While college baseball has been in recess, there hasn’t been a shortage of news and excitement related to Big Ten programs this summer. In addition to a flurry of coaching changes, several schools have seen former standouts make their big league debut.
Two significant contributors to Indiana’s 2013 College World Series team, Aaron Slegers, the 2013 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year, and Sam Travis, the 2014 Big Ten Player of the Year, received the respective call from the Minnesota Twins and Boston Red Sox. The two makes it five former Hoosiers with big league playing time this year, joining Micah Johnson (Twins), Josh Phegley (A’s) and Kyle Schwarber (Cubs). Another significant cog to a dream season, Purdue 2010-2012 third baseman Cameron Perkins debuted with the Philadelphia Phillies on June 20.
There’s been two pitchers from Big Ten programs who have broke into the majors this summer for the Chicago White Sox in Nebraska product Aaron Bummer and former Ohio State Buckeyes Brad Goldberg. And sticking with Chicago, former Northwestern standout Luke Farrell debuted with the Kansas City Royals on July 1.
Currently all six players are back in the minors. But with less than one week until Major League active rosters expand, it’s likely some, if not the entire sextet of players, will be back in a big league uniform. With that in mind, here’s predictions who will be the next player from each school to debut, either this September or down the road.
LHP Tyler Jay
The pro career of the 2015 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year has not gotten off to the start he, nor the Minnesota Twins, who drafted him sixth overall in the 2015 draft, would have liked. Multiple injuries and setbacks have limited the southpaw to just 91.1 innings in his first two full seasons. But there is good news. Jay recently returned from the DL to join Advanced-A Fort Myers Miracle and appears set to finish a season healthy for the first time. The stuff Jay possesses has never been doubted, he has 111 strikeouts in 109.2 innings, and at 23 youth is still on his side. If he can start the 2018 season at AA, the level he started the 2017, he should be back on track to being the Illini’s next big leaguer.
Next on the list: RHP Cody Sedlock (Currently in A+, Baltimore Orioles)
LHP Joey DeNato
The pro career of the 2014 Big Ten Pitcher of the Year has likely exceeded any expectations. Joey DeNato, Indiana’s most decorated pitcher, continues to turn away naysayers, now one level away from the bigs. Drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 19th round of the 2014 draft, DeNato has pitched at two levels in each of his four professional seasons. At 5’10 and weighing 175 pounds, DeNato is not a hard-throwing pitcher who overpowers batters. But what opposing Big Ten coaches saw four for years is a pitcher who has the head and feel for pitching, and a unmatched pickoff move. Combining DeNato’s knack for just getting outs and the state of the Phillies’ big league team, don’t bet against a fourth player from IU’s Omaha team to make the majors soon.
Next on the list: RHP Scott Effross (A+, Chicago Cubs)
OF Joel Booker
It’s no secret the Chicago White Sox are in rebuilding mode. Nearly trading away any big leaguer of value to replenish its farm system, the White Sox are a few years away from winning. That bodes well for Joel Booker. Currently in Advanced-A, 14 months after being a 22nd-round draft pick, if Booker continues to perform in a manner which merits multiple promotions in a year, he’ll soon be on the South side. Though the White Sox have a deep farm system, there isn’t a standout entrenched in the White Sox outfield or upper minors that will block him. Booker brings good speed to the game, stealing 41 bases in 44 attempts over 65 rookie league games last year. But he’s not all speed, before earning a promotion to Advanced-A, Booker batted .312 in the South Atlantic League.
Next on the list: RHP Blake Hickman (A, Chicago White Sox)
2B Brandon Lowe
A broken fibula suffered during Super Regional play didn’t deter the Tampa Bay Rays from selecting Maryland’s Brandon Lowe in the third round of the 2015 draft. Over two seasons in College Park, the second baseman showed an ability to routinely meet ball with barrel, one of college baseball’s most advanced hitters. After batting .248 during his debut season, Lowe has wielded a might bat, earning two promotions and set to finish his second season in AA. In 107 games between A+ and AA, Lowe has a .303 average with 39 doubles, three triples and 11 home runs. Lowe is limited to second base defensively, but his ability to rack up hits bodes well for a continue climb up the ranks.
Next on the list: RHP Brian Shaffer (SS-A, Arizona)
SS Jacob Cronenworth
There’s a second Big Ten alum on Tampa’s AA roster, as Lowe’s double play partner is former Michigan standout Jacob Cronenworth. The seventh round pick of the Rays in 2015, Cronenworth played all over the diamond for the Wolverines and served as the team’s closer. It was a surprise to many evaluators when the Rays selected on shortstop as Cronenworth’s professional position, the lone of the four infield spots he did not play at Michigan. But he has excelled there, and his versatility enhances his ability to rise the ranks. Cronenworth hasn’t put up the offensive numbers of Lowe, but strong defense up the middle with a .273/.365/.359 slash across two levels has him as Michigan’s best prospect.
Next on the list: OF Michael O’Neill (AA, Texas)
RHP David Garner
The Chicago Cubs drafted Michigan State’s David Garner in the seventh round of the 2013 draft. Out of East Lansing, Garner possessed a mid-90s fastball with an electric slider that racked up strikeouts, strong stuff that made him a top 200 draft prospect, even though he was undersized for a pitcher. Through five professional seasons, Garner’s stuff has carried him through five levels, and he’s now knocking on the door of the big leagues. Currently in AAA, Garner has a 2.90 ERA for the 2017 season, which started at AA. In 195 career innings, Garner has 224 punch outs, a strikeout artist who is still only 24 years old.
Next on the list: LHP Anthony Misiewicz (AA, Tampa Bay)
LHP D.J. Snelten
It wouldn’t surprise anyone in 2013 if you said a Gopher would be on the doorstep of the bigs in 2017. After all, Tom Windle was a second-round pick of the Dodgers, and was viewed as a durable, polished, high-floored left-handed pitcher. But it is Windle’s teammate, D.J. Snelten, a ninth-round pick that year, who is set to continue Minnesota’s tradition of littering big league rosters. Though Snelten was finishing a second consecutive season at A+ a year ago, and doing so with a modest 4.11 ERA, Snelten has shined in 2017. After 21.2 innings of 1.66-ERA baseball at AA, Snelten has been at AAA Sacramento since May 23 for the San Francisco Giants. Snelten has appeared in 33 games, logging 47 innings, with a 1.91 ERA, holding opponents to a .186 average. With the Giants well out of playoff contention, Snelten’s name may be called for an up close big league evaluation.
Next on the list: LHP Dalton Sawyer (A+ Oakland)
OF Ryan Boldt
One of the most ballyhooed Big Ten recruits in the last decade, former Cornhusker Ryan Boldt’s professional career is off to a solid start, showing why he was such a prized prospect out of high school by colleges and professional teams alike. Yet another prospect in the Rays’ system, Boldt started the year at A+ Charlotte alongside Cronenworth and Lowe. While he has not been promoted to AA, his numbers in the Florida State League are strong. Boldt is batting .296 with 22 doubles, five triples and home runs, and 23 stolen bases. With a blending of speed, strong defense and budding power, Boldt should be in Tampa’s plans for years to come.
Next on the list: LHP Kyle Kubat (AA, Chicago White Sox)
INF Alex Erro
With Farrell pitching in two MLB games this year, there isn’t a former Northwestern Wildcat in affiliated baseball that has not appeared in the Majors. The Wildcats have not had a draft pick in either of the two last drafts and there are only four players total in either the majors or minors, Farrell, J.A. Happ (Toronto), George Kontos (Pittsburgh) and Eric Jokisch is in AAA Reno for the Diamondbacks. With Northwestern’s next big league not yet in pro baseball, the current roster yields sophomore Alex Erro as the club’s best bet. As a freshman, Erro batted .275, there was modest pop with 11 doubles and five home runs, but with only 18 strikeouts in 233 at-bats, Erro has a feel for hitting. The Miami native also shined in the field, giving Spencer Allen a rock to build around for at least two more years.
Next on the list: OF Leo Kaplan (Soph. Northwestern)
RHP Brett McKinney
There are five former Buckeyes in AAA. Three of those are on the roster of the Rochester Red Wings, Drew Rucinski, J.B. Shuck and Alex Wimmers, and each has already reached the bigs. The other two are right-handed pitchers Jaron Long and Brett McKinney, teammates under Greg Beals between 2012-2013. McKinney takes a slight edge in projecting whom reaches the big leagues first, due to him believing a reliever and not needing to be on a five-day window, and the respective depth in front of either. While Washington’s rotation looks like a MASH unit, a group headlined by Gio Gonzalez, Max Scherzer and Stephan Strasburg, when healthy is hard to crack. Long has done well in his second go at AAA, but as a pitcher who thrives on command, execution and feel, the mid-90s-throwing McKinney can easier fill in a role on the fly.
Next on the list: RHP Jaron Long (AAA, Washington)
RHP Sal Biasi
The first player from the 2017 draft to make the list is right-handed pitcher Sal Biasi. The 11th-round pick of the Kansas City Royals, Biasi used a fastball capable of reaching 96 MPH to strike out 88 batters in 72.1 innings, posting a 3.48 ERA. Between Kansas City’s Arizona and Appalachian rookie league teams, Biasi punched out 48 batters in 51 innings, to go beside a 2.65. The Royals are using Biasi as a starter, but leading up to the draft some scouts viewed the righty as a reliever due to his arm action and modest, 6′, 190-pound frame. If Biasi eventually takes a bullpen role, that could expedite his rise through the minors.
Next on the list: 3B Jim Haley (A, Tampa Bay)
RHP Matt Frawley
The 2016 season was nearly forgettable for Purdue. A 2-22 showing in the Big Ten led to a change of leadership with head coach Doug Schreiber’s resignation. But one of the few bright spots was the emergence and eventual drafting of right-handed pitcher Matt Frawley. The Pittsburgh Pirates picked Frawley in the 17th round, breaking a two-year draft drought for the Boilermakers. Frawley wasn’t a part of the Pirates system for long though, traded to the New York Yankees on June 14. In two months in the Yankees system, the results suggest Frawley has a home. Between the two full-season A-levels, Frawley has allowed six earned runs in 35.1 innings, striking out 40 batters against eight walks.
Next on the list: C Nick Dalesandro (Jr. Purdue)
OF Jawuan Harris
There is only one Scarlet Knight in the minors, Brian O’Grady, a member of the Pensacola Blue Wahoos in AA for the Cincinnati Reds. But at 25, and with a career batting average of .234 in 367 minor league games, the prospect status of the former eighth-rounder has waned. And without a draft pick during the 2017 draft, it’s likely Rutgers’ next big league is currently on its roster. Center field Jawuan Harris is Rutgers’ top prospect heading into the 2018 draft, and his tool set is one that can carry him through the minors. Harris possesses true game-changing speed, at least a plus-plus of 70 grade on a scout’s 20-80 scale, with developing power and a feel for hitting, as the two-sport athlete continues to mature as a baseball player. But there is the caveat that Harris is a two-sport athlete and his future as a wide receiver may inhibit his prospect as a baseball player.
Next on the list: O’Grady (AA)
Correction: Rutgers has two minor leaguers. RHP Max Herrmann was signed to a free agent contract by the Angels on July 18 and is currently on their Arizona League team.