Baseball is back – college’s Opening Day coming up on Friday, and in the Major Leagues, pitchers and catchers reporting today.
Five Clemson baseball alums saw big-league action last year, in INF Jeff Baker (.248 BA/21 RBI/4 HR), OF/1B Tyler Colvin (.290 BA/18 HR/72 RBI), RHP D.J. Mitchell (3-2, 2.96 ERA), RHP Tony Sipp (1-2, 4.42 ERA) and RHP Jason Berken (0-3, 4.82 ERA).
Colvin, with the Colorado Rockies, and Sipp, also now in the NL West with the Arizona Diamondbacks, are the only two in the group currently on a 40-man roster.
Baker signed with Rangers and will compete for a spot in spring training, while righties Mitchell (Seattle Mariners) and Berken (Chicago Cubs) were outrighted to their team’s AAA clubs in the offseason.
Also on a 40-man roster is Kansas City Royals left-hander Chris Dwyer, who went 8-12 with a 5.89 ERA and 104 strikeouts with nine-plus starts each in AA and AAA-ball last season. Dwyer played one season in Clemson, with a 5-6 record and 4.92 ERA
Three former Tigers are listed as top-10 prospects in their team’s systems by MLB.com: OF Kyle Parker (Colorado Rockies), SS Brad Miller (Seattle Mariners) and 1B/3B Richie Shaffer (Tampa Bay Rays).
As Colorado’s No. 5 prospect, Parker hit .308 with 23 home runs and 73 RBIs in high-A ball, but battled injuries to start the season (broken right hand) and later on (strained ligament in thumb). He reports to Rockies’ spring training on Feb. 16.
Miller reports on Feb. 15, ranked No. 8 in the Seattle’s system after hitting .334 with 15 home runs and 68 RBIs, in stints in the A and AA classifications. He won the 2012 Mariners’ Heart and Soul Award.
“There’s something to be said for guys who just hit,” MLB.com’s Jonathan Mayo said in his 2013 scouting profile. “Miller absolutely raked in his first full season, finishing second in the organization in batting average. For those who want to put an asterisk by it because he was playing in the hitting haven that is High Desert in the California League, it should be noted the Clemson product kept on hitting after getting promoted to Double-A.”
Rounding out the top-10 players, Shaffer is No. 9 on Tampa Bay’s list – a 2012 first-round draftee in the 25th spot. In low A, he batted .308 with four home runs and 26 RBIs.
“He has plus power to all fields, though there are some holes to his swing that lead to a fair amount of strikeouts,” Mayo’s profile says. “…Shaffer's plus arm would be just fine at third, but many feel with his limited range (not to mention being blocked by Evan Longoria), first base might be a better long-term home.”
Also of note…
* RHP Kevin Brady was ranked the No. 17 prospect in the Philadelphia Phillies’ system by SB Nation’s team site. Brady was drafted in the 10th round and struck out 54 batters with only seven walks (2-3, 1.90 ERA) in rookie and low-A ball last season.
* Washington Nationals catcher Spencer Kieboom was named to The Netherlands' World Baseball Classic roster, but injured his elbow recently and had Tommy John surgery last week per the national team. He hit .258 with 20 RBIs in low-A last year and was expected to start for the Dutch.
* More former Tigers with solid ’12 minor league seasons: Mariners RHP Dominic Leone (3-0, 1.36 ERA with 39 K/19 BB in low-A), Texas Rangers LHP Will Lamb (6-8, 4.15 ERA with 80 K in A), Houston Astros 3B John Hinson (.339 BA in 15 games, struggled with hamstring injuries), Chicago Cubs RHP Scott Weismann (3-5, 4.91 ERA with 52 K/18 BB in A/AA) and Arizona Diamondbacks 2B Mike Freeman (.309 BA/24 2B/59 RBI in high-A).