June 15, 2012
By JACK BOGACZYK
HUNTINGTON – Marshall’s two recent picks in the Major League Baseball Draft are signed, and with their seasons starting in the next few days, the Thundering Herd now boasts 12 minor leaguers on MLB-affiliated teams from Coach Jeff Waggoner’s program.
The closest to the Majors?
It’s Class AA right-hander Dan Straily, the 24th-round pick by Oakland in 2009. The Springfield, Ore., native leads all 10 full-season minor leagues is strikeouts with 99 (in 77 1/3 innings) as he goes to the mound again tonight (Friday) for the A’s Midland RockHounds in the Texas League.
Straily, who is 3-4 with a 3.61 ERA in 13 starts, has been named to the South squad for the Texas League All-Star Game on June 28 in Tulsa, Okla.
There are only two pitchers in pro baseball with more strikeouts than the 24-year-old Straily. You may have heard of them – Justin Verlander of Detroit (103 K’s) and Stephen Strasburg of the Nationals (100).
Straily could pass them both tonight – and he has double-digit strikeouts in four starts to date.
Straily would seem to have a good shot at becoming the first Herd alum in the Majors since pitcher Rick Reed (1988-2003). Reed and reliever Jeff Montgomery (1987-99) are Marshall’s only big leaguers since 1974.
Of the 12 former Marshall players in the minors, 10 have been selected in the last four MLB June drafts, and Waggoner’s Herd has had 16 draft picks in the last five years.
“We’ve had 24 players who have had the opportunity to play pro ball,” said Waggoner, who just finished his sixth season as the Herd coach. “That’s a very good number, and we might have a few more because there are players who could sign as free agents once the clubs figure out what their needs are.”
Ex-Herd right-hander Joe Church
, of Princeton, was a 17th-round pick by San Diego this month. Church starts his pro career tonight (Friday), when the Class A short-season Northwest League opens play. Church is with the Padres’ farm club at Eugene, Ore., the Emeralds.
Marshall lefty Mike Mason of Maumee, Ohio, was a 24th-round selection by Colorado. He’s joined the new Grand Junction Rockies (formerly the Casper Ghosts) of the short-season Pioneer League. The Pioneer season opens Monday.
Two other ex-Herd pitchers figure to see Church this summer in the Pacific Northwest. Ian Kadish and Arik Sikula – 2011 draft picks by Toronto – have moved up from the Appalachian League to the Northwest League and are with the Vancouver Canadians. Eugene visits Vancouver from June 28-30.
Another two Marshall baseball alums also await the start of their second pro seasons.
Catcher-designated hitter Victor Gomez remains with the Atlanta system and is on the roster of the Gulf Coast League Braves. The GCL opens Monday.
Outfielder Rhett Stafford, a 22nd-round pick by Oakland in 2011, opens with the Arizona League A’s on Wednesday – his second summer with that club.
Right-hander Shane Farrell is also on a GCL roster, with the Blue Jays, as he continues to bounce back from shoulder surgery last year.
That leaves four former Herd players besides Straily who have been making their mark already this season.
Marshall has one player in high Class A in left-hander Ryan Kiel, who recently moved up to the California League’s Bakersfield Blaze in the Cincinnati Reds’ system – where his manager is Ken Griffey Sr. -- after starting the season in low Class A with the Midwest League’s Dayton Dragons.
Kiel is currently on the 7-day CL disabled list. At Dayton, he worked five innings in two games, and didn’t allow a run, and then permitted one run in 2 2/3 innings at Bakersfield before going on the DL. He has eight strikeouts in 7 2/3 innings for the season, and a 1.17 ERA.
There are three Herd products in low Class A – right-hander Kevin Shackelford (Milwaukee Brewers) at Wisconsin in the Midwest League, southpaw Greg Williams (Texas Rangers) with Hickory in the South Atlantic League and infielder Kenny Socorro (Chicago Cubs) at Peoria in the Midwest League.
Shackelford is 1-2 with a 5.79 ERA in 12 games (28 innings) for the Timber Rattlers, while Williams -- a 12th-round Rangers’ pick last summer who is currently on the SAL 7-day disabled list -- is 2-0 with four saves and a 4.37 ERA in 22 2/3 relief innings for the Crawdads.
Interestingly, the 23-year-old Socorro is a player-coach with the Chiefs … and even got in a pitching stint this season – and a win in relief.
The 5-foot-9 shortstop-coach (he hasn’t batted or played SS this season) was activated worked the final two innings of Peoria’s 14-inning, 4-3 win over Wisconsin on May 29. Socorro got the Timber Rattlers 1-2-3 twice (fly out, strikeout, groundout, and fly out, pop out, pop out).
(“He must have had that four-seamer working,” said Herd broadcast “Voice” Steve Cotton, when told of Socorro’s two perfect innings in Peoria.)
That was Socorro’s first pitching assignment since May 24, 2008, when he retired the last out in the eighth inning – as the seventh of nine pitchers Waggoner used -- in the Herd’s Conference USA tournament elimination-round win over Southern Miss in New Orleans.
Farrell, Kiel, Socorro, Kadish and Sikula all pitched in that game. Kiel got the win. Sikula got the save … and they all got to the minors.