Editor's Note: Thanks to ChicagoMaroon for his assistance in compiling the data for this article.
Making the big leagues is the ultimate goal for any baseball player. To get there, everyone has to show their worth in the minor leagues first. Fortunately for Tech, a wealth of talent has come out of Blacksburg in recent years. Here are the Hokies in the American League affiliates who are waiting for the big call up.
Steven Bumbry OF- Drafted in 2009 in the 12th round by the Baltimore Orioles
I hate to start out the post with some bad news, but I have to do just that, as former Hokie Steven Bumbry (son of former Orioles 1983 World Series Champion platoon CF Al Bumbry) went on the disabled list JUST after our last post after seeing his greatest success as a professional baseball player since A-ball in 2011. How soon after our last post did he go to the DL? Try four games and seven at-bats later.
While Bumbry's average dipped from .242 to .233, the fact that he only had 7 AB's during that time before he went on the DL added to the fact that with so few AA AB's on the season, his batting average was going to be a bit volatile no matter which way it was headed. Bumbry has battled the injury bug for most of his career. He damaged the hamate bone in his wrist in 2011, only to follow it up with a shoulder injury from a car accident a year later. We'll keep you up to date with his recovery on this latest setback as we know more.
Austin Wates OF- Drafted in 2010 in the 3rd round by the Houston Astros
Unfortunately, I have to be the bearer of bad news for the second former in a row. Wates succumbed to injury in 2013, starring in only 15 games, a huge setback to his career.
What makes this more unfortunate for all parties involved is really three-fold. One, Austin was continuing to advance through the Astros' farm system at a very healthy pace, and was making a strong case that he deserved to be in the bigs by the end of the year, if not sooner. Secondly, the Astros are in need of outfielders (and just about every other position player) who can play at even a competent level, giving him an opportunity to make an impact and gain a foothold on the major league club. Lastly, as a function of that, other outfielders instead got that opportunity, and if one of them shines instead of Wates, it could make his path into the big leagues more difficult and even end his career as an Astro completely.
Let's hope Austin can comeback from his injury and make some noise in 2014.
Jesse Hahn P- Drafted in 2010 in the 6th round by the Tampa Bay Rays
MAN OH MAN AM I HATING THIS JOB RIGHT NOW! So guess what I'm about to say? After his most recent start on July 21 (possibly his worst start as a pro) in which Hahn failed to go 4 innings for the first time in over two months (apparently to stretch him out after piggybacking earlier in the year), Hahn was placed on the DL.
Hahn, despite being less dominant as of late, running his season ERA up to 2.11 over 64 innings of work (it was an unsustainable 0.96 ERA back in our May Hokies In The Minor Leagues post), was still dominating hitters with a WHIP barely over 1 and a nearly 4-to-1 K/BB ratio. While I do not know what specific injury Hahn has (often in the minor leagues they keep it pretty hush hush), it looks like there was some concern based on Hahn having two of his wildest outings in his pro career in his last three starts. Unfortunately, Hahn no longer has the claim that he has yet to allow a homer in his professional career, as he gave up one in his July 14th start. But 1 HR in 116 career innings is still unheard of.
Regardless of Hahn's injury prognosis, I have stated time and again I believe that Hahn should've been in AA a while ago, so when he recovers, here's hoping for a quick promotion to the AA level to see if they can muster a challenge to the dominant Hahn.
Matthew Price P- Drafted in 2010 in the 8th round by the Boston Red Sox
After spending 50 games in 2012 suspended for Marijuana use, Price finished the 2013 season with a 2.41 ERA through 35 games with the Salem Red Sox. He recorded six saves and ended the year with a beautiful 6-0 record.
Considering Price's age for his level and his steadily improving metrics, I would imagine that the Red Sox will be looking to move him a rung up the minor league ladder pretty soon. Price is above the average age for a player at his level, and despite his dominant statistics so far this season, his injury history and his shortage of experience against same-age or older players means that those numbers are harder to quantify. All Price can do is keep throwing the ball and making hitters look bad and the rest will take care of itself. As for his AA promotion meter? I can't say for sure, but I believe it's getting pretty close to full.
Ben Rowen P- Drafted in 2010 in the 22nd round by the Texas Rangers
In a reversal of the tenor of this post so far, Ben Rowen is now carrying the torch for the Hokies in the minors, and is looking like a lock to be called up soon. When we last looked in on Ben's season, he had been dominating hitters as much as any other pitcher in organized baseball at any level. He had just been promoted to AAA Round Rock after posting an 0.53 ERA in 33.2 innings at AA Frisco, and was a perfect 10-of-10 in save chances.
So how is he doing now? Rowen finished the year with an astounding 0.84 ERA through 20 games for the AAA club. He also added a 3-1 record to that tally.
Why don't you see how nasty his stuff is for yourself in this primo quality video of his first appearance in AAA right behind home plate.
Seriously, some of those swings and misses are just silly. While the Rangers bullpen gradually improved over the 2013 season to become one of the best in baseball, there is no reason not to get a look at a player like Rowen whose stuff has been so electric at every level that essentially no one has stood a chance against him. After all, sidearming pitchers don't grow on trees, much less ones that own a 1.34 career ERA.
Buddy Sosnoskie OF- Drafted in 2010 in the 25th round by the Kansas City Royals
Buddy is playing independent league ball with the Fargo-Moorehead Redhawks. He played 90 games in 2013 and netted a .246 batting average, a far cry from his .339 average in 2012. He also drove in 37 runs, only six more than he did in 2012 playing in half the number of games. If Sosnoskie wants any shot at the big time, he needs to bring those numbers back up. Don't expect him to get the call this year.
Chad Pinder SS/3B- Drafted in 2013 in the 2nd round by the Oakland Athletics
Since being drafted in the Supplemental B round of the 2013 MLB Draft, Pinder has been struggling with not only his bat for the Vermont Lake Monsters, but also with his glove, which is disconcerting because of how it was raved about. Pinder played in 42 games and only had a .200 batting average to show for it. One year in the minors isn't enough to make or break a career, but another season like this will put his baseball future in jeopardy.
Eddie Campbell P- Drafted in 2013 in the 15th round by the Seattle Mariners
Of all the Hokies drafted in 2013, it seemed like former coach Pete Hughes was most insistent that Eddie Campbell come back. He posited that Campbell could benefit from another year of instruction and experience at the college level. While I agreed, the truth is, the pro scouts were enamored with Campbell's stuff, and regardless of a somewhat lackluster college career, took him in the 15th round.
Campbell appeared in 11 games for the Pulaski Mariners. He amassed a record of 3-3 with an ERA of 3.72, an unfortunate ending to a brilliant start early in the season.
Joe Mantiply P- Drafted in 2013 in the 27th round by the Detroit Tigers
Mantiply has also been very good so far as a minor leaguer, but not quite as dominant. Through 13 games, Mantiply yielded an 0-1 record with an ERA of 2.04. He didn't get a lot of looks for the Connecticut Tigers, but that can sometimes be expected as a young player. Look for him to get a bigger workload this season.
Colin O'Keefe P- Drafted in 2013 in the 33rd round by the Los Angeles Angels
O'Keefe is the only 2013 draftee who has truly struggled so far. He played in only seven games last year with an ugly ERA of 18.56. Hitters batted .300 against him last season, and things are not looking good. O'Keefe will have to make some adjustments this year, or risk making an early exit and ending his otherwise promising career.
Stay tuned for our follow up post: Hokies in the National League.
For more on former Virginia Tech baseball players in the minor leagues, including those that went undrafted, be sure to check in with us here at Gobbler Country, your #1 source for Virginia Tech sports and the best Hokie baseball coverage on the internet.