By Shaylee Souza,
Sun Devil Athletics Media Relations Student Assistant
Sun Devil Baseball has a long-standing history of successfully producing players who move on to Major League Baseball. This March, #MLBU will be on full display as 19 Sun Devils for Life were invited to Spring Training with their respective Major League clubs, including 11 in the Cactus League right here in Arizona, and eight in the Grapefruit League in Florida.
Austin Barnes – Los Angeles Dodgers, catcher
Tony Barnette – Texas Rangers, right-handed pitcher
Jake Barrett – Arizona Diamondbacks, right-handed pitcher
Kole Calhoun – Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, outfielder
Ike Davis – Texas Rangers, infielder
Jake Elmore – Milwaukee Brewers, infielder
Andre Ethier – Los Angeles Dodger, outfielder
Tuffy Gosewisch – Arizona Diamondbacks, catcher
Jason Kipnis – Cleveland Indians, infielder
Eric Sogard – Oakland Athletics, infielder
Brett Wallace – San Diego Padres, infielder
Andrew Aplin – Houston Astros, outfielder
Ian Kinsler – Detroit Tigers, infielder
Mike Leake – St. Louis Cardinals, right-hander pitcher
Deven Marrero – Boston Red Sox, infielder
Dustin Pedroia – Boston Red Sox, infielder
Brady Rodgers – Houston Astros, right-handed pitcher
Andrew Romine – Detroit Tigers, infielder
Trevor Williams – Pittsburgh Pirates, right-handed pitcher
Arizona State’s reputation as one of the top schools for producing professional baseball players is obvious in the numbers: an NCAA-best 409 Sun Devils have been drafted and 104 players have played in the Major Leagues, the most among all schools since 1959; Sun Devils have combined to appear in 24 World Series’ and 57 All-Star Games, and have won nine MVP awards, four Rookie of the Year’s, 16 Gold Gloves, 17 Silver Sluggers and two World Series MVP honors.
With Major League Baseball Spring Training set to begin next week, we take a look at some #SunDevils4Life storylines from the 2015 season and heading into 2016. Gold Glove awards, career years and debut seasons, new teams and prospects making pushes to get into The Show, professional baseball in 2015 had plenty for #SunDevilNation to be excited about.
A Year of ASU Honors for Pedroia
Dustin Pedroia was inducted into the Sun Devil Athletics Hall of Fame this past September and five months later he became the 19th Sun Devil to join the baseball program’s prestigious Wall of Honor at Phoenix Muni.
A Resurgence in the Outfield
Early-season injuries to teammates gave Andre Ethier the chance he needed to establish himself as a dependable, everyday starter for the Los Angeles Dodgers, and he did just that. On Aug. 2nd against their crosstown rivals, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Ethier hit two go-ahead home runs, including a walk-off home run in the 10th inning. This marked his seventh walk-off home run and 14th walk-off hit of his career, placing him 2nd all-time in Dodgers history. Along with Pedoria, Ethier also joined the baseball program’s Wall of Honor at Phoenix Muni as the two teammates became the first Devils from the 2000s to be immortalized.
Kole Calhoun broke onto the national scene last season for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Cementing himself as a valuable player in the leadoff spot for the Angels, Calhoun had a stellar season that culminated with winning an American League Gold Glove at right field. Calhoun ranked second in fielding percentage (.989), third in outfield assists (11), and first in games played (157) among American League right fielders. The ‘Mayor of Omaha’ may soon add the city of Angels to his moniker.
Here to Stay
The 2015 season was a hectic one for Mike Leake. Shifting between the Cincinnati Reds and San Francisco Giants, Leake finally found his home in St. Louis. He signed an $80M contract over five years, and was given jersey No. 8, the same number he wore while playing for Arizona State.
May 2015 was a career month for Jason Kipnis. His 51 hits in the month of May broke the Cleveland Indians team record for most hits in a single month, and he ended the month with 30 runs, making him one of just three people, along with Ty Cobb and Al Simmons, in MLB history to have 50+ hits and 30+ runs in the month of May. Kipnis’ stellar month also earned him AL Player of the Month, and the second baseman finished the 2015 season with an impressive .303/.372/.451 slash line.
Channeling His Early Days
Ike Davis pitched a perfect eighth inning in a win against the Angels, as he retired all three batters he faced on just nine pitches. His fastball maxed out at 88 miles-per-hour, while he also mixed in a slider in the high 70s and a cutter. Davis was the first A’s position player to pitch in a game since Frank Menechino in 2000. As Sun Devil fans may recall from his college days, Davis started 12 games on the mound as a freshman in 2006 and made seven appearances in 2007.
Reaching a Milestone
Ian Kinsler recorded his 1,500th career hit in 2015 via a single off the Cleveland Indians’ Brian Shaw. Kinsler finished the season with his best batting average (.296) since posting a career-high .319 in 2008, and was awarded the Fielding Bible Award as the best fielding second baseman in MLB. He placed fourth in The Show in double plays turned (109) and had the most defensive runs saved (19) among all second baseman.
The past few years have been huge for Red Sox infielder Deven Marrero. Taken with the 24th overall pick in the 2012 draft, Marrero made his major league debut against the Tampa Bay Rays on June 28, 2015 at second base, and hit his first major league home run off of Caleb Cotham of the New York Yankees on Sept. 28. Marrero is currently on Boston’s active roster.
The Beginning of Barnes
Saddled with injuries behind the plate, the Dodgers called up Austin Barnes from Triple-A Oklahoma City on May 24, 2015. He made his MLB debut as the starting catcher and finished the night 1-for-3 with a single into center field. He went back to Oklahoma City and was named a starter on the Pacific Coast League Midseason All-Star team before he rejoined the Dodgers in September to close out the year with a total of 20 games at the Major League level.
Minor Setback, Major Comeback
Tuffy Gosewisch was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2005 and 10 seasons later he made his Major League debut for the Arizona Diamondbacks. He began the 2015 season as the D-backs’ starting catcher, but he tore his ACL in June and was out for the season. Now Gosewisch is primed for a comeback in a big way in 2016.
Finding a New Home
Brett Wallace signed a minor-league deal with the San Diego Padres just before the start of the 2015 season. In June, the Padres called Wallace up to the majors where he finished the season with a .302/.374/.521 slash line in 107 plate appearances. The Padres and Wallace avoided arbitration through a $1M contract good for the 2016 season.
A Trip Across the Pacific
Tony Barnette has spent the past six seasons playing for the Tokyo Yakult Swallows of Nippon Professional Baseball. He had a career season in 2015 as he tied for first in the Central League in saves (41) and recorded the lowest ERA among closers (1.29). Barnette inked a $3.5M/2 year contract with the Texas Rangers in December and is eyeing a comeback after being absent from baseball in the United States since 2009.