Blue Jays’ long-term plan // Photo Credit: Buffalo Bisons Baseball 
For the second consecutive season, Spencer Horwitz has established himself as one of the top hitters in Triple-A. He now hopes to become part of the Toronto Blue Jays’ long-term plan // Photo Credit: Buffalo Bisons Baseball 

In baseball parlance, a “4A ballplayer” is by no means a dreaded designation, but it is far from an enviable identity.

It is someone who produces in the highest levels of the minors, so much so that they earn a brief call-up to the big leagues every now and then (“a cup of coffee” as they say in the industry) before getting sent back down for good. They become agonizingly close to establishing themselves in major league baseball . . . but ultimately spend the vast majority of their career riding minor-league buses and lodging in roadside motels.

Spencer Horwitz does not want to go down as a “4A ballplayer.” Not after the way he has been tearing up minor-league baseball this spring for the Buffalo Bisons , the Triple-A affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays.

“I want to be in the big leagues,” Horwitz emphatically stated when speaking to the AJT. “There’s no doubt about that. I think everyone that’s here would be lying if they said they didn’t.”

Last year, his first full campaign at Triple-A, Horwitz flashed serious big-league potential as he hit a remarkable .337 and drove in 72 runs in only 107 games. Numbers that warranted not one, but two stints up in Toronto, first in late June and then again in September when MLB rosters annually expand. The first baseman out of Timonium, Md., selected in the 24th round of the 2019 draft (the draft no longer has that many rounds), held his own in his first taste of the big leagues and went into spring training this February knowing he belonged on the Jays’ Opening Day roster.

For Horwitz, a member of Team Israel during last year’s World Baseball Classic and a likely candidate to reappear on the 2026 team, it was hard not to press, not to get distracted, when he was on the cusp of forever leaving behind the drudgery of minor league ball and becoming a full-time big leaguer.

“Going into camp, I was trying to make the team,” acknowledged Horwitz, a first baseman/DH by trade who has dabbled in second base and left field recently to expand his versatility in the lineup. “That’s what my goal was and that’s what I was thinking about. I think I did a poor job of thinking about it too much, honestly.

“It [minor-league lifestyle] has honestly gotten a lot better since I first got into pro ball in 2019. It is still that day-to-day grind that people don’t see. Like when I got called up for the first time, everyone’s reaching out and saying how amazing it is. But those people weren’t reaching out when I was hitting .240 in Buffalo [Triple-A]. It’s non-stop. You’re in there every day. Sometimes you have a great mindset and you’re very optimistic that your dream will come true and other times it’s hard to keep that motivation and that dream alive.”

After a frustrating spring training camp, Horwitz quickly returned to form for Buffalo this spring, as his average has consistently hovered over .300 while he’s been driving in runs at a steady rate. With the parent club in Toronto having a down year thus far – they’re currently in last place in the American League East – it is quite possible, likely even, that the young slugger will get another chance to impress at the big-league level for a club that may be unloading veterans and taking a long look at prospects such as Horwitz.

“There’s so much out of my control and I learned from my spring training experience of ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got to make the team, I’ve got to make the team’ that it doesn’t help me play better,” he continued.

When reliving his two major-league experiences, those fleeting moments of nirvana, it is hard for Horwitz to keep his emotions in check. It was almost a year ago, in fact, that he got called into his Triple-A manager’s office and was given the life-altering news that he was headed to Arlington, Texas, for the Blue Jays’ weekend series against the Rangers. That coming Sunday was Father’s Day, which, as it would turn out, would be Horwitz’s major-league debut.

“It blew my expectations out of the water,” recalled Horwitz about his first MLB game, one in which he started at DH, cracked a run-scoring single, and drew a pair of walks (he’s a big on-base guy).

“I wasn’t that nervous until I got on deck and then when I got on deck, I looked around for a second and I was like, ‘holy crap.’ My knees definitely got a little shaky, but once I stepped into that box and saw that first pitch, it really calmed me down.

“It’s everything I’ve dreamed of times a hundred. It was amazing. I had my family there. It was on Father’s Day. My dad’s a very important part of my life for everything — for baseball and not baseball. It was very emotional.”

A couple months later, he was recalled for the stretch run of the regular season, during which Toronto was gunning for a postseason berth. (They were eliminated by the Minnesota Twins in the Wild Card round; Horwitz did not see any action.) On a lazy Sunday afternoon during Labor Day weekend at Denver’s Coors Field, Horwitz launched his first big-league homer, a mammoth 442-foot blast over the right-centerfield fence. After retrieving the keepsake ball from the Rockies’ bullpen, Horwitz immediately gifted it to his big brother, Ben, who, as a remote employee for an insurance company, often travels to Spencer’s games and happened to be in the stands for his most impressive big-league feat to date.

“My brother’s my best friend,” said Horwitz about his older sibling, who dropped baseball when he was a sophomore in high school but to this day regularly throws batting practice to and plays catch with Spencer. “He’s supported me endlessly throughout not just pro ball, but throughout my life. I’m super grateful to have a brother and best friend that I can talk to about anything in the world and someone who I know is in my corner no matter what happens.”

As the 2024 season drags on, Horwitz continues to crank at Triple-A, waiting ever so patiently for another chance to hit Ben’s iPhone up with great news.

“As long as you keep putting up good numbers, typically more opportunities continue to come from it.”

read more: