For years, even decades, the University of Virginia has been known as a hotbed of talent for the sport of football. (Every NFL draft since the early 1980s has seen at least one NFL player get drafted out of UVA.) But make way, football, Major League Baseball is gaining steam.
As of Tuesday, September 15th, when the Orioles recalled P Tyler Wilson (Midlothian) from Triple-A Norfolk, a record 10 Wahoos appear on major league rosters. Here is the rundown of the UVA-to-MLB pipeline:
San Francisco Giants reliever Javier Lopez (Fairfax) played at Virginia from 1996-1998. He currently leads all active major league players with 4 World Series rings. (2007 with the Red Sox and the three SF titles of the 2010s.)
St Louis Cardinals IF Mark Reynolds (Va Beach) played at Virginia from 2001-2004. His 236 career homers are 23rd among active major league players.
Washington Nationals IF Ryan Zimmerman (Va Beach) played at Virginia from 2003-2005. In the 2005 draft, he was selected in the first round by Washington, the very first draft choice in the history of the Washington Nationals, who had just moved to DC from Montreal. Zimmerman is the last player left from the team’s inaugural season in Washington, and has clearly become the face of the franchise. His 10 career Walk-off homers are 2 short of the NL record). On March 30th, 2008, he christened the new Nationals Park with a walk-off HR to beat the Braves. In the summer of 2015, he cracked the 200 HR milestone. In his time as a National, his resume also includes an all-star game, a Gold Glove, and 2 Silver Sluggers.
Oakland Athletics P Sean Dolittle played at Virginia from 2005-2007. In 2014 he was 10th in the AL with 22 saves, and made his first all-star game.
Also currently on Major League rosters: Cleveland Indians P Kyle Crockett (Poquoson), Arizona Diamondbacks IF Phil Gosselin, Tampa Bay Rays OF Brandon Guyer (Herndon), Seattle Mariners C John Hicks (Richmond), San Francisco Giants OF Jarrett Parker (Stafford), and Wilson.
Major League Baseball, Wahoo strong!!!!!!!!
C John Hicks (Richmond) certain to start 2015 at AAA, but could be in Seattle this season.
With the winter months settling in, baseball teams are in the middle of their off-season plans. One of those is the annual Rule 5 draft, which allows teams to select players from other big league organization’s minor league systems and give them a full season on their major league roster, for a dirt cheap price of $50,000.
Teams just passed the deadline to set their 40-man rosters and determine which players they wanted to protect from the Rule 5 draft, and the Seattle Mariners have chosen to protect their Top Catcher prospect, John Hicks (Goochland/UVA). In 2014, Hicks started the year with an invite to big league spring training. He would open the season at Double-A, and finish the year at Triple-A. For the season he hit .290 with a .351 On base Percentage and a slugging percentage of .403. He will more than likely return to Triple-A Tacoma, but appears set to make his major league debut in ’15, should one of the Mariners catchers get hurt.
In Baltimore, the Orioles are competitive and relevant again. After no playoff baseball in Charm City since 1997, Orioles fans have seen postseason ball in 2 of the last 3 years. In 2012, they beat Texas in the Wild Card Gams before losing to the Yankees in 5 games in the ALDS. In 2014, they went a step further, winning their first division title since ’97, sweeping 3 Cy Young Award Winning Detroit Tigers pitchers in the ALDS, before getting swept by the upstart Royals in the ALCS. The Orioles are very competitive and should remain so for a while, but any crack in the Orioles rotation should pave the way for RHP Tyler Wilson (Midlothian/UVA), whom the Orioles have added to their 40-man roster. Wilson started 2014 at Double-A Bowie, and finished the season at Norfolk. He went a combined 14-8 with a 3.67 ERA and 157 Strikeouts in 166 innings pitched, nearly a strikeout per inning. Wilson is likely to return to Norfolk to open 2015, but could get a look in Baltimore sometime during the season.
John Hicks. Tyler Wilson. Promising futures in the big leagues.
Continuing this series where we look at potential stars in the making from the Commonwealth, we turn to the Pacific Northwest and the Seattle Mariners.
To put it simply, baseball has become relevant again in Seattle. The Mariners fell short of the playoffs in 2014, but only by one game. Thanks to a farm system that produced some key supporting players to franchise stars Felix Hernandez and Robinson Cano, the Mariners have shown that they are for real, and 2015 will give them a golden opportunity to end the second longest active playoff drought in MLB.
The Mariners seem to be well stocked at all positions, including the Catcher position, with Mike Zunino and Jesus Sucre. But should the need arise, a promising young backstop awaits at AAA Tacoma-UVA alumni and Richmond-native John Hicks.
Hicks was drafted in the 4th round of the 2011 draft by the Mariners, and signed quickly enough that he got into 38 games with Low-A Clinton, batting an impressive .309.
In 2012, his first full season, he moved up to High-A High Desert and really impressed. He batted .312 with 15 HR and 79 RBIs, and while he did strikeout 73 times, he still posted a very good .351 On Base Percentage. His exploits earned him a spot on the league’s post-season and mid-season all-star teams, as well as the TOPPS Single-A All-star team.
In 2013, he did sort of level off a bit, as he batted .236 at AA Jacksonville, but still had a OB% higher than .300.
He started 2014 at Jacksonville again, looking for a chance to redeem himself, and he did. In 53 games he batted .296 and posted a .362 OB%. This earned him a promotion up to AAA Tacoma, where he finished the season. Hicks batted .277 with the Rainiers, where he finished the season, and posted a .330 OB%.
The future is bright for 25-year old C John Hicks, as well as the Seattle Mariners.