Somehow, October is half over. The leaves are changing, the temperatures are dropping, and the baseball world has all eyes on the MLB postseason. It was a year of development, career breakthroughs, and in a couple of cases setbacks for former Ohio State ballplayers in the pro game in 2016.
The big news for the Buckeyes was the major league debut of right-handed pitcher Alex Wimmers, the first ever Ohio State player to win Big Ten Pitcher of the Year back-to-back and the second to in program history to be named a first-team All-American twice. Wimmers was a first round pick of the Minnesota Twins, No. 21 overall, in 2010, and after nearly six full seasons in the minors, was called up on August 26th.
In 16 appearances out of Minnesota's bullpen, Wimmers tossed 17.1 innings, allowing eight runs on 14 hits, posting a 1-3 record and a 4.15 earned run average. The 27-year old struggled with his command, though, striking out 14 while walking 11, and is not guaranteed a big league roster spot in 2017.
After Wimmers, the most successful former Ohio State player in the big leagues was outfielder J.B. Shuck of the Chicago White Sox. Bouncing between the Sox and Triple-A, Shuck appeared in 80 major league games, slashing .205/.248/.299 with four home runs, 14 RBIs, 27 runs scored, and three stolen bases. Much like Wimmers, Shuck will have to earn a big league roster spot in spring training, be it in Chicago or elsewhere in 2017.
Catcher Eric Fryer also saw major league action after winning a job with the St. Louis Cardinals in spring training. Fryer, 31, was a 10th round pick of the Milwaukee Brewers in 2007, and has bounced around a bit in his pro career. 2016 was no different, as the Cardinals designated him for assignment in late-June and he was claimed off waivers by thePittsburgh Pirates. Overall between the two clubs, Fryer had a .267/.336/.319 slash line with four doubles, 13 RBIs, and 19 runs scored in 60 games.
As was the case at the all-star break, the situation for Buckeyes in the minor leagues was far more exciting. In addition to Wimmers, several players progressed through their respective systems, and a few may get opportunities to make their big league clubs next season. Here's a look at how the MiLBers fared in 2016:
- Brad Goldberg (Chicago White Sox): It's been quite a year for Goldberg, who made the jump from Double-A to Triple-A early in the season, earned a trip to the Triple-A all-star game, and finished out the year with a 3-5 record, 10 saves, and a 2.84 ERA in 50.2 innings pitched for the Charlotte Knights. He also played for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic qualifying round, and picked up saves in the two deciding games played in Brooklyn to send his country to the WBC in Seoul, South Korea next March.
- John Kuchno (Pittsburgh Pirates): Kuhno, a right-handed pitcher, struggled in splitting the season bouncing between Double-A Altoona and Triple-A Indianapolis, posting a collective 3-5 record in 38 appearances, with a 4.59 ERA in 84.1 innings of work.
- Travis Lakins (Boston Red Sox): Pitching for the Advanced Single-A Salem Red Sox, the highest-drafted Buckeye in 2015 had a rough go of things in his first full pro season. In 19 games that included 18 starts, Lakins went 6-3, but posted an ERA of 5.93, an opponents' batting average of .299, and a 1.62 WHIP. It should be pointed out, though, that the Carolina League, which is home to the Salem ballclub, is a notorious hitter's paradise among the highest-scoring of all the affiliated minor leagues.
- Jaron Long (Washington Nationals): Long, another right-handed pitcher, was released by the New York Yankees organization just before the season, and signed on with the Washington Nationals. He was promoted from Double-A to Triple-A in early June, but was demoted back to Double-A in late July and went on the disabled list in early August. Long finished the season with a 5-6 mark in 19 games (18 starts), posting a 3.20 ERA in 107 innings.
- Corey Luebke (Miami Marlins): Luebke began the year with such promise, making the Opening Day roster of the Pittsburgh Pirates out of spring training. But he was shelled in nine relief appearances and ultimately released by the Bucs before signing a minor league deal with Miami. He made a total of 15 appearances running the gamut from Advanced Single-A to Triple-A, posting a 1.95 ERA and 35 strikeouts to just three walks in 24.1 innings.
- Brett McKinney (Pittsburgh Pirates): Another righty in the Pirates organization, McKinney spent the entirety of the season with Double-A Altoona. Appearing in 44 games out of the pen, he posted a 2-2 record with a 3.90 ERA and better than a 2-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
- Pat Porter (Houston Astros): Porter, a 15th round pick of the Astros in 2015, struggled in his first full pro season. Playing for Single-A Quad Cities, the outfielder slashed just .185/.286/.331 in 96 games, with 10 doubles, six triples, nine home runs, and 37 RBIs.
- Ryan Riga (Chicago White Sox): A left-handed pitcher and 13th round pick in 2015, Riga, like Lakins, was promoted to Advanced Single-A in the Carolina League with Winston-Salem and got knocked around. He finished the year with 37 appearances (five starts) covering 76.2 innings and a 5.40 ERA.
- Drew Rucinski (Chicago Cubs): Rucinski spent the entire season in the starting rotation for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs of the Pacific Coast League. He posted a 7-15 record with a 5.92 ERA in 28 starts, yielding a .301 batting average against and a WHIP of 1.48 in 155 innings of work. Rucinski had perhaps the greatest outing of his pro career back on May 28th, taking a perfect game into the seventh inning, and ultimately allowing just a run on three hits in eight innings of work.
Connor Sabanosh (San Francisco Giants): Sabanosh, a former co-captain for Ohio State, went undrafted but signed a free agent contract with the Giants in March. He was assigned to the Arizona Rookie League, where he slashed .265/.381/.324 with two doubles and six RBIs in 12 games played.