Aug. 23, 2010
By Matt Storey -
Devils In The Minors
As ASU approaches the magical mark of 100 Major Leaguers, there are plenty of former Sun Devils working their way up the ladder of professional baseball. More than 30 players currently on Minor League rosters played at Arizona State, and several could be getting the call to The Show in the near future.
Second baseman Eric Sogard seems the most likely choice to be the next former Sun Devil in the Majors. Sogard, who played at ASU from 2005-2007, is currently with the Oakland A's Triple-A affiliate Sacramento. A second-round selection of the San Diego Padres in the 2007 MLB Draft (81st overall), he earned both Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star recognition in the California League as a member of the Single-A Lake Elsinore Storm in 2008, as he hit .308 with 10 home runs, 42 doubles and 87 RBI. Sogard spent the 2009 season with Double-A San Antonio, hitting .293 and being named a Texas League All-Star. In January 2010, Sogard was traded to Oakland as part of a four-player deal, and he has not slowed down with his new organization. He is hitting .293 with 24 doubles and 49 RBI in 117 games this season, and he could be a candidate for a call-up to the big leagues when the rosters expand in September.
Another Sun Devil who is just one step away from the Majors is pitcher Jason Urquidez. A member of the Arizona Diamondbacks' organization, Urquidez has been with the Triple-A Reno Aces throughout the 2010 season. He played at ASU from 2004-2005, serving as an anchor of the starting rotation to help the Sun Devils to a third-place finish at the 2005 College World Series, and he was a 17th round selection of the Diamondbacks in 2005. After a shoulder injury caused him to miss the entire 2006 season, Urquidez has battled back to become an effective pitcher again. He made 50 total relief appearances while splitting the 2009 season between Double-A Mobile and Triple-A Reno, and this year he is 4-4 with a 5.11 ERA and four saves in 43 appearances for Reno.
More than 10 former ASU players are currently in Double-A, and one of them is Cleveland Indians' prospect Jason Kipnis. Kipnis, who starred for ASU from 2008-2009, was selected in the second round (63rd overall) by the Indians in the 2009 Draft, and he has had nothing but success thus far in his professional career. He hit .306 in 29 games with Single-A Short Season Mahoning Valley last season, and he began this season with Single-A Kinston. After hitting .300 with six home runs and 31 RBI in 54 games, he was called up to Double-A Akron. He has been even better there, hitting .339 with nine home runs and 34 RBI in 56 games so far. All his offensive success has come while making a significant position change, as the Indians have converted him from an outfielder to a second baseman. Kipnis could arrive in the Majors at some point during the 2011 season.
Several other Sun Devils are having success in Double-A as well. Outfielder Tim Smith (2007) is hitting .302 with eight home runs and 45 RBI and was a Texas League All-Star while playing with the Northwest Arkansas Naturals of the Kansas City Royals organization. Outfielder Matt Spencer (2007), now with the Chicago Cubs organization after being traded twice in his career thus far, has a .281 batting average with 15 home runs and 55 RBI for the Tennessee Smokies. Infielder Andrew Romine (2005-2007) is with the Arkansas Travelers of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim organization, and he is hitting .280 with 16 stolen bases on the season. Right-handed pitcher Zechry Zinicola (2004-2006) has 11 saves for the Harrisburg Senators of the Washington Nationals organization, and left-handed pitcher Josh Satow (2005-2008) was recently promoted to Double-A Montgomery after going 4-1 with nine saves for Single-A Charlotte of the Tampa Bay Rays organization.
A number of other former Sun Devils are in either Single-A or Rookie League ball, including several who helped ASU to a Pac-10 title and a trip to the College World Series in 2010. Infielder Raoul Torrez is with the Yakima Bears (Diamondbacks), outfielder Kole Calhoun is with the Orem Owlz (Angels), pitcher Jake Borup is on the Williamsport Crosscutters (Phillies), and pitchers Merrill Kelly and Jimmy Patterson are both in the Tampa Bay Rays' system (Kelly with the Bowling Green Hot Rods and Patterson with the Hudson Valley Renegades). In addition, pitchers Seth Blair and Jordan Swagerty have signed with the St. Louis Cardinals and infielder Drew Maggi signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates, though they have yet to make their professional debuts.
So, it seems only a matter of time before Arizona State reaches the remarkable number of 100 Major Leaguers. Will number 100 be one of the many Sun Devils currently in the Minors? Will it be a current member of the ASU baseball team? Or will it be a future Sun Devil who gets ASU to the magic number? In time, we will have the answer, but there is one thing we know for sure. Almost anywhere you look in the world of professional baseball, you can find someone who once proudly wore the Maroon and Gold.