Back by popular demand, it's the Pack in the Pros baseball edition. Two former Pack players have made their MLB debut this spring—Carlos Rodon and Cory Mazzoni—and one looks like a good bet to remain there. Mazzoni had a pretty disastrous debut but is a good bet to get another shot in the San Diego bullpen. Meanwhile, Jonathan Diaz keeps himself employed with his glove and versatility; he has enjoyed an MLB per diem for a little bit with the Blue Jays this year.
Let's take a look at the upper minors today and go further down the farm in an edition to follow soon.
You know about Rodon, but his Friday night predecessor, Mazzoni, has been absolutely dominant since a spring training trade to the Padres and conversion to the pen. At AAA, Mazzoni has allowed just six hits and four walks in 16.1 innings pitched while striking out 25. All that batter abuse has culminated in a 1.10 ERA; you just don't do that in the hitting-happy Pacific Coast League.
Unfortunately, Mazzoni's first shot at The Show went exactly the opposite of his AAA time. In two appearances, he's given up six runs, all earned, in two innings pitched. Kind of rough when your ERA (27.00) is higher than a UNC football player's I.Q.
My guess is that Mazzoni was a little too AMP and HYPE in his first times toeing the rubber at this level. Even though he ramps the fastball up into the mid to high 90s in short stints out of the pen, you still have to locate to get major league hitters out. He will get another shot soon.
Diaz failed to hit safely in seven plate appearances, though he did draw a walk, over four games with the Jays. He remains on the 40-man roster and has appeared in the majors for three consecutive seasons. The 30-year-old has a weak .538 OPS at AAA Buffalo but his stick is not his calling card anyway. If the Jays need a guy who can play above average defense all over the infield and even play the outfield competently, he will be back north of the border for more fill-in duty.
Jake Buchanan did not totally embarrass himself in a brief stint with the Astros last year, but he did not make the big club out of spring training and is not exactly on the fast track back with a 5.08 ERA through his first six appearances at AAA Fresno. Buchanan has gone 3-1 and been his normally stingy self with the bases on balls, issuing just five in 33.2 innings (1.3 BB/9). His problem, as always, is the inability to strike batters out. There is just very little margin for error with a guy fanning just four batters per nine innings.
Eric Surkamp has appeared in parts of three major league seasons and looked to possibly have a future as a LOOGY for the White Sox after going 2-0 with a 4.82 ERA in 35 appearances (that spanned just 24.1 innings) last season, but, like Buchanan, he got cut in spring training and is back toiling away at AAA. Surkamp was designated for assignment at the end of April and cleared from the 40-man roster when the Pale Hose needed a righty reliever to replace some dude that got hurt in the brawl with the Royals, but Surkamp wasn't claimed off waivers and was thus outrighted to Charlotte. He's pitched quite well there before and after losing his 40-man spot, posting a 3.05 ERA with a 25-to-9 K-to-BB ration in 20.1 innings. He's 2-0 with a save and should get another opportunity, if not in Chicago, to get major league hitters out.
James Gillheeney has made it as far as AAA but has spent all of 2015 at AA Jackson in his seventh season in the Mariners organization. Seattle has transitioned him to the pen, where he has found success. The lefty sports a 3-1 record and 1.98 ERA despite a 6.3 K/9 mark that is well off his career average (8.0 K/9).
Ryan Mathews finally made it to AA this year but found himself out of baseball after one game; he went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts. He did not hang up his cleats, however, and is playing for the Fargo-Moorhead RedHawks in the American Association of Independent Professional Baseball. Two minutes of dogged Googling could not unearth his statistics in said league.
Andrew Taylor was a guy to root for, a 34th round pick who somehow managed a cup of coffee back in 2012 only to suffer an elbow injury. He pitched just one game for an independent club last year after missing all of 2013 rehabbing and appears to
be out of baseball have resurfaced with the Rockland Boulders of the independent Can-Am league.
We will take a look at Trea Turner's odd baseball purgatory and all the folks in the lower minors in a future edition of Pack in the Pros. (For clarity, Turner is in AA, not the lower minors, but his case calls for an extended entry...so stay tuned.)