Area baseball players are tearing up the professional ranks.
What better to cure the dog days of summer than baseball?
At first, I planned this column to be a look at a range of baseball players from area schools, like the collegiate updates I do during the school year. Then I realized that of the players from our coverage area, only one did not attend Sarasota High. It’s not shocking, considering the dominance of the program over the years, but the sheer breadth of its talent is.
So this is a look at some of the area’s current pros, in the minors, majors and elsewhere. And if it seems Sailor-heavy, well, that’s because it is.
Joe Cavallaro, the former Sarasota pitcher, has bounced between A and AA ball in his three-year career but seems to have settled into a relief role with the Advanced A-level St. Lucie Mets (New York Mets). Since June 18, Cavallaro has thrown 19.1 innings and has allowed five runs, three of which came July 14 against the Dunedin Blue Jays. That works out to a 2.33 ERA. His overall ERA is 4.04, but according to FanGraphs — despite the name, a wonderful, rich resource for any stat-head — his Fielding Independent Pitching, or what his ERA would approximately be if he had a league-average defense playing behind him, is 3.84.
That isn’t an eye-popping number, but if Cavallaro can repeat his performance from the last month, he could be onto something.
Third baseman Evan Mendoza was promoted to the St. Louis Cardinals’ AAA team, the Memphis Redbirds, on June 9. The former Sailor played four games before landing on the injured list. (He’s still out, but on the seven-day list now, so he’ll be back soon.) Those four games were encouraging, though, seeing Mendoza collect four hits, including a double and an RBI, in 11 at-bats. The fact that he has reached AAA so quickly — he was drafted in 2017 — means his stock is on the rise.
Let’s not forget about the area players already in the big leagues. Cincinnati Reds second baseman Scooter Gennett is working his way back from a groin injury he suffered in spring training. He has played eight games since returning June 28, and he is hitting for a .143 average and a .321 OPS. The sample size is too small for any Scooter fans to panic yet. His .200 batting average on balls in play — the 2019 league average is .298, and Gennett’s has never been lower than .309 — suggests Gennett is getting unlucky. He should be back to his All-Star self soon.
In Atlanta, relief pitcher Chad Sobotka — a Riverview Ram! — has thrown 21.2 innings for the Braves. His ERA is 5.40, but like Cavallaro, that doesn’t tell the whole story. Sobotka has allowed two runs in his past 13 appearances. Last season, Sobotka held a 1.88 ERA for the Braves in 14 appearances after a late-season call-up. Like in most cases, Sobotka’s true talent probably lies somewhere between these extremes. That means he can be a valuable piece for Atlanta as the Braves try to hold off Washington and Philadelphia for the NL East crown.
Colorado Rockies outfielder Ian Desmond is back on track after a, well, rocky 2018. The former Sailor is hitting .270 and holds an OPS of .820, the fourth-highest of his 11-year (!) career. He has gone up and down more than a Ferris wheel, but as long as he is on the “up,” he can still help a team. The Rockies are fighting for a Wild Card berth. They will need his bat.
Sarasota pitcher Casey Kelly, a first-round pick of the Boston Red Sox in 2008, is trying to reclaim his career in South Korea by pitching for the LG Twins of the Korea Baseball Organization. Kelly holds a 2.77 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP (walks and hits per inning pitched) for the Twins and a 9-9 record. For Kelly, 29, the MLB dream might never happen like many thought it would. (He made his big league debut last season for the San Francisco Giants but was released.) But a pro career is something to cherish no matter where it happens.