Took long enough: 2021 has not been a great year for Athletics shortstop Elvis Andrus, who has hit just .231/.278/.309 in 135 games. Every time he puts together a decent run, he enters another cold streak, ruining any progress made. Perhaps not this time: Over the past week, he has hit .353 with 6 hits in 17 at-bats. It’s not much, but he’ll take anything at this point.
Give it up for Duffy: The Cubs aren’t going anywhere this year, but infielder Matt Duffy is going places right now. After beginning the season with a .226 mark through August 1, he has hit .294 with 16 runs scored and 8 RBI since to bring his season average up to .259. He began the year with a .309 mark through May 8.
Middling Mitch: Pirates starter Mitch Keller was a second round draft pick in 2014, taken alongside the likes of Alex Verdugo and Spencer Turnbull. While they’ve begun crafting fine careers, Keller has gone in the opposite direction: He is 4-11 with a 6.29 ERA this year and 6-17, 6.07 in 35 career starts. His career ERA+ of 71 is the second-worst among active pitchers with at least 150 innings, behind Burch Smith’s 69.
Coonrod’s cooking: 2021 has been quite the rebound campaign for Phillies reliever Sam Coonrod, who had a 9.82 ERA in 18 games with San Francisco last season. In 35 appearances this year, he has a 3.68 mark and 10.6 K/9 IP ratio. Since August 28, those numbers are 1.29 and 15.4, respectively.
Almost won it: Adam Wainwright has the most Cy Young Award shares among pitchers to never actually win the award, with 1.97. He finished second and third twice each, but never took the honor home. Eddie Murray has the most MVP shares among those who never won it at 3.33. He finished in the top-five five years in a row and six times overall; he also finished second twice in a row. The active player with the most MVP shares to never win is Robinson Cano, at 2.14. He’s finished in the top-10 six times, peaking at third place.
He doubted Ichiro: Not everyone thought Ichiro Suzuki was going to be a star. When he was starting out with Nippon Professional Baseball’s Orix BlueWave in 1992 and 1993, his manager, Shozo Doi, refused to give him regular playing time. In addition to criticizing the young outfielder’s batting stance, he once said Ichiro had “come too far too fast…a player has to know hardship if he’s going to reach his full potential.” In 1994, his first full season, Suzuki hit .385 with 210 hits in 130 games at 20 years old.
Minor league home run leader: Royals prospect MJ Melendez has smashed 37 dingers in just 390 at-bats this season, his first above A-ball, to lead the affiliated minor leagues. Nine of them came in 29 Triple-A games, his first stint at that level.
Steals base Easley: Keep an eye on Rangers prospect Jayce Easley, the son of former major leaguer Damion. The speedster has swiped 69 bases in 93 Single-A games this season, and though his average is a middling .247, he has still managed a .406 on-base percentage. The former 5th-round pick has 91 stolen bases and a .255/.401/.309 line in 139 games in the low-minors.
Far from the Wurtz: Outfielder Gabe Wurtz slashed .382/.511/.588 at University of Virginia’s College at Wise in 2020, then .344/.519/.811 in 33 games in 2021. After going undrafted, he promptly hit .414/.487/.841 with 22 home runs and 86 RBI in 54 games for the independent Tucson Saguaros of the high-flying Pecos League. He also spent 13 less-than-stellar games with the indy Houston Apollos, batting .382/.461/.764 with 24 dingers and 98 RBI overall.
Odd Hall of Fame choice: Shortstop Jack Wilson was elected to the Lancaster JetHawks Hall of Fame in 2006, despite never playing for the team. The closest he got was when he played with the winter league Lancaster Stealth in 1999, with whom he won a championship.
A lot of seasons, not hits: Catcher Rick Dempsey spent 24 years in the major leagues and played over 100 games in 8 of them. He had 100-plus hits just once, in 1978.
Double Crown: Pitcher Mike Birkbeck was *this* close to winning two pitching Triple Crowns … in the minor leagues. In 1984, while with the Single-A Beloit Brewers, he finished third in victories (3 behind the leader), second in strikeouts (2 behind the leader) and second in ERA (0.22 behind the leader). In 1993, with the Triple-A Richmond Braves, he paced the International League in victories and tied for the lead in strikeouts but was just 0.02 points short of the ERA title. He again got pretty close again in 1994, also with Richmond. That year, he finished two wins and 17 strikeouts short; his ERA missed by 0.31 points.
Not-so-famous first: Who was the first Latin American player in major league history? Cuban infielder Estavo B. “Steve” Bellan, who played for the Troy Haymakers and New York Mutuals in the National Association from 1871 to 1873. The next Cuban—and Latin American—didn’t appear in the majors until outfielder Chick Pedroes in 1902; some consider Luis Castro to be the second Latin American, however his birthplace is disputed. He might have been born in New York City.
He was million-to-one: One of the strangest names in baseball has to belong to 1910s minor league outfielder Ten Million, so named at the behest of his grandmother, who wanted his name to stand out. She also convinced Million to name his daughter Decillian, with the help of a $50 bribe. She went by Dixie later in life.
Stuck in Japan: In 2005, Japanese outfielder Tatsuya Ozeki was signed to a minor league contract by the Brewers but immigration issues—specifically, Milwaukee used up all its work visas—kept him from appearing stateside. He later tried out with Colorado, but they didn’t sign him.