Pro Blue: Checking in on Michigan Baseball Alum

It has been just over a month since the MLB draft when Michigan Baseball took the draft by storm, seeing 11 Wolverines taken over three days in June. College football is only a few Saturdays away, but until then, you still get to watch baseball every day, so why not root for some alum? Here is a brief guide to how some Wolverines are faring in their journey to the pros. Note: All statistics are entering July 19 games.

2017 Draftees

Even though the team itself didn’t go as deep into the season as we had hoped, almost half of the roster was drafted into professional baseball, starting with LHP Oliver Jaskie to the Mariners and ending with SS Michael Brdar in the 36th round. How are they doing?

  • LHP Oliver Jaskie; 6th round, Seattle
    •  0-1, 7.27 ERA, 2.308 WHIP, 8.2 IP
    • Jaskie’s numbers seem a lot worse than they actually are. Assigned to Short Season Everett in the Northwest League, Jaskie has only pitched 7 2/3 innings but two tough outings have ballooned his ERA and other totals. Most recently, on the 15th, Jaskie threw 3 innings, striking out 4 and not walking any batters, which is much more of what we expected from Jaskie.
  • C/IF Drew Lugbauer; 11th round, Atlanta
    • 20 G, .254/.405/.522, 5 HR, 17 RBI
    • Lugbauer hasn’t missed a beat in his transition to pro ball. Leading Michigan in nearly every power category during the 2017 season, Lugbauer’s power numbers haven’t dipped at all for Short Season Dansville, despite playing many defensive innings at catcher, which he hasn’t done since 2015 at Michigan. Through 11 games in July, Lugbauer has gone hitless in only 3 of them, but he has also struck out in every one of them. Despite a 30.6 K% (definitely something to work on), he has not let his on-base percentage dip; any team would kill to have a catcher with a .405 OBP. Defensively, he has played 61 innings at 3rd base, 43.1 innings at catcher, and 31.2 innings at first base, with only two errors coming at third.
  • RHP Ryan Nutof; 16th round, Cincinnati
    • 11 IP, 0.00 ERA, .727 WHIP
    • Nutof has been incredibly efficient in limited time out of the bullpen for Rookie class Billings in the Reds organization. He is averaging just over four pitches per batter faced and has yet to allow a run this season. Granted, he has only thrown 11 innings, but you can’t ask for a much better start. He is striking out batters at a rate of 8.2 per nine innings, which is excellent for a young hurler.
  • C Harrison Wenson; 24th round, LA Angels
    • 12 G, .340/.393/.702, 5 HR, 16 RBI
    • Wenson played two games for the Arizona League Angels (Rookie level) and was called up to Short Season Orem (in the Pioneer League where it’s only a matter of time until he faces Nutof), where he began to rake. Though not an every day player, Wenson has made the most of his time, with 4 multi-hit games already (including one multi-home run game). He has not struck out all that much and has caught 50% of potential base-stealers. Should he become an everyday catcher, his power numbers might dip, but like Lugbauer, any team would kill to have a catcher with a .393 OBP.
  • RHP Bryan Pall; 25th round, Seattle
    • No stats accumulated (injury)
  • IF Jake Bivens; 27th round, Detroit
    • 12 G, .125/.400/.125
    • Bivens has gotten off to a slow start for the GCL Tigers, with only 2 hits in 12 games so far. He has had no problem putting the ball in play (he hasn’t struck out yet), but the hits just aren’t falling yet. With 7 walks in 12 games, Bivens continues to be an on-base machine and should provide a wonderful top-of-the-order presence once his hits start to fall. At 2nd base, he has made 2 errors in 23 chances; in three seasons at Michigan, Bivens’ averaged a fielding percentage of .950 between 1st and 3rd base.
  • OF Johnny Slater; 28th round, Seattle
    • 16 G, .150/.190/.367
    • After 3 successful games with Short Season Everett, Slater was called up to Low A Clinton in the Midwest League, where he has struggled mightily. Slater is a consistent starter for the LumberKings, but only has collected 3 hits in 13 games. What’s more worrisome is that he has only walked twice while striking out 22 times. Slater might have been rushed up a bit early; he will likely remain at Clinton through the end of the year and should start there next year as well.
  • LHP Michael Hendrickson; 28th round, Cleveland
    • 5 G, 6.75 ERA, 1.500 WHIP
    • Like Jaskie, Hendrickson’s had a few tough outings that have inflated his numbers. After being transferred from Short Season Mahoning Valley to Rookie League Arizona Indians, Hendrickson hasn’t pitched in almost a week since allowing 2 earned runs in an inning. He has exhibited good control, only walking 3 in 5.1 innings, as well as promising command and power, striking out 10.
  • LHP Grant Reuss; 29th round, Detroit
    • 6 G (8.1 IP), 11.88 ERA, 3.0 WHIP
    • Reuss, a teammate of Bivens in the Gulf Coast League, has been a study of extremes. His professional debut was not pretty, allowing 3 runs in one inning while walking 3 and hitting another batter. A few outings later, Reuss took the ball to throw two shutout innings, striking out one and facing the minimum 6 batters. He has shown flashes of dominance tucked between other rough outings where he’ll walk 5 and allow 6 runs in an inning; as he gets more innings under his belt, his numbers will flatten out.
  • RHP Mac Lozer; 33rd round, New York Mets
    • 5 G (6.2 IP), 1.35 ERA, 1.35 WHIP
    • Lozer has performed admirably in limited time out of the bullpen in the Short Season Appalachian League for the Mets. In each of his last 3 outings, he has struck out a pair of batters and throwing almost 70% strikes. He has only allowed one run through his 5 appearances.
  • SS Michael Brdar; 36th round, St. Louis
    • 12 G, .242/.342/.303
    • Brdar has been moved to second base for the GCL Cardinals, and has also taking some innings in left field as well. He has heated up considerably recently after a slow start, hitting .286/.375 in his most recent 9 games as a (mostly) everyday player. Brdar is a solid defender and will get lots of opportunities because of that; if he can keep his OBP north of .350, he will have a serious shot at moving up the Cardinals’ system.

Other Notable Draftees

  • OF Carmen Benedetti; 12th round, Houston, 2016
    • In his first full professional season, Benedetti has continued to amaze. In 56 games as the starter for Low A Quad Cities Benedetti is slashing .318/.436/.458 with 42 walks and only 37 strikeouts. This is almost an exact continuation of his style at Michigan; extremely difficult to strike out, walks all the time, but little home run power (3 dingers in 192 ABs). He should be in the conversation for league MVP now that Toronto’s Bo Bichette (who was hitting .400 for the majority of the year) has been promoted.
  • LHP Brett Adcock; 4th round, Houston, 2016
    • Adcock was a teammate of Benedetti’s to start the season before his promotion to High A Buies Creek in the Astros’ system. Like Benedetti, Adcock’s pitching has been a perfect extension of his time at Michigan; a 4.15 ERA and 1.385 WHIP through 52 innings pitched with lots of walks (25) and lots of strikeouts (52).
  • SS Jake Cronenworth; 7th round, Tampa Bay, 2015
    • Cronenworth continues to be a durable, consistent left-handed bat with above average defense. Starting for High A Charlotte in the Rays’ system, Cronenworth’s slashes have dipped slightly (.268/.364/.366) but they are still respectable and definitely attractive for a middle infielder.

Michigan has loads more alumni playing professionally – to see for yourself, follow this Baseball Reference link. Like Benedetti and Slater, many of the 2017 draftees will play in the Midwest League at some point; if not the end of this season then definitely next season. If you live in the Midwest, buy a ticket and check them out!

Thanks for reading!

Header photo: Dominic Valente, Daily Herald 

Bill Getschman