Grand Cards: Putting the "M" in MLB: The Soldiers and the Showmen

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Putting the "M" in MLB: The Soldiers and the Showmen

Putting and Putting are different words spelled the same. This has my time-zone confused mind well...confused. I tried puting, but it looked really weird and seemed like it should be pronounced "pew-ting," which it probably would be because puting is not a word. So I went back to putting, but now can't read it as anything else but putting, aka the act of striking a golf ball on the green with a putter in an attempt to knock it into a hole. That's not what these posts are about though.

Earlier today I intended to run down the Michigan alumni in Major League systems. Unfortunately, time flew on me and I had to do my job and arbitrarily cut my post off with the class of 2007. Now I'm finishing up with Part 2, and notice something that makes my 2007 cut-off less arbitrary. Michigan's lone 2006 pick is out of baseball, and by jumping to 2005 we're able to actually get an alumni in the Major Leagues. That's five years ago now, which pretty much means one of three things. If you were drafted five or more years ago, you are either 1. Out of baseball, 2. In the Majors or 3. An organizational soldier who might get a cup of coffee if you're really, really lucky. These are those players.

Chris Getz, 2B (2005, 4th, White Sox) I wrote about Getz when he was traded to the Royals this offseason. Since then he went from a solid rookie with impressive speed to a struggling sophomore with impressive speed that is underutilized. He has battled an injury this year, but is hitting only .213 on the season. In KC he'll have room for his struggles to work themselves out, and still appears to have a future as a major league player, but doesn't seems like a utility infielder role may not be unlikely in the years to come. Speed is enough to ensure him that, at least.

Clayton Richard, P (2005, 8th, White Sox) Former Michigan Quarterback and Econ 101 classmate Clayton Richard was traded last season, from the U-M jettisoning White Sox to the Padres, where he has developed as a promising MLB starter. He hasn't disappointed so far this year. In his 11 starts this year, Richard sports a 2.87 ERA and 1.29 WHIP with a nice 6.7 K/9 and an ok but not-so-nice 1.89 K/BB. Nevertheless, Richard has emerged as a real-deal MLB pitcher.

After this point, there are a lot of draftee who just wash out and go on with their lives. Some who are still around are in the majors:

Jake Fox, A's Fox was traded from the Cubs to the A's in the offseason after emerging as a utility player with bench power (11 HR, 44 RBI). After blasting a HR on Monday night, he maintains that role on the A's, where he has the added ability of serving as a DH for the team. He's at .220/.273/.341 and needs all of those numbers to rise if he's going to be able to stick in his 3rd big league season.

JJ Putz, White Sox We all know Putz. He was an elite closer for a number of years, before heading to the Mets, losing his mojo and rediscovering his stuff as a set-up man for the White Sox this season. He's got a 2.75 ERA and 0.966 WHIP this season, with a K/9 at the highest level of his career (12.4!) and a killer K/BB of 6.75. By the numbers, he is pitching more like his former All-Star self, and less like a washed out bullpen filler. Putz is still solid.

Some are falling stars

Rich Hill Hill is a sad story. He was the promising young starter that appeared poised to lock down the back-end of the Cubs rotation with a breakout 2007 season. Before you knew it, he got hurt, fell apart, got traded to the O's, completely fell apart, got released and signed with the Cardinals this season, where he has been playing in Memphis (AAA) and performing adequately but unimpressively. He has recently switched to the bullpen and had his contract opt-out date pushed back from the end of May to the end of June as he attempts a comeback.

And some are just soldiering on...

Jeff Kunkel Kunkel has been organizational depth at C for the Tigers since he was drafted in 2006 and has been the recent beneficiary of roster musical chairs in the organization. He was just promoted to Toledo (AAA) where he is making the most of his shot. In 2 games he is 5/9 with a double. Not bad for a career .227 hitter with a .585 OPS. Kunkel hasn't put in quite enough service time for you to really want to pull for him to make it to the show, but if he can stick with it for a couple more years (or until a Gerald Laird DFA?) he might yet get that cup of coffee.

Bobby Korecky After spending two years in the majors with the Twins (2008) and D-backs (2009), Korecky was stricken with elbow problems that knocked him out of the ranks of affiliated ball. Never fear, the Winnipeg Goldeyes are here!
It’s bad enough when a promising pitcher is told he needs any surgery before he is able to break into the big time.

It’s even worse when you’re told you need Tommy John surgery for a second time.

The Winnipeg Goldeyes’ newest relief pitcher, Bobby Korecky, is trying to come back for a second time after having a ligament replaced in his elbow once again 10 months ago.

Korecky thought long and hard about his future when he was informed he needed surgery for a second time.

He's officially on the comeback trail in the independent leagues. We wish him the best.

Bobby Scales Bobby is back at AAA this season, but he got his call up last year and made quite the impression on everybody. Just a feel-good story all around, he returns to toil in his 11th minor league season.

Mike Cervenak Another Scales-esque story, Cervenak got his shot with the Phillies in 2008, where he played in 10 games, had 2 hits and an RBI. If nothing else, he can retire having made it. However, he's not ready to give up quite yet. He was released by the Phillies in 2009, signed a deal with the Mets and tore it up in the Mexican league, batting .330 (3rd) with 48 RBI (3rd) and is now with Buffalo (AAA) waiting for one more shot.

And I believe that does the trick. Michigan has a small presence now, with nary a Barry Larkin or George Sisler in the bunch, but a bevy of minor leaguers who might yet get their shot to make an impact at the highest level. To them I say, good luck and Go Blue!

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