Dominic DeSantis was drafted three times, last by the Phillies in the 20th round of the 1991 draft.
At 22, he was a senior citizen in the leagues in which he pitched in 1991, his first year, but his numbers were excellent: 1.98 ERA, 0.960 WHIP in 15 starts between Rookie ball and Single A, with just 17 walks and 79 hits allowed in 100 innings of work.
The next season, at A ball, he had a 2.71 mark in 133 innings, allowing just 123 hits and 29 BBs. Over the next two campaigns, his ERA jumped to 3.45 then to 4.57 — an occurrence more excusable when someone is moving up into the higher, more competitive ranks … but DeSantis was still in (high) A ball.
Though many players experience a career resurgence upon joining the independent leagues after struggling or stagnating in affiliated ball, such was not the case with DeSantis: He moved to the Northern League in 1994 to wrap up his career, posting a 5.86 ERA in 43 innings.
Mike Devaney holds a special place in my heart, because he’s a former Mets prospect, and I, of course, am a Mets fan.
He showed great potential in the early going, posting a 5-0 mark with 1.95 ERA in 14 starts his first professional season, 2004, and going 10-4, 3.88, while averaging just 7 hits allowed per 9 innings, in his second campaign. In 2006, he was 12-5 with a 2.13 mark, an excellent year indeed, before slipping to 6-9, 4.85 in his fourth and final season.
It’s odd the Mets didn’t give him another campaign to redeem himself, with 2007 being his first real struggle. Sure, he was 24 in 2007, but that is far from old. One wonders if injuries did him I’m, of that I’m not sure. Either way, he was 33-18 with a 3.24 ERA overall, a great line for someone who never made the majors.
Paul Ellis was a St. Louis Cardinals first round pick, taken 30th overall in 1990 between outfielder Midre Cummings and pitcher Brian Williams. Though he never became a recognizable face in the majors … because he didn’t reach them … he did become well-known at Double A Arkansas, spending three full seasons and two partial years there.
While he did not find much success in the affiliated ranks, he exploded in independent baseball: With the Western League’s Reno Chukars in 1997, he slashed .337/.464/.570 with 16 home runs and 75 RBI in 84 games. To that point, he had not hit higher than .255 or had more than 6 home runs in a season. That was his only year in indy ball, however, and was also his final professional campaign. Another point of interest: He did not steal a single base in 696 pro games.
Something about those catchers: These past couple days, I’ve noted impressive runs by some otherwise unimpressive catchers—Philadelphia’s Rafael Marchan and Detroit’s Dustin Garneau, for example. Here’s one more: the Blue Jays’ Danny Jansen. In his past 14 at-bats going back to July 11, he’s hitting .500/.533/1.571 with 4 home runs, 3 doubles, 4 RBI and 4 runs scored. That’s right, each of his last 7 hits went for extra bases. He added another dinger yesterday.
How about one more: Reds catcher Tucker Barnhart has been solid this past month, hitting .294 with a couple home runs, 4 doubles, 11 RBI and 6 runs scored. He’s no Salvador Perez, but any team would take numbers like that.
Found a Holme: Yankees reliever Clay Holmes began the year poorly with Pittsburgh, posting a 5.13 ERA through July 20. A trade to New York changed his fortunes: With his new club, he is 3-0 with a 1.32 ERA in 12 games; in 13 2/3 innings, he’s surrendered just 7 hits and 1 walk, while striking out 16 batters.
Blake’s doing great: It’s the less-known pieces that have helped the Astros to first place in the American League West, reliever Blake Taylor among them. Since July 18, he has a 2.40 ERA in 19 appearances; he hasn’t surrendered a run since August 21. Ryan Pressly is the bullpen’s All-Star, but Taylor, and guys like him, are just as valuable.
Appreciating the Mets’ little guys: Each year, the Mets seem to find at least one diamond in the rough—a guy or two who unexpectedly perform far beyond anyone’s expectations. Brandon Drury, a career .249 hitter, is batting .274 with a .476 slugging mark in 51 games. Pitcher Trevor Williams, acquired from the Cubs in the Javier Baez trade, began the season with a 5.06 ERA, but has a 0.69 mark in 13 innings so far with New York. Even reliever Aaron Loup, who had a 3.38 ERA going into the year, has stunned Metsdom with a 1.16 mark in 55 appearances. Not bad, guys.
Jayson Werth-less: Former Nationals outfielder Jayson Werth signed with the club in December 2010 for seven years and $126 million dollars and hit .263 with 109 home runs, 162 doubles and 393 RBI for the duration of the deal. In other words, each home run cost $1.156 million, each double cost $777,778 and each RBI cost $320,611.
Mr. Consistent: From 2009 to 2019, a span of 11 seasons, former outfielder Adam Jones averaged 162 hits, 25 home runs, 80 RBI and 82 runs scored per year. His season numbers never fell below 126, 15, 63 or 54, respectively.
Winning runs in the family: Former second baseman Chuck Knoblauch won four World Series rings in the 1990s—one with the Twins and three with the Yankees. His father, Ray, was also a champion. He coached Bellaire High School in Texas to four state titles.
Nomo he wasn’t: Before there were Daisuke Matsuzaka and Masahiro Tanaka, there were Hideo Nomo and Katsuhiro Maeda. Never heard of Maeda? In the wake of Nomomania, he was signed by the Yankees in 1996 after a bidding war with the Giants and White Sox. He spent five years in their system and went just 18-21 with a 4.69 ERA, peaking at Triple-A.
More to the Maeda story: After he flunked out of the minor leagues, Maeda continued his baseball journey—but initially not back in Japan. After failing to make a Nippon Professional Baseball team’s roster, he went to Taiwan, where he played in 2002, then Italy, where he spent 2003. In 2004, he signed with the Shanghai Eagles, becoming China’s first Japanese player. As recently as 2008, he was still going in the minor Shikoku-Kyūshū Island League in Japan.
Very first Marlin: He never played in the major leagues, but pitcher Clemente Nunez was the first player ever signed by the Florida Marlins. Inked to a contract on December 16, 1991, he spent five seasons in their system. Included in that run was a 12-6, 2.48 line with Single-A Brevard County in 1995. He was 29-26, 3.51 overall.
Just a phantom: Bruce Dostal, a centerfielder who spent four years at Triple-A, was this close to becoming a major leaguer. On the Orioles active roster for four games in June 1994, the ballplayer was twice told by late manager Johnny Oates that he would pinch run for future Hall of Famer Harold Baines if Baines reached base … he didn’t and Dostal was soon sent packing. Despite being with the team, he does not count as a major leaguer because he never appeared in a game. Rather, he became a phantom major leaguer.
Lot of games, but not hits: Speaking of Baines, he has the third-fewest career hits of anyone who played as many games as he did (2,830) with 2,866. Only Brooks Robinson, who had 2,848 knocks, and Rusty Staub, who had 2,716, did worse.
The first youngster: Who was the youngest player in the National Association’s first year, 1871? 17-year-old Joe Battin, who appeared in a single game for the Cleveland Forest Citys. He went hitless.
Battin worst: Joe Battin’s name is a misnomer … he couldn’t bat well at all. In 10 seasons, he slashed just .225/.241/.281 in 480 games. He holds one of the lowest on-base percentages of anyone with at least 400 games.
No-no not enough: While playing in Japan in 2006, former Padres prospect Rick Guttormson tossed a no-hitter … and was sent down to their version of the minor leagues the next day. Nippon Professional Baseball limits how many foreign players a team can hold and his club, the Yakult Swallows, had recently brought former Mets and Devil Rays hurler Dicky Gonzalez on board. Needing to make room, they cast Guttormson aside.
A different kind of senator: In 1913, minor league first baseman Scott Lucas hit .349 in 95 games, including .462 in 34 showings with the Class-D Pekin Celestials. After a couple more seasons, the Illinois native realized baseball wasn’t for him and chose a career in politics. Serving in the United States House of Representatives from 1935 to 1939, he later became a Senator, remaining in that capacity for over a decade. From 1949 to 1951, he was the Senate Majority Leader.
It seems if one is a minor league relief pitcher, he needs to strike batters out at a exceptional rate, post a superhuman ERA for an extended period, or at the very least, rack up a ton of saves, to earn a big league promotion.
Basner did none of the above, so despite spending part or all of four seasons at Triple-A, he never reached the majors. His career was not without highlights, however.
With the rookie-level Danville Braves in 2003, during his first year of pro ball, he went 4-1 with a 1.83 ERA in 19 appearances, averaging 10.2 strikeouts per nine innings. The next year, he averaged 9.7 whiffs per 9 frames. Those years were the outliers, however, as his career rate was 7.6 K/9 IP.
In 2009, his penultimate campaign, he had a 2.88 ERA in 54 games for the independent Somerset Patriots. Unfortunately, his career totals paint a less rosy picture, as he went just 27-32 with a 4.26 ERA and 609 hits allowed in 568 2/3 innings overall.
Tim Burcham spent more than a decade playing professional baseball, with part or all of five of those years at affiliated Triple-A (he spent seven years at that level if you include his time in the Mexican League). The pitcher won ten-plus games twice, including a 17-6 record for the Class-A Palm Springs Angels in 1987. That was his third year in pro ball. Skip to 1996, his final campaign. Back in Palm Springs with the independent Suns, he posted a 2.56 ERA in 102 innings.
Because his campaigns in-between weren’t stellar, he never earned a promotion to the major leagues—though he got close. Named a strike replacement player in 1995, he was on the San Francisco Giants Opening Day roster, but was sent down once the strike ended, never to appear in a game. His son, Scotty, is currently in the Colorado Rockies system.
Bereft of power or speed — he averaged one home run every 187 at-bats and one stolen base every 20 games — Jorge DeLeon was a multi-positional infield talent who could post a decent average (.296 mark in 2000) and rarely struck out (once every 7 at-bats). He was a solid performer at nearly every level of the minors, save for Triple-A. At that level, he hit .152 in 46 at-bats, which lowered his career average from .281 to .276. In part because of his struggles at the highest level of the minors, the Puerto Rico native with the nice signature never got the call to the bigs.
John Eierman spent four seasons in the Boston Red Sox chain, hitting .260 with 37 home runs in 414 games. Perhaps his best campaign was 1993, when he slashed .273/.367/.446 with 15 home runs and 62 RBI in 119 games for the Lynchburg Red Sox. He improved to .285 the next year, but by that point was almost two years older than the average player in his league, so the Red Sox let him go. The Eierman name lives on in pro baseball, however. One son, Johnny, was a 3rd round pick by the Rays in 2011. Another, Jeremy, is currently in the Athletics system. He was the club’s 2nd round pick in 2018.
Kevin Burford never played above Double A, but he made the best of his professional career, nevertheless. The eight-year veteran came onto the scene with a bang, slashing .362/.490/.546 with 12 steals and 50 walks (to only 30 strikeouts) in 54 games his rookie season.
The next year, he stole 15 bases before being shipped off to Colorado in a trade. In his first season in the Rockies system, he slashed .306/.447/.523; he followed that with 16 home runs and 80 RBI. By 2003, however, he’d begun to stagnate at Double A — that was his third campaign at that level. After a down year in the Phillies system in 2004, his career was over.
Abugherir is not an oft-found name in baseball — heck, the pitcher is one of only three known professional players with a surname beginning with “Abu.” Equally unique as his surname was the trajectory of his playing career: It spanned 1988 to 1999, though he played stateside in only three of those campaigns. He had a 7.30 ERA for the Gulf Coast League Reds of the Cincinnati Reds system in 1988, then resurfaced with the independent Duluth-Superior Dukes in 1993, going 0-2 with a 8.31 ERA. He then disappeared for a spell, only to return in 1999 with the independent Atlantic City Surf in 1999, going 5-0 with a 6.88 ERA. The Colombia native also coached in the minors.