HUNTINGTON – Marshall’s two recent picks in the Major League Baseball Draft are signed and, with their seasons starting in the next few days, the Thundering Herd now boasts 12 minor leaguers on MLB-affiliated teams from Coach Jeff Waggoner’s program.
The closest to the Majors?
Dan Straily, after becoming professional baseball’s strikeouts leader and being promoted to the Sacramento River Cats, the Triple-A affiliate of the Oakland Athletics on Sunday.
Straily was the 24th-round pick by Oakland in 2009.
The Springfield, Ore., native leads all 10 full-season minor leagues is strikeouts with 108 (in 85.1 innings pitched, 11.74 strikeouts per nine innings) as he goes to the mound night after night for the Athletic’s Class AA Midland RockHounds in the Texas League — while walking only 23, low among starters with 14 games started.
Straily, who is 3-4 with a 3.38 ERA (eighth in the league) in 14 starts, was named to the South squad for the Texas League All-Star Game on June 28 in Tulsa, Okla.
As of Monday, only three pitchers in the majors — Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers (103 K’s), Matt Scherzer of the Tigers (100) and Stephen Strasburg of the Washington Nationals (100) have more than 100 strikeouts in the bigs.
Straily passed them all Friday night – and he has double-digit strikeouts in four starts to date.
Others approaching 100 strikeouts in the minors are Jose Frenandez of Greensboro Grasshoppers in the South Atlantic League (low A) — the home of Charleston’s West Virginia Power — with 99 in 79.0 innings pitched; Andrew Chafin, who has 97 Ks in 74.0 IP for the Visalia Rawhide in the California (high A) League; Cody Buckel of the Myrtle Beach Pelicans of the Carolina (high A) League, with 91Ks in 75.2 IP; and Chris Archer of the AAA Durham Bulls of the International League has 90 Ks in 76.2 IP (all as of June 18).
Straily would seem to have a good shot at becoming the first Herd alum in the Majors since pitcher Rick Reed (1988-2003).
Reed and reliever Jeff Montgomery (1987-99) are Marshall’s only big leaguers since 1974.
Of the 12 former Marshall players in the minors, 10 have been selected in the last four MLB June drafts.
Waggoner’s Herd has had 16 draft picks in the last five years.
“We’ve had 24 players who have had the opportunity to play pro ball,” said Waggoner, who just finished his sixth season as the Herd coach.
“That’s a very good number, and we might have a few more because there are players who could sign as free agents once the clubs figure out what their needs are.”
2012 Herd right-hander reliever Joe Church, of Princeton, was a 17th-round pick by San Diego this month.
Church started his pro career Friday, when the Class A short-season Northwest League opened 2012 play, pitching one innings, allowing two hits, no runs and striking out two over the weekend.
Church is with the Padres’ farm club, the Eugene (Ore.) Emeralds.
Marshall lefty Mike Mason of Maumee, Ohio, was a 24th-round selection by Colorado.
He’s joined the new Grand Junction Rockies (formerly the Casper Ghosts — now, that’s a nickname!) of the short-season Pioneer League.
The Pioneer season opens tonight, June 18.
Two other ex-Herd pitchers figure to see Church this summer in the Pacific Northwest.
Ian Kadish (1.0 innings pitched, with a walk and a strikeout) and Arik Sikula (two innings pitched, with one hit allowed and one strikeout) — 2011 draft picks by the Toronto Blue Jays — have moved up from the Appalachian League to the Northwest League and are with the Vancouver Canadians.
Eugene visits Vancouver from June 28-30.
Another two Marshall baseball alums also await the start of their second pro seasons.
Catcher-designated hitter Victor Gomez remains with the Atlanta system and is on the roster of the Gulf Coast League Braves, who also open the season tonight, Monday, June 18.
Outfielder Rhett Stafford, a 22nd-round pick by Oakland in 2011, opens with the Arizona League A’s on Wednesday – his second summer with that club.
Right-hander Shane Farrell is also on a Florida GCL roster, with the Blue Jays, as he continues to bounce back from shoulder surgery last year.
That leaves four former Herd players besides Straily who have been making their mark already this season.
Marshall has one player in high Class A in left-hander Ryan Kiel, who recently moved up to the California League’s Bakersfield Blaze in the Cincinnati Reds’ system — where his manager is Ken Griffey, Sr. — after starting the season in low Class A with the Midwest League’s Dayton Dragons.
Kiel is currently on the 7-day DL (disabled list).
At Dayton, he worked five innings in two games, and didn’t allow a run, and then permitted one run in 2.2 innings at Bakersfield before going on the DL. He has eight strikeouts in 7.2 innings for the season, and an 1.17 earned run average.
There are three Herd products in low Class A: right-hander Kevin Shackelford (Milwaukee Brewers) at Wisconsin in the Midwest League; southpaw Greg Williams (Texas Rangers) with Hickory in the South Atlantic League; and infielder Kenny Socorro (Chicago Cubs) at Peoria in the Midwest League.
Shackelford is 1-2 with a 5.79 ERA in 12 games (28 innings) for the Timber Rattlers, while Williams — a 12th-round Rangers’ pick last summer who is currently on the SAL 7-day disabled list — is 2-0 with four saves and a 4.37 ERA in 22.2 relief innings for the Crawdads.
Interestingly, the 23-year-old Socorro is a player-coach with the Chiefs — and even got in a pitching stint this season — and a win in relief.
The 5-foot-9 shortstop-coach (he hasn’t batted or played SS this season) was activated worked the final two innings of Peoria’s 14-inning, 4-3 win over Wisconsin on May 29.
Socorro got the Timber Rattlers 1-2-3 twice (fly out, strikeout, groundout; then, fly out, pop out, pop out).
“He must have had that four-seamer working,” said “The Voice of the Herd,” Steve Cotton, when told of Socorro’s two perfect innings in Peoria.
That was Socorro’s first pitching assignment since May 24, 2008, when he retired the last out in the eighth inning – as the seventh of nine pitchers Waggoner used -- in the Herd’s Conference USA tournament elimination-round win over Southern Miss in New Orleans.
Farrell, Kiel, Socorro, Kadish and Sikula all pitched in that game.
Kiel got the win.
Sikula got the save.
And they all got to the minors.