The summer is upon us, and that means several former Virginia Tech baseball players are hard at work trying to advance their careers in Minor League Baseball.
The simple truth about baseball is that very few players who are drafted actually ever end up making a major league roster. Of all the former Hokies who are currently in the minors, only a couple of them actually stand a decent chance of making it to “The Show”.
This article is just a quick list of all of Tech’s minor league players (to my knowledge), where they have played in the past, and where they are playing currently.
Tim Smalling: Tech’s former starting shortstop was drafted in the 15h round by the Colorado Rockies in 2011. He played Low-A ball for the Tri-City Dust Devils last year, where he hit .294 with a homer and 21 RBI’s. The year he is playing High-A baseball for the Modesto Nuts in the California League. Through 39 games, he is hitting .242.
Austin Wates: Wates is an outfielder who was selected by the Houston Astros in the third round in 2010. He hit the ball well in Low-A ball in 2010, and was promoted to High-A Lancaster Jethawks of the California league last year, where he hit .300 with six homers and 75 RBI’s. He also stole 27 bases. This year Wates is playing Double-A ball for the Corpus Christi Hooks. He is currently hitting .298 with two homeruns, 22 RBI’s and 13 stolen bases through 50 games. Wates doesn’t have great power, but he looks like the type of guy who could be a future top of the order guy in Major League Baseball.
Jesse Hahn: Hahn was a very talented starting pitcher for the Hokies who battled injuries throughout his career. Those injuries pushed him back to the sixth round, where he was selected by Tampa Bay in 2010. He has yet to appear in a Minor League game due to injuries.
Matthew Price: Price a good pitcher for the Hokies who was taken in the eighth round by the Red Sox. He has only appeared in three Minor League games due to injury. He is currently listed on the roster for the Class A Greenville Drive, but his status is listed as “Restricted”.
Justin Wright: Tech’s best starter when they made the NCAA Tournament in 2010, Wright was actually their least talented pitcher. He was picked in the 47th round by the Cardinals. He has converted to relief pitcher role in the minors. His most significant action last season came with the Quad City River Bandits (don’t you just love the names of Minor League teams?), where he appeared in 17 games and went 5-1 with a 1.26 ERA. He was promoted to High-A ball with the Palm Beach Cardinals, where he posted a 0.57 ERA in 14 appearances. This year he is playing Double-A ball for the Springfield Cardinals in the Texas League, where he has a 5.66 ERA in 18 appearances. Wright averaged 12 strikeouts per nine innings last year, and he is currently rated the 17th best prospect in the Cardinal organization.
Steve Domecus: Domecus was a very good hitting catcher for the Hokies. He was picked in the 9th round by the Dodgers in 2010. He hit .252 with six homers playing Rookie ball for the Ogden Raptors in 2010. Last year he is played Class A ball with the Great Lakes Loons (Loons? Really?), where he hit .276 with five homers and 23 RBI’s. I can’t find Domecus listed on a roster for the 2012 season, so it’s possible that he has given up baseball.
Ben Rowen: Rowen was an outstanding closer for the Hokies, and he was picked by the Texas Rangers in the 22nd round in 2010. Rowen pitched very well in Spokane (Low-A) and Hickory (A), and he was promoted to High-A Myrtle Beach. In eight games this year he is 2-0 with a 2.87 ERA.
Steve Bumbry: Bumbry was picked by Baltimore in the 12th round of the 2009 draft. He spent three years going back and forth between Low-A and High-A ball, and he hit 11 homers with the Frederick Keys last year. He now plays Double-A ball for the Bowie Baysox of the Eastern League. He is hitting just .182 this season.
Warren Schaeffer: Schaeffer was a shortstop for the Hokies, and he was picked in the 38th round of the draft by the Rockies back in 2007. He has made it as far as Triple-A with the Colorado Springs Sky Sox in 2010 and 2011. This year he is playing Double-A ball with the Tulsa Drillers.
Of all those guys listed above, Austin Wates is the best bet to be a future Major League player. He has good speed, and he’s a very good contact hitter. His power is limited, and his arm is only average, so left field is probably his best long-term position (the strongest armed outfielders play right field, because it’s a longer throw to third base). He does have excellent range in the outfield. Check out this highlight clip for one of the most amazing catches you’ll ever see. You can also follow him on Twitter here.
Justin Wright has also had a very good minor league career to date. He could factor in somewhere down the line as a lefty specialist out of the bullpen.