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Virginia baseball well represented in the minor leagues this season

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The season started one week ago, so let’s catch up with all the former Hoos.

Colorado Rockies v Seattle Mariners Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

Minor league baseball opened up last week, so let’s look at all the former Wahoos and how they should fare this season.

In this case, we’re going in alphabetical order.

Alec Bettinger, SP, Milwaukee Brewers – Bettinger was drafted in the 10th round of last year’s MLB draft and was sent to Helena to play in the Pioneer League. He’d been a reliever last season for the Hoos, but the Brewers are stretching him out as a starter for now. He pitched in 15 games with nine starts. He went 3-3 with a 4.97 ERA and a 39:23 K:BB ratio over 50.2 IP. That’s not too bad considering the jump from college to pro baseball. He’ll begin this year with the Low-A Wisconsin Timber Rattlers of the Midwest League.

Stephen Bruno, IF, Chicago Cubs – The Cubs kind of have a glut of infielders, so being a AAA 2B/3B for them isn’t the best place to be. But Bruno wasn’t bad in AAA last year, with a .265 average and nine HRs over 96 games. He’s not on their 40-man roster, which also isn’t a good sign. He’s 27, so he’s just reaching his peak as a pro ballplayer. This would be the year that he hopes to reach the big leagues, but he may be better off on a different team. He’ll be back in Iowa again.

Ernie Clement, SS, Cleveland Indians – Like Bettinger, Clemente was drafted last year (4th round). He was sent straight to Mahoong Valley in the Low-A short-season New York-Penn League. He batted .280 with a 658 OPS. He didn’t HR, but had nine doubles and 13 RBI in 45 games. Clement doesn’t have much pop, but he’s good a strong glove and can steal some bases (six last year). Ernie begins the year with the Lake County Captains, the Indian’s full-season Low-A affiliate.

Brandon Downes, OF, Kansas City Royals – A good defensive CF is immensely valuable to a baseball team. One who can hit as well is a bonus. Downes had a big year at the plate, though it was his second straight year in High-A Wilmington. He batted just .245 but had a .334 OBP and .471 SLG. He hit 13 HRs in 72 games. That’s pretty good. He was expected to start the year in AA at Northwest Arkansas. But right now he’s been assigned to the Rookie League Idaho Falls Chukars. It is possible he’s not 100% ready for the season to begin.

Tommy Doyle, RHP, Colorado Rockies – Another 2017 draftee, Doyle was sent to Grand Junction in the Pioneer League (Rookie ball). He went 3-3 with a 5.14 ERA. He struck out 18 and walked 10 in 21 innings. He had three saves. He’s beginning the year with the Asheville Tourists of the South Atlantic League (Low-A).

Adam Haseley, OF, Philadelphia Phillies – Yet another 2017 draftee, Haseley was actually a top-10 pick. He was sent to the Gulf Coast League (Rookie ball), where he crushed it for three games. After proving he was too good for that league, he moved to the short-season New York-Penn League. He stayed there for 37 games and batted .270 with a 730 OPS. He HR’d twice and stole five bases. He then moved to full season Low-A ball (Lakewood, in the South Atlantic League) and batted .258 with a 694 OPS and one HR in 18 games. He’s opening this year at Clearwater of the High-A Florida State League, a nice promotion for him.

Nick Howard, SP, Cincinnati Reds – Having not pitched competitively in almost two years, Howard has to be itching to get back on the mound. He was expected to pitch in the Arizona Fall League after finishing rehab from Tommy John Surgery. But there don’t appear to be any statistics for him, so maybe he didn’t pitch. Anyway, he’ll probably stay in extended spring training as he builds strength and then perhaps head to High-A Daytona in the Florida State League, which is where he last pitched in 2016.

Danny Hultzen, SP, Chicago Cubs – By now, most of us are familiar with what Danny has gone through. Multiple surgeries, multiple setbacks. He was out of baseball last year, back in Charlottesville working as a volunteer assistant coach and completing his bachelor’s degree. He signed with the Cubs this winter and is working out at their spring training facility in the hopes of coming back. He’ll probably remain there for a while.

Connor Jones, SP, St Louis Cardinals – After pitching reasonably well for the Palm Beach Cardinals of the Florida State League, Jones earned a late season promotion to Springfield in the AA Texas League. He started once there and gave up two ER over 6.2 IP, gaining a win. He walked three and struck out two, which isn’t great, but it was one start. He was 8-5 with a 3.97 ERA and over 21 starts and 113.1 IP in High-A ball. He struck out 76 and walked 49. That K/BB ratio will have to go up, because a 1.49 WHIP is not sustainable. He’ll begin in AA this year.

Nathan Kirby, SP, Milwaukee Brewers – After two major surgeries on his left elbow, Kirby is finally healthy and ready to pitch again. He last pitched in August in 2015, but he’s pitched in instructional leagues and seems ready to go this year. He has been assigned to the Carolina Mudcats of the High-A Carolina League.

Branden Kline, SP, Baltimore Orioles – Like Kirby, Kline hasn’t pitched since 2015 because of various injuries, including three surgeries on his right arm. He’s been throwing since the fall and is ready to go. Like Kirby, he opens the year in the Carolina League with the Frederick Keys.

John La Prise, 2B, Toronto Blue Jays – Another injury case, La Prise missed all of last year after playing just one game in 2015. He’s expected to begin the year in Dunedin in the Florida State League.

Joe McCarthy, OF, Tampa Bay Rays – By almost any measure, Joe was one of the best players in the AA Southern League last year. He was in the top 10 in BA, OBP, SLG, OPS, SB, and R. The only thing he didn’t do is hit many HRs. He had just seven HRs, but he had eight triples and 31 doubles. Still, his 843 OPS was 4th in the league and he led the league in BBs. That advanced approach led to him garnering an invite to Rays spring training, where he batted just 3-for-14 but had three walks and a stolen base. He also managed to hit a HR. He’ll begin this year in AAA Durham.

Mike Papi, OF, Cleveland Indians – Like McCarthy, Papi had a big year in AA last year. Not quite as good as Joe, but then again, Papi is younger. Papi actually got called up to AAA towards the end of the season. In AA, he batted .267 with 10 HRs and 37 RBI in 87 games. In AAA, he batted just .235, but hit two HRs and drove in 18 in 37 games. He’ll begin back in Columbus in AAA.

Danny Pinero, SS, Detroit Tigers – In his first full season of pro baseball, Pinero spent the season with the West Michigan Whitecaps of the Midwest League. He batted .289 with a 775 OPS. He hit 4 HRs, drove in 56 and stole five bases. That’s pretty good for a good defensive SS. He’ll move up to High-A Lakeland in the FSL this year.

Josh Sborz, SP, Los Angeles Dodgers – Sborz spent the season with the Tulsa Drillers of the AA Texas League. He was 8-8 with a 3.86 ERA over 116.2 IP. He struck out 81 and walked 56, which isn’t a great ratio. If he can cut down on the walks, he has a chance to be pretty good. Right now, he’s looking like a possible bullpen guy. He remains in Tulsa for the beginning of this year.

Pavin Smith, 1B, Arizona Diamondbacks – Like Haseley, Smith was a top 10 pick last year. He started his pro career with the short season Hillsboro Hops of the Northwest League. He batted .318 with a 816 OPS. He didn’t HR, but he had 15 doubles and two triples in 51 games. He struck out just 24 times and walked 27. If you walk more than you strikeout, you’re doing a good job. He’ll start the year in Visalia (High-A California League).

Matt Thaiss, 1B, Los Angeles Angels – After hitting pretty well at two levels last year, Thaiss was invited to big-league spring training. All he did was go 7-for-27 with two HRs and four RBI in 15 games. Last year, between High-A and AA, he batted .274 with a 770 OPS. He had nine HRs and 73 RBI in 133 games and stole eight bases. Thaiss isn’t ready for the bigs yet, so he will remain in AA (Mobile, in the Southern League) to open the season. He’ll probably see AAA this year.

Brandon Waddell, SP, Pittsburgh Pirates – Waddell spent almost all of the year with the Altoona Curve in AA Eastern League. He also had a rehab assignment to a lower league following an injury. At Altoona, he was 3-3 with a 3.55 ERA over 15 starts. He struck out 56 and walked 27 in 66 IP. He probably starts the year back at Altoona since he missed some time last year with the injury. If he keeps pitching well, he should see AAA this year.

Notes:

Brandon Cogswell and Robbie Coman are both guys who played last year and have since retired. Whit Mayberry was released last summer and has not been resigned.

Please let us know in the comments if we’ve missed anybody.