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Alabama Baseball In The Pros

The Alabama Crimson Tide has had a long history of successful Major League baseball players, with 70 former Tiders making the “show”. Currently there are six on big league rosters as well as 16 in the minor leagues and two playing Independent ball. Here is a capsule of how the Major Leaguers are performing this year through August 14th.

MLB Players:

RHP Tommy Hunter, 32 years old, played at Bama in 2006-07. Was a supplemental first round pick of the Texas Rangers as a draft eligible sophomore. One of five players on the 2006 team to make the Majors. Hunter began his career as a starter and had a couple of really good years before moving to the bullpen after a trade to the Baltimore Orioles in 2011. Since then he has played for the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, the Orioles again, the Tampa Rays, and now the Philadelphia Phillies. Hunter signed a two year $19 million dollar deal to join the Phillies. After starting the season on the disabled list, Hunter has appeared in 47 games, pitching 44 innings, allowing 49 hits, nine walks, 36 strikeouts with a 3-1 record, two saves, a WHIP of 1.32 and an ERA of 3.89. The Phillies are fighting the Atlanta Braves for the NL East crown. Hunter recently celebrated the 10th anniversary of his original call up to the big leagues (August 3rd).

RHP David Robertson, 33 years old, played at Bama in 2005 and 2006. Robertson was a 17th round pick by the NY Yankees as a draft eligible sophomore. Also one of the five players on the 2006 team to make the major leagues. Robertson celebrated his 10 year big league anniversary in June of this year. After spending several years as Mariano Rivera’s set up man, Robertson took over as closer for the Yankees after Rivera’s retirement in 2014. In 2015 the Tuscaloosa native signed a four year, $48 million dollar free agent contract with the Chicago White Sox. The Yankees traded to get D Rob back in the middle of the 2017 season, and he remains an important part of their loaded bullpen. In 2018 Robertson has appeared in 52 games with a 7-3 record, two saves, 53 innings pitched, 35 hits allows, 17 walks, 66 strikeouts, a 0.98 WHIP and a 3.23 ERA.

LHP Wade LeBlanc, 34 years old, played at Bama 2004-2005-2006. A second round draft pick by the San Diego Padres after his junior season. Still holds Bama record for career strikeouts with 334. LeBlanc had a 24-10 career record at Alabama with a 2.95 ERA. Wade has had a career as a vagabond, playing in 17 different cities and two countries since being drafted. LeBlanc was first called up in 2008 and has spent time with San Diego, Miami, Houston, LA Angels, Pittsburgh Pirates, NY Yankees, Seattle Mariners, Pittsburgh again, Yankees again, and now the Mariners again. In the midst of all that moving was a year in Japan, and several trips to various minor league cities. This season LeBlanc started as bullpen insurance for Seattle, but after an injury to a starter, was moved into the rotation. LeBlanc has blossomed and carries a 7-2 record with a 3.80 ERA in 19 games started. The soft tossing lefty (tops out at 86mph) has thrown 118 innings, allowing 110 hits with 25 walks, 94 strikeouts, and a WHIP of 1.14. The Louisiana native was rewarded with the first long term contract of his career after his fast start, meaning next spring he doesn't have to worry about where he will be.

Catcher Alex Avila, 31 years old, played at Bama from 2006-2008 before being drafted in the fifth round by the Detroit Tigers. Avila was the fourth of the five players to reach the big leagues from the 2006 team. Matt Downs, who retired three years ago, was the fifth MLB player from that great team. Avila made his big league debut in 2009 with Detroit, and has since played for the Chicago Cubs, Chicago White Sox, the Tigers again, and now the Arizona Diamondbacks. Avila signed a two year, $5.5 million dollar deal with AZ in the off season. Avila has suffered many injuries over his career, the most serious being multiple concussions. Changing to a hockey like mask and changing his positioning behind the plate has helped curtail that problem. The Pembrooke Pines, Florida native has struggled with the bat since his breakout 2011 season when he won the Silver Slugger Award after hitting .295 with 19 home runs and 82 RBI’s, and being the American League starter in the All Star Game. This year in a back up role, Avila is hitting .171 with five home runs, 15 RBI, five doubles, with 28 walks and 69 strikeouts in 146 at bats. After coming off a stint on the DL, Avila has hit .286 over his last 10 games.

LHP Adam Morgan, 28 years old, played at Bama in 2009,2010, 2011. A third round pick of the Phillies after his junior season. Morgan was poised to become a starter for Philadelphia after impressing the team in 2013 and 2014 in AA and AAA. A serious shoulder injury forced him to miss the entire 2014 season before making his debut in 2015. The Atlanta native started 15 games for the Phillies in 2015 and had a 5-7 record with a 4.48 ERA. After struggling as a starter in 2016 Morgan was moved to the bullpen and has carved out a role as a left handed reliever. This season in 49 games he has an 0-2 recored with 4.54 ERA and one save. In 33.2 innings he has allowed 35 hits with 15 walks and 35 strikeouts.

RHP Jimmy Nelson, 29 years old, played at Bama in 2008, 2009, 2010, and was a second round draft pick by the Milwaukee Brewers. The big, 6’6” Niceville, Florida native, made his big league debut in 2013. Nelson showed improvement each year, until having a big breakout in 2017. However his big season was cut short by a serious shoulder injury that has also cost him all of the 2018 season so far. At the time of his injury, which happened while running the bases, Nelson was 12-6 with a 3.49 ERA in 175 innings, while allowing 171 hits, walking 48, and striking out 199. Nelson was getting buzz as one of the top pitchers in the National League.

INF Josh Rutledge, 29 years old. Rutledge played at Bama in 2008, 2009. 2010, before being a third round draft pick of the Colorado Rockies. Rutledge made is debut in 2012 when he filled in for an injured Troy Tulowitzki at shortstop and wowed the team, hitting .274 with eight home runs, five triples, 20 doubles and seven stolen bases over 277 at bats. Rutledge then bounced around and suffered through several injuries, including a concussion and a hip injury that eventually required surgery. Prior to the 2018 season Rutledge signed with the San Fransisco Giants and appeared to have done enough in spring training to make the team, as he lead the team in hitting and games played. Despite that Rutledge was sent to AAA and suffered another injury. After just 52 at bats the Cullman native was released and chose to retire rather than sign with another team. Being married to ESPN’s and the SEC Network’s shining star, Laura Rutledge, may have made that decision easier.

Later I will go through the 17 former Bama players in MILB and the two playing Independent pro ball.

Roll Tide, Bama Baseball Fever, Catch It.

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Tuesday, 16 October 2018