The Major League Baseball regular season has concluded and playoffs are underway. While a group of veterans are sticking around, multiple members of the Virginia Cavaliers’ 2021 College World Series team have entered the league with a bang and the 2023 class will soon follow.
Let’s take a look at how each of these ‘Hoos in MLB are doing:
Andrew Abbott (UVA ‘21, Cincinnati Reds)
Abbott was called up in June and dominated right out of the gate. He tossed a combined 17.2 scoreless innings in his first three starts, and kept sub-2 ERA through his first ten. Growing pains did ensue, but Abbott’s full body of work in 2023 was quite encouraging.
Abbott’s off speed arsenal, which consists of the curveball/changeup combination we are used to seeing at Virginia, as well as the trendy sweeper, is valued in the 77th percentile of MLB pitchers, per Baseball Savant. He also reestablished the command of his fastball towards the end of the season.
Abbott’s Reds heavily exceeded expectations this season, finishing 82-80. Although they missed the postseason, the former Cavaliers ace is a core part of an exciting young group of talent in Cincinnati.
Ernie Clement (UVA ‘17, Toronto Blue Jays)
For most of the season, Clement was struggling to get it going, even in AAA. Then, he got called up to Toronto in late August and everything came together. Through 52 plate appearances, he managed to post a .380 batting average and a full win above replacement. Of course, the sample size is extremely small, but the Blue Jays were encouraged enough to include Clement on their playoff roster.
Tommy Doyle (UVA ‘17, Colorado Rockies)
After a small cup of coffee in 2020, Doyle spent the entirety of the 2021 season in the minors, and was injured for 2022. The 27-year-old returned with a few strong months AAA in 2023, which earned him another call-up in July. In 23.2 innings pitched, Doyle compiled a 6.13 ERA, striking out 18 batters and walking 13.
Zack Gelof (UVA ‘21, Oakland Athletics)
In a year full of endless despair and frustration for the Athletics faithful, the former UVA star provided hope. Although Gelof was called up after the all-star break, he batted .267, with an OPS+ of 130 (30% above league average) and amassed a 2.9 fWAR. As is typical in the Gelof family, Zack showcased his home run power, parking 14 into the stands over this span. In short, this was a Rookie of the Year pace with a significant sample size.
Considering his top tier range and relatively weak arm, Gelof has moved over to second base since his college days. All signs indicate that he will be the middle infielder that the A’s build around.
After another great night at the dish, Zack Gelof becomes the first player in @Athletics history to have 20 extra-base hits and 20 runs scored through his first 28 career games played. pic.twitter.com/9Jpv79wvEJ— MLB (@MLB) August 17, 2023
Daniel Lynch (UVA ‘18, Kansas City Royals)
Lynch spent a latter portion of the year on the injured list but showed signs of improvement beforehand. In nine starts, he threw 52.1 innings with a career-best 4.64 ERA. This can be attributed to a couple of adjustments.
Most notably, Lynch has decided to almost completely ditch the sinker, in favor of his new and improved changeup. He has also emphasized attacking the zone, even if he is not a strikeout pitcher. Lynch posted a career best in walk rate, while placing in the 91st percentile in hard hit rate against.
For a Royals franchise that is showing few signs of life, Lynch should continue to get opportunities when he returns to health.
Jake McCarthy (UVA ‘18, Arizona Diamondbacks)
McCarthy struggled to build on a solid 2022 season. In 312 plate appearances, he slashed just .243/.318/.326. Unfortunately, this also happened to coincide with the emergence of some young Diamondbacks outfielders, most notably Corbin Carroll, who is pretty much a lock to win NL Rookie of the Year. McCarthy did make the Arizona’s postseason roster, most likely as a pinch runner.
Josh Sborz (UVA ‘15, Texas Rangers)
Although his ERA was above five, Sborz sustained himself in MLB for a full season for the second time in his career. The interesting thing is that his expected stats are quite encouraging. Sborz placed above the 80th percentile in xERA and xBA and the 98th percentile in whiff rate, thanks to a lethal fastball-slider combination. Sborz is part of the bullpen on the Rangers playoff roster.
Clap it up for Josh Sborz.— Michael Bier (@MichaelJBier) October 1, 2023
- 1.2 IP
- 13 Pitches
- 0 Runs Allowed
Getting out of that one-out, based-loaded jam he inherited was HUGE. pic.twitter.com/nPIeqPh19j
Pavin Smith (UVA ‘17, Arizona Diamondbacks)
The former top 10 pick has struggled at the top level so far. As someone who does not provide much defensively, the offense has not been strong enough. The good news is that Smith is on the Diamondbacks playoff roster and one moment could immediately flip his legacy.
Bennett Sousa (UVA ‘18, Houston Astros)
Sousa bounced around this season and eventually was claimed off waivers by the powerhouse Astros. He pitched a combined 9 innings this season, and is unlikely to be on Houston’s playoff roster.
Chris Taylor (UVA ‘12, Los Angeles Dodgers)
Another year, another solid season from Taylor. He is now the third longest-tenured player for arguably the most prestigious franchise of the last decade. Taylor’s batted .237 with a .326 on base percentage and a .420 slugging, which are all around league average. Although his swing and miss rate has remained high, he makes up for it with a disciplined approach.
Much of the reason the Dodgers have kept around Taylor so long is his versatility in the field. This season, he has started at least 10 games third base, shortstop, and in the outfield, with an occasional appearance at second base as well.
Taylor was hit by a pitch in the final game of the regular season but manager Dave Roberts is not concerned about his health for the NLDS. He is expected to play a key role under the spotlight once again.
Also, it is important to recognize the Cavaliers that are doing their part in the community. He is one of the nominees for the Roberto Clemente Award in 2023. “I felt like playing for the Dodgers and being given the platform, it felt almost like a responsibility to use it and try to make an impact elsewhere,” Taylor told MLB.com.
Matt Thaiss (UVA ‘16, Los Angeles Angels)
Thaiss managed to turn around a brutal start behind the plate and salvage a serviceable season. From the bottom of the lineup, he was able to draw walks and extend innings, while providing the occasional pop with the bat. Albeit the Angels underwhelmed as a team, but Thaiss has established himself as someone who belongs in the league.
Swing Decision Data— Jon Anderson (@JonPgh) September 22, 2023
% of total swings that are at pitches in the zone
1. Edouard Julien 81.1%
2. Taylor Walls 80.2%
3. Robbie Grossman 79.9%
4. Matt Thaiss 79.7%
5. Geraldo Perdomo 79.1%
6. Ryan Noda 78.8%
7. Matt Chapman 78.3%
8. Chris Taylor 78.2%
9. Jon Berti 78.1%…
Notes on ‘Hoos in MiLB:
- Sean Doolittle played 2023 on a minor league deal before announcing his retirement from the sport. The former UVA standout was a major contributer to the Nationals’ World Series run in 2019. He was a two time all-star: once for Oakland in 2014 and the other for Washington in 2018.
- Pitchers Mike Vasil (Mets) and Griff McGarry (Phillies) and infielder Tanner Morris (Blue Jays) are knocking on the door and are expected to be part of the big league club at some point in 2024.
- Kyle Teel is doing Kyle Teel things and is already in AA for the Red Sox, after being drafted just a few months ago.
- Andy Weber has been a pleasant surprise in the Cubs system and earned a spot in the Arizona Fall League. He spent the year in AA.