JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Major League Baseball season begins on Thursday and the area is once again well-represented by local products at the highest level of the sport.
Some players like pitchers Michael Baumann (JU, Orioles), Justin Lawrence (First Coast/JU, Rockies) and Sean Reid-Foley (Sandalwood, Mets) will begin the season in the minors but are on their team’s 40-man rosters. Padres pitcher Michael Clevinger (Wolfson) would typically be in the rotation early, but he’s going to miss the season due to Tommy John surgery.
Other familiar names wrapped up lengthy big league careers last year, like West Nassau and St. Johns River State product Howie Kendrick and Englewood/JU grad Daniel Murphy.
Recent high draft picks like Austin Martin (Trinity Christian, fifth overall pick by Blue Jays in 2020) and Tyler Callihan (Providence grad, 85th overall in 2019 to the Reds) are two of the highest prospects in their organizations, but will soak up experience in the farm system this year. Martin is the No. 22 overall prospect in baseball; Callihan is the No. 10 prospect in the Reds system.
Pos. Player, Local tie, MLB team, Notable
IF Javier Baez, Arlington CD, Cubs, He graced the cover of a video game last year, but Baez had his worst season in the majors since his rookie year in 2014. Hit just .203 and struck out 75 times in 222 at bats. Baez’s defense won him a Gold Glove, but his offense never got going.
P Dane Dunning, Clay, Rangers, Made his return from more than two years of not throwing in a regular season game due to arm issues and eventually surgery to go 2-0 with the White Sox last year. He’s penciled in as the tandem No. 5 starter with Texas now.
LF Ben Gamel, Bishop Kenny, Indians, Hit .237 with the Brewers last season and signed with Cleveland in the offseason. He’s a career .261 hitter in five big league seasons with 23 HR ad 126 RBI.
OF Austin Hays, JU, Orioles, Hit .392 (20 for 51) with four HRs, 13 RBI in limited action in 2020. Is a career .301 hitter in the bigs. Not penciled in as a starter, but should see meaningful playing time this year.
RP Darren O’Day, Bishop Kenny, Yankees, Struck out seven in 4.2 innings last season with Braves. Has three saves and a 5-0 mark (2.74 ERA, 111 Ks, 105 IP) in his career. Signed with the Yankees in the offseason, the sixth MLB of his career.
C Roberto Perez, Florida Gateway College, Indians, A career .271 hitter since coming into the bigs in 2010. He’ll start the season as a backup.
OF Austin Slater, Bolles, Giants, Went 9 for 25 (.360) in limited action last season. Belted four HRs and drove in 10 runs. A career .281 hitter over parts of five seasons.
OF DJ Stewart, Bolles, Orioles, Limited last year (2 for 8) in the shortened season. A career .229 hitter in the big leagues. Backup to Anthony Santander in right field to start the season.
OF Myles Straw, SJRSC, Astros, A career .355 hitter (44 for 124, 9 RBI, 4 HR). Hit .310 in 42 ABs last season. Penciled in as the starting centerfielder this season for Houston.
P Adam Wainwright, Glynn Academy, Cardinals, The 39-year-old veteran is embarking on his final MLB season. He’s 18-12 with a 3.12 ERA, 204 Ks in 300.1 IP.