Since we’re dedicating a lot of the week to the baseball program, let’s take a look at the Hokies that are toiling away in the minor leagues. We’re going to focus on those guys who played for Tech in 2010, the last time VT made the NCAA Tournament.
There are many different levels of minor leagues. Here’s your key:
R: Rookie League (Example: Gulf Coast League)
R+: Advanced Rookie League (Example: Appalachian League)
A-: Short Season A League (Example: New York-Penn League)
A: Regular A League (Example: South Atlantic League)
A+: Advanced A League (Example: Carolina League)
AA: Double A League (Example: Texas League)
AAA: Triple A League (Example: International League)
Austin Wates, OF, Houston Astros, AAA Oklahoma City
The last Virginia Tech player to make his MLB Debut was Wyatt Toregas back in 2009, and he went on to play in 22 games in his short career. Austin Wates could be next. He was promoted to the Triple-A affiliate of the Houston Astros in May. He’s hit .300 or better for every team he played for in the minors, with the exception of a one-game stint with the Gulf Coast Astros.
2010, Tri-City ValleyCats, A-: 12 games, .316 BA, .447 OBP, 1 HR, 6 RBI, 9 SB, 0 CS
2011, Lancaster JetHawks, A+: 132 games, .300 BA, .366 OBP, 6 HR, 75 RBI, 26 SB, 7 CS
2012, Corpus Christi Hooks, AA: 95 games, .304 BA, .375 OBP, 7 HR, 48 RBI, 17 SB, 11 CS
2013, Corpus Christi Hooks, AA: 23 games, .310 BA, .423 OBP, 1 HR, 5 RBI, 11 SB, 1 CS
2013, Oklahoma City Redhawks, AAA: 15 games, .306 BA, .346 OBP, 0 HR, 5 RBI, 4 SB, 0 CS
The Astros put Wates in AA ball to start to 2013, but through 23 games his on-base percentage was well over .400 and his batting average was over .300, so they decided to send him up. He’s responded by hitting .306 in AAA Oklahoma City. He has struck out just three times in 54 plate appearances thus far.
His combined numbers for the AA and AAA level this year look like this: 38 games, .309 BA, .397 OBP, 1 HR, 10 RBI, 15 SB and 1 CS
Wates has proven to be a very good at every professional level he’s been assigned. He’s not on the 40-man roster at this point, though he has the potential to be there by September when rosters expand.
Ben Rowen, P, Texas Rangers, AA Frisco RoughRiders
Ben Rowen was a closer for Virginia Tech’s 2010 team, and the submariner’s work in the minor leagues as a reliever has been very impressive.
2010, Spokane Indians, A-: 21 games, 2-0, 1.09 ERA, 0.97 whip, 1 save
2011, Hickory Crawdads, A: 33 games, 5-4, 1.98 ERA, 1.237 whip, 2 saves
2012, Myrtle Beach Pelicans, A+: 38 games, 5-0, 1.57 ERA, 0.767 whip, 19 saves
2013, Frisco RoughRiders, AA: 20 games, 3-0, 0.73 ERA, 1.095 whip, 4 saves
I can’t imagine it’s possible to put up better stats than Rowen, a submariner, has done over the course of his minor league career. In all four seasons of professional baseball, his ERA has been under 2.00. His 0.767 whip while playing in the Carolina League was particularly impressive. He had just three walks in 57 innings that year.
Rowen also pitched with the Major League Club during spring training, where he made seven appearances. In one inning, he blew through Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.
Justin Wright, P, St. Louis Cardinals, AA Springfield Cardinals
At 5-9, 175, Justin Wright, a starter at Virginia Tech, wasn’t going to be a starter at the professional level. He had to adapt to a long relief role, and thus far he’s done a good job of it.
2010, Batavia Muckdogs, A-: 5 games, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.652 whip, 1 save
2011, Quad Cities River Bandits, A: 17 games, 5-1, 1.26 ERA, 0.813 whip, 4 saves
2011, Palm Beach Cardinals, A+: 14 games, 0-0, 0.57 ERA, 1.021 whip, 1 save
2012, Springfield Cardinals, AA: 50 games, 0-3, 4.45 ERA, 1.401 whip
2013, Springfield Cardinals, AA: 15 games, 0-0, 2.66 ERA, 1.230 whip
Wright was almost unhittable coming up through all three levels of A-ball. In his first season of AA ball in Springfield, he was knocked around a bit and had to make adjustments. So far in 2013, he’s managed to do just that, lowering his ERA from 4.45 to 2.66.
Wright is probably capped because of his size, but if he can keep putting up impressive numbers he could make himself hard to ignore.
Jesse Hahn, P, Tampa Bay Rays, A+ Charlotte Stone Crabs
Tampa Bay always has deep pitching talent, and one of their brightest young arms seems to be former Virginia Tech starter Jesse Hahn. Though he didn’t start pitching in the minors until 2012 because of Tommy John surgery, Hahn has put up impressive numbers.
2012, Hudson Valley Renegades, A-: 14 starts, 2-2, 2.77 ERA, 1.019 whip, 9.5 K/9
2013, Charlotte Stone Crabs, A+: 10 starts, 0-0, 0.84 ERA, 0.906 whip, 9 K/9
Keep in mind that in the lower minor leagues, starting pitchers don’t throw a lot of innings. Hahn has thrown just 32 innings in his 10 starts this season. However, they’ve been 32 dominant innings. Hahn was originally viewed as a possible first round pick until elbow issues set in. If he can pitch a full season in 2013 without showing ill effects of that injury, he has the potential to move back up the prospects list.
Tim Smalling, SS, Colorado Rockies, A+ Modesto Nuts
Smalling was a 15th round pick of the Colorado Rockies. He played shortstop at Virginia Tech. Here’s a look at his minor league career thus far.
2011, Tri-City Dust Devils, A-: 57 games, .294 BA, .332 OBP, 1 HR, 21 RBI, 11 BB, 49 K
2012, Modesto Nuts, A+: 68 games, .274 BA, .344 OBP, 2 HR, 33 RBI, 28 BB, 53 K
2013, Modesto Nuts, A+: 37 games, .214 BA, .312 OBP, 0 HR, 14 RBI, 18 BB, 28 K
Smalling’s average has dropped like a rock this year, though we’re still not quite halfway through the minor season. On the bright side, his walk-to-strikeout ratio has improved in 2013.
Matthew Price, P, Boston Red Sox, A+ Salem Red Sox.
Matthew Price is still pitching locally for the Salem Red Sox. He got off to a tough start in his professional career, missing all of 2012 after Tommy John surgery, and also being suspended for failing a drug test. However, Price is back and looking to move up the ladder.
2011, GCL Red Sox, R: 2 games, 2 starts, 0-0, 4.50 ERA, 1.500 whip
2011, Greenville Drive, A: 1 game, 0-0, 6.75 ERA, 3.000 whip
2013, Salem Red Sox, A+: 9 games, 1-0, 4.74 ERA, 1.053 whip
The Red Sox must think fairly highly of Price. They placed him in Advanced-A ball this year, despite the fact that he had played just three games in the lower minors and he missed all of last year with an injury.
His ERA doesn’t indicate that he’s pitching very well in Salem, though his 1.053 whip says that he’s getting guys out, but perhaps he’s running into some bad luck on the mound.
Ronnie Shaban, P, St. Louis Cardinals, A+ Palm Beach Cardinals
Shaban is a member of the Cardinals organization. He was a very good position player for the Hokies, while he also appeared in 36 relief appearances throughout his career. The Cardinals have had him coming out of the bullpen thus far in the minors.
2012, Johnson City Cardinals, R+: 20 games, 0-1, 3.05 ERA, 1.258 whip, 13.5 K/9
2013, Palm Beach Cardinals, A+: 15 games, 1-1, 0.92 ERA, 1.017 whip
The Cardinals thought enough of Shaban to bump him up from their Advanced Rookie team all the way to Advanced A ball. So far this season, he’s showing why. With an ERA of 0.92 in 15 appearances, Shaban is worth monitoring in the future.
Patrick Scoggin, P, Atlanta Braves, A Rome Braves
Pete Hughes probably wasn’t happy when Patrick Scoggin signed an undrafted free agent deal with the Braves with another year of college eligibility remaining. It didn’t make sense at the time. Scoggin never fully developed into a reliable pitcher for Virginia Tech. He was used as a weekday starter and a relief pitcher, and put up the following numbers in Blacksburg:
2010: 8 games, 3 starts, 1-1, 9.00 ERA
2011: 14 games, 5 starts, 4-1, 3.66 ERA
2012: 14 games, 7 starts, 4-1, 4.11 ERA
His numbers have been much better in professional baseball…
2012, GCL Braves, R: 6 games, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.522 whip
2012, Danville Braves, R+: 3 games, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.353 whip
2012, Rome Braves, A: 1 game, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3.000 whip
2013, Rome Braves, A: 9 games, 9 starts, 4-3, 3.27 ERA, 1.113 whip
Scoggin pitched in 10 games over three levels of the minors in 2012 without allowing a run. This year the Braves decided to try him out as a starter, and he’s been impressive thus far. He’s worth monitoring, considering Atlanta’s history of finding pitching prospects under rocks (Brandon Beachy was undrafted out of college).