The Dawg Sports staff has been kind enough to trust me with providing monthly updates throughout the season on how all former Diamond Dawgs are doing in various stages of their professional careers. Since Spring Training stats, like a good margarita, always need to be taken with at least one grain of salt, I dedicate my first post in the series to how these former Georgia baseball stars spent the 2013 season. I will provide monthly updates as the season progresses, so keep these young men on your personal baseball radar in 2014:
Dawgs in the Bigs:
Since being drafted by Atlanta in 2012, lefty starting pitcher Alex Wood, a Charlotte native, has soared through the ranks of the Braves' system, ultimately landing with the big-league club in May of 2013. After making a few appearances for the Braves and spending a little time in AAA Gwinnett, Wood finished the month of August with the third-lowest ERA of any rookie in the big leagues since 1955! He concluded the 2013 season having pitched 77.2 innings for the Braves with an ERA of 3.13, 77 strikeouts and only 27 walks. Wood enters 2014 as a crucial part of the Atlanta rotation and seems destined for even brighter days.
Manning second base on the South Side of Chicago in 2014 is Gordon Beckham, who added 10 pounds of muscle in the weight room this winter. Beckham claims the weight gain was more of an effort at building his endurance than an attempt to become the next Frank Thomas. This makes sense considering that injuries kept Beckham on the shelf for a significant chunk of 2013. In 103 games with the Sox last season, Beckham hit .267 with 24 RBIs and five home runs. We'll be looking for more from the extremely talented infielder in 2014.
Joining Beckham for another year in the White Sox infield is Jeff Keppinger, who enjoyed a respectable season in his first year on the South Side in 2013. Last season, Kepp hit .253 with 40 RBIs and four home runs in 117 games for Chicago. Unfortunately, it's looking like #7 will start 2014 on the DL for Robin Ventura's squad and might face an uphill climb to acquire a starting job this season. Wish Jeff all the best as he continues to battle some tightness in his surgically-repaired shoulder.
In what can be described as the Chicago White Sox' attempt at becoming the Cincinnati Bengals of the Major Leagues, the South Siders picked up former Bulldog pitcher Mitchell Boggs last month. Boggs projected to be used in the bullpen for the Sox until he was waived by the club on March 23. He is currently a free agent looking for an opportunity to join the opening-day roster of another club. If this scenario does not pan out, expect Boggs to suit up for Chicago's AAA affiliate in Charlotte to start the season. Boggs spent 2013 with the Cardinals and Rockies, going 23.1 innings with an ERA of 8.10. He recorded 16 strikeouts but yielded 20 walks.
Justin Grimm, out of Bristol, TN, opens his first full season on Chicago's North Side as a pitcher for the Cubs. Grimm split last season between AAA and the big leagues. In 27 major-league games with the Rangers and Cubs in 2013, Grimm pitched 98 innings, recording a 5.97 ERA with 76 strikeouts and 34 walks.
After a few years of bouncing around the minors, Josh Fields found a home in Houston as a righty reliever for the Astros. Despite having to don a very unfortunate combination of uniform colors, Fields seems happy as an Astro. He finished 2013 having pitched 38 innings in relief, racking up an ERA of 4.97 with 40 strikeouts and 18 walks.
Dawgs on the way up:
Nashville native Will Startup spent 2013 as a Detroit Tigers farmhand in AA Erie. He pitched 58 innings for the Sea Wolves, finishing the year with a 3.41 ERA. Startup fanned 34 batters, yielding only 16 walks.
Brooks Brown spent 2013 in the Pittsburgh system, putting up respectable numbers at AAA Indianapolis. Brown pitched 91 innings for the Indians, finishing the year with a 4.75 ERA, 69 strikeouts and 24 walks. Keep an eye on him in 2014 as he spent the spring in Arizona with the Colorado Rockies.
Between 2008 and 2012, Nathan Moreau found himself bouncing around the Baltimore Orioles system, even tossing a no-hitter in 2010, but landed at independent-league Lincoln in 2013. Moreau went on to pitch only 17 innings in Nebraska, racking up a 7.41 ERA with 13 strikeouts and 14 walks. Coaching might be in Moreau's future as he currently serves as the Clarke Central High School pitching coach, also spending time as a graduate assistant at UGA.
Augusta's own Rich Poythress spent most of 2013 manning first base for the Tacoma Rainers, the AAA affiliate of the Seattle Mariners. He hit .252 in Tacoma with 57 RBIs and 13 home runs. Will we be seeing Rich at Safeco Field in 2014? Stay tuned.
Trevor Holder split 2013 between A+ Lake Elsinore in the San Diego Padres system and AA Harrisburg in the Washington Nationals system. Before being released by Harrisburg in May, Holder had an overall ERA of 5.84 in 2013, pitching 118.2 innings with 68 strikeouts and 39 walks. It's still a mystery why the Nationals decided to part ways with Holder, but I have every bit of confidence that he'll catch on somewhere else in 2014. His numbers in AA warrant a call from another club.
Versatile infielder Mike Demperio spent two seasons in the Angels organization (2009-10) and has been playing in the independent leagues ever since. In 2013, Demperio played three different positions for Schaumburg (IL) of the Frontier League, finishing the year hitting .179 with three RBIs.
Jeff Walters, the minors' 2013 saves king, has been in the Mets system since 2010 and enjoyed a solid 2013 campaign pitching for AA Binghampton. Walters pitched 56 innings for Binghampton with a 2.09 ERA, 60 strikeouts and only 16 walks. He seems to be on the upswing in the New York ranks and has recently garnered attention from the big-league club. Keep an eye on the fuzzy Floridian in 2014.
1B Chase Davidson, a product of Alpharetta's Milton High School, has been rising in the Astros organization since being drafted by Houston in 2011. He spent 2013 in A Quad Cities (IA), hitting .238 with five RBIs and a home run.
Judging by the advertisement above, CF Zach Cone was quite the darling of the Spokane Indians when he played for the team in 2011. He has since been climbing the ladder in the Texas Rangers organization, spending 2013 in A+ Myrtle Beach. You might remember Cone from the tragic outfield collision which resulted in his teammate, and best friend, Jonathan Taylor, losing his ability to walk. The Rangers used their final draft pick on Taylor in 2011, a largely symbolic act which still brought the happiest of tears to my eyes. As you follow Cone's rise through the ultra-classy Rangers organization, please also keep Taylor and his family in your thoughts and prayers.
Cone hit .308 in only seven games for Myrtle Beach in 2013.
Zach Cone with Jonathan Taylor, DGDs of the highest order via a.espncdn.com
Native Athenian Levi Hyams was drafted by the Atlanta Braves in 2012 and concluded the 2013 season in A+ Lynchburg. He hit .191 for the Hillcats with 13 RBIs and two home runs.
Versatile infielder Curt Powell, out of Knoxville, Tennessee, is currently climbing the ladder in the Detroit Tigers system. He spent 2013 at A West Michigan and has played well at 3B, SS and 2B. Powell hit .357 for the Whitecaps in only four games in Grand Rapids.
Atlanta's Kyle Farmer spent 2013 with the Ogden Raptors, the Rookie League affiliate of the Los Angeles Dodgers. He hit .347 there, adding 36 RBIs and four home runs.
Well, folks, that's it for 2013. Keep checking in as I track these Dawgs as they advance their professional baseball careers. I look forward to your comments below.