Summer Ball: Checking in on Michigan Baseball Alums and Letterman

As the heat of the summer slowly wears on, we’re in that beautiful phase of the year where baseball is the only major sport in action. Believe me, I’m just as excited for Michigan football as the next guy, but with another two months to kick-off against Hawaii, why not hop on the baseball train with me?

The MLB First Year Player Draft finished up just under a month ago, so I found this to be a perfect time to check in on some of Michigan’s recent draft picks are faring in their respective walks to reaching the professional level. And while we’re at it, why not check in on other alumni around the league and some current players in their summer leagues?

Draft Picks

  • Brett Adcock, LHP. Adcock was the highest of 5 Michigan draftees in June, going in the 4th round and 127th overall to the Astros, making him the highestWolverine drafted since Michael O’Neill in 2013. Assigned to Short Season Tri-City in the New York Penn League, Adcock has fallen victim to a bit of roster overflow. One of 18 pitchers on the ValleyCats roster, Adcock has only logged 4.1 innings in 3 starts; he is not pulled due to pitch count or inability, but rather given the instructional and developmental nature of the low minors compared to the win-at-all-costs MLB, everyone needs to get their innings. In his small sample, Adcock’s ERA sits at 6.23 and will fall with more innings, and he has posted an excellent 1.154 WHIP, an encouraging sign considering his high walk totals while at Michigan. He also has posted an impressive 12.5 K/9, reminiscent of his 2016 season for Michigan, when he finished 13th in the country in K/9 in 2016. The presumed next step for Adcock would be the Quad Cities River Bandits, the Low A affiliate of the Astros in the Midwest League, most likely the tail end of 2016 if he succeeds at Tri-City, or at the beginning of next season.
  • Carmen Benedetti, 1B/OF. Benedetti joined fellow Wolverine Adcock as an Astros draft pick, going in the 12th round (367th overall).

    Photo: John Ginder

    The Astros selected him and advertised the pick as a pitcher pick, but that quickly changed as Benedetti has yet to throw an inning for Tri-City and likely never will. He has gotten much more playing time Adcock, and has impressed thoroughly thus far. In 13 games, split between right field, designated hitter, and first base, Benedetti has yet to make an error and is hitting .400 (league leading)/.441/.491 with roughly a strikeout a game. Obviously this is small sample size, but definitely exciting to see him succeed this early. I’m glad the Astros chose to let him hit.

  • Evan Hill, LHP. After a yeoman career at Michigan, Hill went to the local favorite Detroit Tigers in the 24th round. Assigned to Short Season Connecticut in the same league as Benedetti and Adcock, Hill has yet to see any playing time.
  • Jackson Lamb, RHP. Lamb went to the Cardinals in the 35th round and did not sign. He will likely return to Michigan for his senior season.
  • Harrison Wenson, C. The first man that isn’t a pitcher to go for Michigan, Wenson went in the 39th round to the Pirates, and also did not sign. He is now playing in the Cape Cod League, an elite summer collegiate baseball league in the gorgeous backdrop of the Atlantic Ocean, hitting .240 through 8 games. By choosing to stay for his senior year, Wenson completes one of the best returning infields in the Big Ten and be a much needed source of power with Benedetti out of the lineup. Chris Webb of B1GBaseball.com thinks so.

(Brdad being a typo for shortstop Michael Brdar)

One more quick note: no one in Michigan’s 2016 recruiting class was drafted.

Current Lettermen

Like Wenson, many other current players are forging through their respective summer leagues. MGoBlue.com has a comprehensive source of all Michigan lettermen updates.

  • CF Jonathan Engelmann plays with Wenson for the Wareham Gatemen in Cape Cod. He sees consistent playing time but his bat has been relatively quiet. In 20 games, he is hitting .254, which isn’t bad, but a .533 OPS is nearly 100 points lower than his season at Michigan. Having only drawn two walks in 20 games (both walks came in the same game), you’d hope Engelmann can grow to see a few more pitches and work the counts to up that on-base percentage for next year’s team. One possible explanation for his low slugging: Cape Cod leagues require the use of wooden bats, which is a very different feel from the BBCOR composite bats that colleges use. All players train privately with wooden bats but there is no substitute for live pitching; for his first full summer season using a wood bat, some digression is expected. No defensive stats are available.
  • Closer Bryan Pall is excelling in his role at the back end of the bullpen for Yarmouth-Dennis Red Sox, having only allowed one run in 9.2 innings pitched, good enough for a 0.93 ERA. He has 4 saves in 8 appearances, 12 strikeouts and only 3 walks. Awesome sign for the coming season.
  • Lefty pitcher Oliver Jaskie has only appeared twice for the Red Sox (he is a teammate of Pall), but has good numbers. In 5.2 innings pitched, Jaskie has walked two, struck out 6, and allowed only 1 run, good for an ERA of 1.58. Hopefully he can get more starts in the future and fall more into a rhythm like he did in his excellent 2016 season.
  • Staying in the Cape Cod League, C/1B Drew Lugbauer has put up a .262/.367/.357 line in 13 games as the Orleans Firedbirds catcher, though he played almost exclusively first base for Michigan. Playing about every other day, Lugbauer has a home run and 7 RBI along with 5 walks.
  • 3B Jake Bivens was released by Cape Cod’s Cotuit Kettleers after injuring his right elbow a few games into the season. Cotuit only has one more third baseman on the roster because they had recruited Bivens to be their primary choice for the 2016 summer. Injuries are never good, but with the rest of the summer and autumn to recuperate, hopefully Bivens will be 100% come 2017.
  • 4 players play for the Sanford Mariners in the New England Collegiate Baseball League; 2B Ako Thomas, OF Johnny Slater, P Troy Miller, and P William Tribucher. Slater is hitting .208 in 10 games (and has pitched in two games), Tribucher has an impressive 1.22 ERA in 22 innings pitched over 4 games, Miller has a 7.71 ERA in 9.1 innings pitched, and Thomas is batting .354/.484(!)/.458 in 14 games. Thomas ended the collegiate season on a tear and is continuing his hot streak out east, making his success more of a permanent attribute rather than just a good stretch. A .400 hitter in high school, Thomas should be near the top of the order for next year’s squad and could very possibly play his way to some all conference mentions.

Alumni

  • 2015 draft pick of the Tampa Bay Rays Jake Cronenworth is raking for Low-A Bowling Green, hitting .306/.406/410 and leading the league in runs scored as their full time shortstop. I had the pleasure of seeing him play live when the Hot Rods came to Lansing and Cronenworth has an absolutely beautiful inside-out lefty swing, very Joe Mauer-esque, opting for base hits the other way all day.
  • 2015 Chicago White Sox draftee OF Jackson Glines has struggled in his second season for Great Falls in Montana, hitting only .190/.414/.238 – but they have only played seven games. No need to panic.
  • Travis Maezes, 2015 draft pick of the Royals, is hitting .234/.304/.448 in 46 games for the Lexington Legends in the South Atlantic League (A-ball).
  • 2014 pick of the Tigers Trent Szktunik went 3-1 with a 3.08 ERA in 15 games (8 starts) for West Michigan before being promoted to High A Lakeland.
  • Yankees OF prospect Michael O’Neill (2013 draftee) is batting .268/.330/.402 in 58 games between High A Tampa and Double-A Trenton.
  • The Red Sox called up OF Ryan LaMarre in the final week of June. He has appeared 5 games, drawing one walk and scored one run. He also threw a scoreless inning in garbage time of a 21-2 drubbing.
  • Pitcher Clayton Richard has had a rough go of it for the Cubs in 2016, allowing 10 earned runs in 12.1 innings pitched.

    Rich Hill in action for the A’s in spring. (Photo: Jeff Chiu – AP)

  • On the other end of the spectrum, lefty Rich Hill has resurrected his career in Oakland, putting up an 8-3 record and a 2.31 ERA, but missed all of June due to a groin injury. His .3 HR/9 would lead all MLB pitchers if he were qualified (1 IP per team game played; the injury has removed him for the qualified list).
  • Manager Mike Matheny‘s Cardinals are 43-41, underperforming due to a slew of early season injuries. Matheny remains heralded as one of the best managers in the league and plays in one of the most talented divisions in baseball.

For a comprehensive list of all Michigan alumni performances, follow this link.

Photo Credit: Michigan Athletics, Leah Howard

Bill Getschman

Bill Getschman

Born in east Michigan, schooled in west Michigan, live in mid Michigan. Craft beer nerd, cinephile, Oreo enthusiast.
Bill Getschman