Major League Baseball's all-star break is now receding into the rearview, as are those across the minor leagues as well. When the season began, three former Ohio State players were on big league rosters, with another ten plying their trade at various levels of the minors.
2016 has not been particularly kind for former Buckeyes at the Major League level, though throughout the minors Ohio State alums have been making strong impacts for their clubs, moving up through their organizations, and even getting an all-star nod.
The most notable news among former Buckeyes has been the decision by Nick Swisher, the namesake of the Ohio State's home field in Columbus, who decided to opt of his minor league contract with the New York Yankees at the beginning of July to sit out the rest of the season. Swisher, who is still making $15 million this year and was waived by the Atlanta Braves prior to the start of the season, was slashing .255/.297/.377 for Triple-A Scranton-Wilkes Barre, with seven home runs and 25 RBIs at the time of the decision.
Swisher's wife, JoAnna, recently gave birth to the couple's second child, a daughter named Sailor Stevie (I'm not kidding). Time with family was major factor in walking away, according the announcement Swisher made on his Twitter account (https://twitter.com/nickswisher).
Beyond the Swisher news, the three former Ohio State players in the big leagues have had a rough go of things. Outfielder J.B. Shuck of the Chicago White Sox has seen the most time, appearing in 39 games and slashing .244/.266/.390 with five doubles, three homers, and 12 RBIs.
Catcher Eric Fryer, who began the season with the St. Louis Cardinals, was released due to the return from injury of Brayan Pena, and ultimately picked up by the Pittsburgh Pirates after an injury to Francisco Cervelli. In limited action mostly as a defensive replacement and spot starter, Fryer is slashing .339/.375/.407 with four doubles and 10 runs driven in.
The most intriguing former Buckeye at the onset of the season was undoubtedly left-handed pitcher Corey Luebke, who made the Pirates 25-man roster out of spring training. In what has been a recurring theme throughout his pro career, though, Luebke had injury issues. A right hamstring issue led to a stint on the disabled list, and after bouncing between the big leagues and Triple-A, was designated for assignment and ended up signing a minor league deal with the Miami Marlins. For the year in MLB, Luebke has thrown 8.2 innings in 9 appearances, sporting an earned run average of 9.35 and a WHIP of 3.00.
Things have looked much better on the minor league side of things for Ohio State alums, with several players putting together solid seasons. Here's a look at what they've done so far:
- Brad Goldberg (Chicago White Sox): Goldberg made the jump from Double-A Birmingham to Triple-A Charlotte in mid-April, and has come on strong. In 27 appearances for the Knights, he has a 2.16 ERA, a .227 batting average against, and a WHIP of 1.26, and earned a trip to the Triple-A all-star game.
- John Kuchno (Pittsburgh Pirates): Kuhno, a right-handed pitcher, spent most of the season at Triple-A Indianapolis, but after posting a 5.40 ERA, .265 opponents' average, and 1.36 WHIP in 24 appearances out of the bullpen covering 45 innings, he was demoted to Double-A Altoona on July 14th.
- Travis Lakins (Boston Red Sox): The highest-drafted Buckeye in 2015, Lakins is a member of the starting rotation for the Advanced Class-A Salem Red Sox. In 17 appearances, including 16 starts, covering 82 innings, the righty has an ERA 5.14, with a .283 opposing batting average, and a 1.51 WHIP.
- Jaron Long (New York Yankees): 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, and has compiled a 3.08 ERA with a .254 opposing average, and a 1.23 WHIP in 15 starts covering 84.2 innings between the two levels.
- Brett McKinney (Pittsburgh Pirates): Another righty in the Pirates organization, McKinney has spent the entirety of the season with Double-A Altoona. Appearing in 30 games out of the pen, he's been hit around to the tune of a 3.42 ERA, a .274 opponents' average, and a 1.42 WHIP.
- Pat Porter (Houston Astros): Porter, a 15th round pick of the Astros in 2015, has struggled in his first full pro season. Playing for Single-A Quad Cities, the outfielder is slashing just .183/.292/.313 in 60 games, with five doubles, five triples, four home runs, and 21 RBIs.
- Ryan Riga (Chicago White Sox): A left-handed pitcher and 13th round pick in 2015, Riga has progressed to Advanced Class-A ball this season, and had a string of six straight appearances in June and early July without allowing an earned run. For the season, he has made 25 appearances, including five starts, covering 60.1 innings with a 4.33 ERA, .246 opposition batting average, and 1.26 WHIP.
- Drew Rucinski (Chicago Cubs): Rucinski has made 18 starts for the Triple-A Iowa Cubs of the Pacific Coast League, sporting a 5.83 ERA, .294 opponents' average, and 1.46 WHIP. 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, which just got underway, and has slashed .286/.444/.286 with three RBIs in five games played.
- Alex Wimmers (Minnesota Twins): Wimmers, who was a first round pick back in 2010, began the year in Double-A and earned a promotion to Triple-A in late-April. Pitching in the back end of the bullpen for the Rochester Red Wings, the righty has a 3.79 ERA in 27 appearances, with a .223 batting average against, a WHIP of 1.18, and eight saves in nine chances.