Seventeen. Impressive, indeed.
During the 2017 professional baseball season, we followed the progress of 17 players who grew up in the game in the Joliet area.
At the major league level, Washington right-handed pitcher Tanner Roark (Wilmington), Atlanta right-hander Mike Foltynewicz (Minooka) and Dodgers lefty Tony Cingrani (Lincoln-Way Central) again will be headliners.
Roark, whom the Nationals have under their control through 2019, will make a reported $6.475 million this year. He will be arbitration eligible in 2019 and could be a free agent in 2020. Foltynewicz lost his arbitration hearing with the Braves on Saturday and will earn $2.2 million. Cingrani avoided arbitration when he signed in January with the Dodgers for $2.3 million.
Spring training just began, of course, and some decisions on where players will begin the season will be made in Arizona and Florida. If our area is destined to begin the 2018 season with a fourth major leaguer, Boston first baseman/designated hitter Sam Travis (Providence) is the likely candidate. He was up and down last season between Triple-A and the parent Red Sox.
Two others have had limited major league experience.
Left-hander Dietrich Enns (Lincoln-Way East) appeared in two games with Minnesota after he was traded to the Twins from the Yankees at the deadline last summer. He may begin the season in the minors, but he also could provide the Twins with a left-handed option, either as a starter or reliever.
Then there’s versatile infielder Dean Anna (Lincoln-Way East), who recently signed a minor league deal with the White Sox. Anna had brief stints in the majors with the Yankees and Cardinals a few years back. He spent all of last season with Kansas City’s Triple-A affiliate at Omaha before being released in the offseason.
Right-hander Zach Petrick (Morris) is with the Samsung Lions of the Korean Baseball League. Last season with the Lions, he went 3-10 with a 6.18 ERA. The former St. Louis farmhand, who had reached the Triple-A level a few years ago before opting to continue his career overseas, pitched with Yokohama in Japan (Nippon Professional Baseball) in 2016.
Health problems have kept Tyler Jay (Lemont) from reaching his potential, at least so far. The Twins made the left-hander the No. 6 overall pick in the country in 2015 out of the University of Illinois, where he starred as the closer. Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi and the Cubs’ Ian Happ were among those the Twins passed up in the draft to take Jay. He was that highly regarded.
Jay’s 2017 injuries included biceps tendinitis and a shoulder injury that eventually was diagnosed as thoracic outlet syndrome, requiring season-ending surgery. The Twins would love to see their former first-round pick become a big-league contributor sooner than later, but a return to health is the top priority.
Other minor leaguers who were on our checklist last year included pitcher Josh DeGraaf (Morris), catcher Sam Tidaback (Providence, Slammers), pitcher Kevin Duchene (JCA), second baseman Branden Boggetto (Providence), outfielder Dylan Rosa (Providence), pitcher Brad Bass (Lincoln-Way Central), catcher Mike Papierski (Lemont), third baseman Rylan Bannon (JCA) and catcher Jake Roberts (Plainfield South).
Bannon and Roberts closed the 2017 season in the Dodgers’ system, Rosa and Bass were with the Tigers, DeGraaf was a Blue Jays’ farmhand, Boggetto was with the Nationals, Papierski with the Astros, Duchene with Oakland and Tidaback with Colorado.
The odds are some of our minor leaguers will be on the transaction wire sometime along the way, be it for being involved in a trade or being released. That’s baseball. Of course, it also is likely a couple will wind up with different organizations sometime in 2018, as has happened with Anna. Hopefully, however, a majority will be able to continue their pursuit of major league careers.
As spring training continues and then the regular season gets rolling, we will continue to present updates on the progress our players are making. Of course, we likely will add June 2018 draft picks to the mix as well.
• Dick Goss can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.