I'm on the west coast today which means that I woke up at the crack of dawn and had some time to spare, but apparently not enough, as I can only get back to 2007 before my day had to start. Treat this as a "Part 1," then.
A long time ago, I started a feature on this blog that was going to trace the University of Michigan's baseball alumni as they made their way through the ranks of the minors and emerged in the Major Leagues. It was going to be a regular thing. It lasted one post. Oops.
Well, with the first day of the MLB draft over (and all of the Michigan players still on the board), I feel as though I've been given one more shot. To re-start this feature, I'm going to do a quick rundown of Michigan's major league players and hopefuls. This time though, I'll keep up it. I promise.
Chris Fetter, P
formerlyanonymous' stellar 2009 baseball season recap
Michigan's 2009 bright spot and lone 2009 draftee was pulled into the Padres system and had a very nice 2009, posting a 1.66 ERA between his stops with the Eugene Emeralds (A-) and the Fort Wayne Tin Caps (A). He posted a stellar .985 WHIP and 75 Strikeouts over 65 innings with only 14 walks. That was good enough to earn a promotion...
...which hasn't worked out so well so far. In only 4 games this season his K/BB ratio has plummeted from 5.36 to 1.56 for the Lake Elsinore Storm (A+) That probably explains the ERA of 6.00 and the WHIP of 1.714. Since this is still A-ball Fetter will have a chance to work things out over the season, but he's going to need to make a big impression in a hitter-happy league to continue his progression through the ranks.
As for the fantastic 2008 draft class:
Jason Christian, SS A fellow Cal leaguer, the 2008 draftee (5th round) is playing this season for the Stockton Ports (A+) in the Oakland A's system. The shortstop that never really had a prolific bat to begin with benefited from a stellar 2008 Michigan team that likely raised the profile of the whole group. He had a .261/.341/.385 slash line for the Kane County Cougars (A) last season, but has struggled so far at the next level, .162/.295/.162 so far in 2010. To his credit, Christian has a good eye and pretty good speed, which may keep him progressing through the minors if he can just sneak that batting average up a bit.
Zach Putnam, P
Boston Wolverine's flickr stream
Zach is the man. He was the rock of the 2007 and 2008 Michigan teams and is the player who's career I'm most interested in, by far. Heck, I've posted about him one way or another thrice and officially collect his cards, despite not actually owning any of his cards. Zach was a player that was projected (1st-2nd rd.)to be drafted much higher than he actually was (5th round), but was the first of the Michigan class to make the leap to AA after only 8 games at the lower levels. Still with the Akron Aeros (AA), he has been converted back into a starter (he started in College, was converted to reliever when he made the leap to AA and is now back in a starting role), and has a 4.02 ERA in 11 games so far this season.
It's hard to see exactly how Zach projects out right now. The hard-throwing righty with a very heavy sinker has seen his K/9 fall from roughly 9 to around 6 from this year to last, but that is something that is likely explained by a switch out of the bullpen. His K/BB ratio has been consistent and good at 3.86, although you'd like to see him get his WHIP (1.339) down a touch further if he's going to be able to take advantage of an Indians franchise that is in need of pitching, and badly.
Adam Abraham, 1B/3B The 13th Rounder (2008, Indians) was a heck of a hitter, but it hasn't translated so far. Currently battling for the Lake County Captains (A) he was .257/.334/.389 last season and .171/.224/.291 so far this year. An uncertain place in the field 1B/3B/DH makes me wonder whether his progress has stalled.
Nate Recknagel, 1B Boy the Indians love themselves some Wolverines. The 2008 Big Ten Player of the year was drafted in the 19th and is in his first full season with the Kinston Indians (A+) of the Carolina League after a late-season promotion last year. He's not mashing the ball the way you might hope (.746 OPS), but he's hanging in there.
Michael Powers, P Powers was picked in the 31st round of the 2008 draft by the Mets and is currently pitching pretty well for the Savannah Sand Gnats. Small sample sizes being what they are, his 2.59 ERA, 1.068 WHIP, 3.38 K/BB and 10.0(!) K/9 looks real nice on the season so far. And it may be the case that he can keep it up. Since 2008 his composite numbers show a 3.21 ERA, 1.173 WHIP, 3.17 K/BB and an 8.4 K/9 indicating that, if nothing else, Powers may have the stuff to make the leap to the next level of the minors.
That's it for the big 2008 draft class. Putnam is your closest to the show, but nobody is really on the fast track at this point. As for 2007...
Andrew Hess, P (2007, 19th, Detroit Tigers) Sitting down in Lakeland (A+) is not a place you want to be in your 3rd professional season and usually means the end of the road. Sure enough, Hess hasn't pitched in 2010 and apparently wrapped up his career with an 8-inning gem which isn't too bad of a way to go.
Doug Pickens, C/1B (2007, 50th, Cleveland Indians) Another Indian (A+, Kinston), Pickens looks to be little more than organizational depth at this point. Not a whole lot of progression and consistent struggles at the plate (.245/.325/.341 over his career) makes him an organizational soldier for one more season at least.
Tonight (or tomorrow morning), I'll wrap up the rest of Michigan's active draftees--including, yes, some that are actually in the Major Leagues--and hopefully be able to include some newbees from today's draft round, as well as highlight some of those "feel good" stories you might remember from the past.