In recent years, the Commonwealth of Virginia had really emerged as a goldmine of baseball talent. Justin Upton, Justin Verlander, Michael Cuddyer, Javier Lopez, Ryan Zimmerman, just some of the top talent in major league baseball today. But these are guys getting older, several of whom are well past the age of 30.
Despite that, some new talent emerged from the Old Dominion in 2014. In the friendly confines of Wrigley Field in Chicago, the lovable losers, the Chicago Cubs are still trying to find a winning formula to their first pennant since 1955. They appeared to have found a good, reliable bullpen righty arm in the form of Neil Ramirez (Virginia Beach). Ramirez, acquired from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal, made his major league debut on April 25th against the Brewers. He would pitch scoreless ball in his first 4 appearances for the Cubs, and overall in his first 17 appearances allowed only a solo homerun to White Sox 2B Gordon Beckham. This put his ERA at 0.60 before the rest of baseball started to figure him out a bit. He would return to AAA for a respite at the end of July, but was back up for good in August, and finished the season with a 1.44 ERA and 16 holds in 50 appearances for the Cubs. Ramirez will hit Opening Day 2015 at the age of 25.
In Cleveland, the Indians called up a young lefty reliever on May 16th, and after a shuttle back and forth to AAA, Kyle Crockett (Poquoson) emerged as a dependable arm out of the Tribe’s bullpen. In 43 total relief appearances, Crockett posted a 4-1 record, and an outstanding 1.80 ERA. After his first three major league appearances in May, his ERA was 2.08. It climbed them to a high of 2.89 on June 24th. Crockett’s next 17 games were all scoreless relief, and his ERA did not climb above 2 the rest of the season. His work in the Indians pen was a key to the Indians staying in contention for the better part of the season, as they finished 85-77 and only 5 games out of first place in the AL Central division. On Opening Day 2015, Crockett will only be 23.
In the Pacific Northwest, SS Chris Taylor (Virginia Beach) made his major league debut for the Mariners on July 24th at home against the Orioles, and got a base hit in his debut. He would hit safely in his first 12 major league games where he played the entire time. His exploits truly helped put a jolt into the Mariners offense and helped catapult Seattle into playoff contention, where they stayed until the last day of the season. He finished with a .287 batting average, a .347 on base percentage, and 9 RBIs in 47 games. He will hit Opening Day 2015 at the ripe age of 24.
Neil Ramirez. Kyle Crockett. Chris Taylor. The latest in a string of talent to go to the major leagues. The latest heroes that Virginians can call their own.