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!!!!!!!!
Chris Taylor (Virginia Beach) back with the Mariners. He had opened the season on the DL, then optioned back to AAA. He batted .313 in 21 games with the Rainiers.
Taylor batted .287 in 47 games in 2014 with the Mariners.
C John Hicks (Richmond) certain to start 2015 at AAA, but could be in Seattle this season.
Check out @MiLB’s Tweet: https://twitter.com/MiLB/status/575833721363787777
Mariners pitching prospect Danny Hultzen (UVA) working his way back, with his first game action in 18 months today.
Danny Hultzen (UVA) is now 25, but is slowly getting back into the Seattle Mariners’ plans.
Joe Saunders (Springfield/Virginia Tech) won 17 games with the Angels in 2008 and made the AL All-Star Team, and won 16 games the following season. But he has fallen on considerable hard times since. He has not posted an above-.500 record since. He has bounced around from Anaheim to Arizona, to Baltimore, to Seattle, to Texas, and finished the 2014 season back in Baltimore, where he pitched 6 games in relief and posted a horrendous ERA over 13.
During his 2013 run in Seattle, he started 32 games and posted an ERA of 5.26, but did manage to win 11 games, an accomplishment that Mariners brass took note of, as they have now signed him to a minor league contract for the 2015 season. The Mariners are expecting huge things in 2015 after falling one game short of the Wildcard in ’14, and their starting rotation for Opening Day is set, so Saunders will go in to camp with a chance to compete for the second lefty spot in the bullpen.
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.
Justin Upton (Chesapeake) trade rumors heating up, 5 teams reportedly interested.
Is there any doubt now that the Atlanta Braves are rebuilding and basically starting over from scratch? With a new head baseball guy in charge of player personnel moves (John Hart), the Braves began retooling this winter by trading Jason Heyward. Now, they reportedly are not done.
CBS Sports.com and Yahoo Sports are reporting that the Braves intend to trade slugger OF Justin Upton (Chesapeake), and one executive even says that it will not be if, but a matter of time before he is moved. If the Cardinals think they got Heyward for a cheap price, any team that wants Upton will not be so lucky. The Braves reportedly will ask for a huge return, in fact bigger than the one they got for Heyward.
Where could Upton land? Several teams have inquired about Upton, including the Astros and Rangers, but I am predicting that he will end up in the Pacific Northwest. The Seattle Mariners tried to pry him from Arizona before he got shipped to Atlanta, and they have the depth in pitching prospects that the Braves really covet as they begin rebuilding and planning for their scheduled move to their new stadium in suburban Cobb County in 2017.
Last year, Upton hit .270 with 29 HR and 102 RBIs. He is a 2-time all-star and 2-time Silver Slugger.