With over 30 former Florida Gators in the minors and majors, it is a lot to keep up with as they progress through their seasons. We’ll take a look at the current Major Leaguers and some of the minor leaguers in this week’s Gators in MLB.
INF Mark Ellis (1996-1999), St. Louis Cardinals
This past week, Mark Ellis saw action in four games for the St. Louis Cardinals. He picked up a few hits but has not contributed much to the Cardinals’ offense recently. Ellis has a .235 batting average over his last ten games and a .197 average on the season.
INF Cole Figueroa (2007-2008), Tampa Bay Rays
Cole Figueroa had a start against the New York Yankees on Tuesday. He went 0-4 in the Bronx and has only had one other at-bat, a pinch hit appearance at Baltimore, since his call-up from Triple-A. The Tampa Bay Rays have been playing well as of late with Figueroa in the lineup, so it may be hard for him to get much playing time with their current success.
RHP Darren O’Day (2003-2006), Baltimore Orioles
The sidearm pitching Darren O’Day made three appearances last week for the Baltimore Orioles. He pitched one inning in each outing and struck out the side in his Tuesday appearance against the Texas Rangers. O’Day has a 1.29 ERA on the season in 35 innings pitched. He has 34 strikeouts and is limiting opposing hitters to just a .230 batting average. Baltimore has relied on O’Day as they are contending for a possible wild card spot this season.
INF Ryan Raburn (2000), Cleveland Indians
Ryan Raburn picked up one big hit yesterday against the Los Angeles Dodgers. It was a two-run home run, just his second of the season. Raburn went hitless in his two other appearances for the Cleveland Indians as he is struggling to stay above the .200 batting average mark on the season.
C David Ross (1998), Boston Red Sox
Spot starts are a tough thing for any Major League player to have to endure, but David Ross has been making the most of his role with the Boston Red Sox. Ross picked up his fourth home run of the season last week in a game against the Yankees. He played in one other game against the Chicago Cubs but failed to get a hit. The catcher has a .176 average on the season and will continue to see playing time once every few days for the defending world champs.
C Mike Zunino (2010-2012), Seattle Mariners
The Mariners’ Mike Zunino has a three-game hitting streak and at least one RBI in each of those games. He connected for a three-run home run on Monday against the Houston Astros despite striking out in two other at-bats. The former Gator continues to have a lower than expected average at .235, but he has 12 bombs on the year. His power will continue to surge and should prove, over time, why the Mariners made him the third overall pick in the 2012 draft.
Minor League Update
Reaching the Major League is the ultimate goal of any baseball player, but the road to the show takes time and is a journey through the minors. Here are some former Gators who are still en route and making their journey up through the ranks.
LHP Brian Johnson (2010-2012), Boston Red Sox
Brian Johnson is currently with the Portland Sea Dogs of the Double-A Eastern League. He is dominating the league with a 7-1 record and a 1.71 ERA including 53 strikeouts. The former first-round pick was promoted from Class-A Salem after a 3-1 record. Johnson has not given up more than two earned runs since being called up and looks like he is already primed for another promotion. Boston may have a decision to make with their call-ups at the end of the year and whether or not to give Johnson a crack at facing Major League talent.
SS Nolan Fontana (2010-2012), Houston Astros
The Houston Astros have a top-prospect in Carlos Correa, but Nolan Fontana has the tools to be a future Major Leaguer himself. Fontana is playing with the Corpus Christi Hooks of the Double-A Texas League. He is batting .262 including 21 doubles. His 61 walks boost his on-base percentage to a whopping .418. Fontana was a defensive guru with the Gators. With his defensive ability and knack for getting on base, Fontana has the making to at least be a utility man in the future, if not an everyday starter.
1B/OF Matt LaPorta (2004-2007), Released
We may have seen the last of the former SEC Player of the Year in Matt LaPorta. After being the seventh overall pick in the 2007 draft by the Milwaukee Brewers, LaPorta was traded to the Cleveland Indians as part of the C.C. Sabathia deal. He spent time between the minors and majors with the Indians but never found a secure spot on the roster. LaPorta signed a minor league with the Baltimore Orioles before spring training but was released in March of this season. He has yet to sign on with another team.
OF Preston Tucker (2009-2012), Houston Astros
A seventh-round selection in 2012, Preston Tucker is currently in Triple-A with the Oklahoma City RedHawks. He was recently called up from Double-A Corpus Christi where he was hitting .276 with 17 doubles and 17 home runs. So far, in 18 games with the RedHawks, Tucker has a .268 average with one home run and nine RBI. He is one step away from the Major Leagues and would be another power-hitting rookie with the Astros.