Before Randy Johnson was an All-Star and a Cy Young Award winner intimidating batters on the mound, he was a Trojan. On Sunday, he will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York, but if it wouldn’t have been for some mechanical adjustments while in the Montreal Expos farm system, Johnson never would have turned into The Big Unit.
That’s the great thing about the minor leagues. They are invaluable as an opportunity for players to grow and to learn. With that in mind, we take a look at how all the former Trojans are doing in professional baseball, ranging from the recent signees from the 2015 USC squad to first time All-Star Brad Boxberger to the ultimate road warrior veteran Jason Lane, who was actually a member of the last USC national championship team in 1998.
An update on how the former Trojan baseball players are doing in professional baseball:
RHP Brad Boxberger (Tampa Bay Rays): Boxberger took the loss for the Rays on Wednesday after allowing a run in the 10th inning to the Phillies after the Rays blew chances to win in the ninth and 10th innings. The All-Star closer now has a 4-6 record with 24 saves in 26 chances.
OF Chili Buss (AAA Reno - ARI): Hitting .275 with HR and 16 RBIs in 49 games this season, including .333 in his last seven games.
RHP Ryan Cook (AAA Nashville - OAK): A former MLB All-Star, Cook has struggled this season. He started the season in AAA, getting only a brief call up at the end of April before being quickly demoted after only four appearances, but he did collect his eighth save for Nashville in his last outing on Tuesday.
OF Omar Cotto (Rookie League Helena - MIL): Doubled and drove in two runs last night. He was caught stealing for the first time this season in the game. Cotto is now hitting .306 with a .403 on-base percentage in 19 games. He has also swiped 12 bases, though last night’s attempt was the first since July 11.
1B Lucas Duda (New York Mets): Duda started the season strong, hitting .325 for the month of April and smashing seven homers in the month of May. However, it has been all bad since. His average has dropped from .298 to .237 as he has hit just .167 with three homers and 13 RBIs in the last two months.
OF Dante Flores (Rookie League Great Falls - CHW): Hitting .328 in 17 games. Currently has an 8-game hit streak during which he is hitting .424 with 3 2B, 3B, 5 RBI.
LHP Tyler Gilbert (short-season Lo-A Williamsport - PHI): Has compiled a 2.84 ERA and a 1.11 WHIP in 12.2 innings. He has struck out 12 and walked only two. Gilbert hadn’t allowed an earned run until his most recent outing on July 18 when he gave up four runs in four innings.
IF Grant Green (Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim): Green was called up to the big leagues once again earlier this week. He’s been in two games off the bench, but is just 0-for-1. Green is currently 5-for-21 on the season and has a .258 career average in 260 major league at bats.
1B Cyle Hankerd (Diablos Rojos del Mexico in Mexican AAA League): Hankerd has been crushing the ball in the Mexican League, hitting a robust .365 with a .430 on-base percentage. In 40 games, he has 12 homers and 38 RBIs, including a five-RBI performance on Tuesday in which he tripled and homered.
RHP Jordan Hershiser (AAA El Paso - LAD): Currently on the 7-Day DL. Has allowed five runs in three innings since a call up from Hi-A Lake Elsinore to AAA. Started the season with Lo-A Great Lakes in the Dodgers organization, but was released after a brief stint with Hi-A Rancho Cucamonga.
LHP J.P. Howell (Los Angeles Dodgers): Because Howell’s numbers have been so strong for the Dodgers, we’ll count him even though he transferred from USC to Texas to finish his college career. He’s 4-1 with a minuscule 0.33 ERA in 27.2 innings as the lefty stopper in the bullpen.
RHP Ian Kennedy (San Diego Padres): Sporting a 5-9 record and a 4.78 ERA in pitcher-friendly Petco Park is nothing to write home about, but Kennedy did win his last start and now has a 2.68 ERA in his last seven starts dating back to June 13.
IF Angelo La Bruna (Rookie League GCL Nationals - WAS): In 19 games, La Bruna is hitting .241, but he’s been just 4-for-27 (.148) in his last eight games.
LHP Jason Lane (AAA El Paso - SD): While his numbers (8-6, 5.16 ERA, 1.61 WHIP, .313 opponents average) haven’t been good, Lane did win his last start on Tuesday, pitching six innings and allowing two earned runs. He’s also our favorite story after reinventing himself as a pitcher and making it back to the big leagues last year after last being in the majors in 2007 as an outfielder.
1B Roberto Lopez (Piratas de Campeche in Mexican AAA League): Every year in the minors, Lopez has hit double-digit home runs and this year is no different as he has hit 10 homers and driven in 41. This is Lopez’ eighth year in the minors without even a cup of coffee in the majors. :(
LHP Tommy Milone (Minnesota Twins): Milone has been up and down this season between AAA and the big leagues, but he’s produced solid numbers in his 12 starts for the Twinkies. He’s 5-2 with a 3.38 ERA, which ballooned from 2.84 when he struggled in his most recent start on Sunday.
RHP Nigel Nootbaar (Lo-A Delmarva - BAL): Has pitched 11.2 innings in 10 games, accumulating a 3.86 ERA and a 1.71 WHIP.
OF Mike O’Neil (AA Springfield - STL): Had his 11-game hit streak snapped last night when he went 0-for-4 with a walk and a run. When O’Neil doesn’t get a hit to boost his now .338 average, he walks to improve on his now .460 on-base percentage.
1B Ricky Oropesa (AA Richmond - SF): This is the third year in a row Oropesa has played for Richmond. This year, he seems to have been able to tap into his power a bit more. He is hitting .261 with 10 bombs and 52 RBIs.
3B Jimmy Roberts (Hi-A Jupiter - MIA): Hit his first home run of the season yesterday to continue his nine-game hitting streak. He has hit safely in all eight games he has played with the Miami organization after he was released by the Indians organization in June.
OF Bobby Stahel (Rookie League Grand Junction - COL): Batting .275 in 22 games, but has hit .306 in June, including .324 in his last 10 games. Third on the team with 18 RBIs despite having 13 and 35 less at bats than the two team leaders.
RHP Robert Stock (Hi-A Bradenton - PIT): Currently on the 7-Day DL after giving up five runs in his last two appearances. Before that he had allowed one run in five innings this season.
RHP Wyatt Strahan (Lo-A Dayton - CIN): Big Red Wyatt Strahan is only 6-7 on the year, but has a 2.74 ERA in 20 starts. He earned another no decision on Wednesday when he allowed two runs (one earned) in six innings.
C Garrett Stubbs (Lo-A Quad Cities - HOU): Promoted from short-season Lo-A Tri-City last week. Is 3-for-14 with two RBIs in four games with Quad Cities. Though it isn’t likely Stubbs will skip ahead to another level, Houston did just trade away Jacob Nottingham, one of its Hi-A level catchers, in the deal for Scott Kazmir on Thursday. The corresponding move to replace Nottingham will likely take place Friday.
RHP Andrew Triggs (AA Bowie - BAL): Triggs has been impeccable this season. He has a 0.64 ERA and a 0.90 WHIP with opponents hitting just .193 against him in 42.1 innings. He is also a perfect 9-for-9 on save opportunities after collecting another one in a perfect inning with two strikeouts on Wednesday.
LHP Kyle Twomey (short-season Lo-A Eugene - CHC): Pitched two innings Thursday night, allowing a run on two hits and two walks while striking out two. He now has a 3.86 ERA after allowing three runs in seven innings. Had pitched back-to-back scoreless two-inning outings before last night.
LHP Anthony Vasquez (AAA Lehigh Valley - PHI): Winner of his last two starts, Vasquez is now 7-2 on the season with a 3.51 ERA. He allowed just one run in 14 innings over his last two starts.
RHP Martin Viramontes (AA Biloxi - MIL): Allowed a run on Wednesday, pitching 1.2 innings and giving up one hit with four walks. He has a 6.06 ERA and a 1.87 WHIP in 32.2 innings.
LHP Bob Wheatley (short-season Lo-A Vancouver - TOR): Threw three scoreless innings, striking out two and allowing just one hit last night. He has allowed just one run in his last five appearances (6.1 IP, 2 H, ER, 7 K).
RHP Austin Wood (AA Arkanasas - LAA): After throwing less than 50 innings combined the last two seasons due to arm troubles, it’s great just to see Wood back on the mound being a consistent contributor this season. He’s currently 6-4 with a 4.23 ERA in 61.2 innings. Wood has made 22 appearances with seven starts. His last two outings have been starts and he has thrown a combined 9.1 IP with 5 H, 2 ER, 4 K. He did walk seven batters in those two starts — an issue that has bothered him throughout his career, but he had walked only two in his previous five appearances combined.
LHP Barry Zito (AAA Nashville - OAK): Zito has been solid for the Sounds. He has a 6-7 record with a 3.54 ERA in 20 starts in a hitter-friendly league, but has been even better as of late. In his last 10 starts, he is 4-3 with a 2.57 ERA and hasn’t allowed more than two earned runs in any of his past five starts.
3B Kevin Swick: After hitting .184 in 26 games as a 23-year old in the Rookie level Arizona League last year, Swick voluntarily retired and took a job in the Los Angeles area.
IF Adam Landecker: Was released by the Pittsburgh organization last year after he hit .244 with 11 RBIs in 119 at-bats with Lo-A West Virgina.
OF Joe De Pinto: Was released by the White Sox organization last year while hitting .160 for AA Birmingham. De Pinto hit .252 during his four-year minor league career.
C Richard Stock: Was released by the Indians organization last year after hitting .261 with four homers and 26 RBIs in 184 at-bats fro Lo-A Lake County.
OF Greg Zebeck: Former undrafted free agent was released by the Nationals organization last year after hitting .163 between two Lo-A stops.