High School Invitational and Spring Training
Date: Oct 19, 2018
More than 90 former Florida League players played professional baseball during the 2017 season across Minor and Major League Baseball, continuing a long-standing tradition of excellence established in 2004. Three former players made their debut at the Major League level this season, while 22 more played in their first professional season.
Major League Baseball
On May 30th, Eric Skoglund became the 19th former player to reach the MLB. He was masterful in his debut, earning a win after shutting down the Detroit Tigers for 6.1 innings. He held them to two hits and struck out five in the outing. Skoglund, who played for the College Park Freedom in 2013, enjoyed success at both the AA and AAA level this summer. He tallied 103 strikeouts in 104 innings with a 4-5 record.
Aaron Slegers was the next player to make the jump to the pros. The 2012 Orlando Freedom pitcher started for the Minnesota Twins on August 17th, and equaled Skoglund with 6.1 innings of his own. He allowed two runs on two hits against the Indians, earning a no-decision. Slegers was in the midst of a tremendous season for the AAA Rochester Red Wings before his callup. He posted a 15-4 record with a 3.40 ERA for the Red Wings, and earned the AAA Pitcher of the Week award on July 23rd.
Former Florida League MVP Austin Hays made his debut on September 7th, entering the game as a pinch hitter for the Orioles. He would make headlines on September 16th when he picked up his first hit and his first homerun in the same game against the Yankees. He went on to pick up seven hits over a four game span between the 16th-19th. Hays had a tremendous year in the minors, earning three Player of the Week awards and an All-Star selection at High-A Frederick. He then moved on to AA Bowie where he collected 35 extra-base hits in 64 games. Between the two levels, Hays hit .329/.365/.593 with 32 doubles, five triples and 32 homeruns. The 32 home runs were the second most of any player in Minor League baseball. He scored 81 times and drove in 95. He was one of five finalists for the Minor League Player of the Year Award, and was the first player from the 2016 draft to be called up to the MLB.
Currently, there are nine other Florida League alumni playing Major League Baseball: Jacob deGrom, Jonathan Lucroy, Dee Gordon, Roberto Perez, Jimmy Nelson, Shane Greene, Jabari Blash, Jharel Cotton and Nick Goody
Four players find themselves one step away from the big leagues:
Montana Durapau played for the 2012 champion DeLand Suns. He has steadily risen through the Pirates farm system, playing well enough to earn a AA All-Star nod this season. He had 14 saves for the Altoona Curve, and struck out 62 batters in 53 innings. After his call up to AAA in July, batters hit only .125 against him.
Former Leesburg Lightning shortstop Peter Mooney spent his entire season in New Orleans playing for the Baby Cakes. He racked up 18 doubles, four triples and four homeruns while scoring 49 runs.
Josh Smith spent time with both the Oakland Athletics and their AAA affiliate, the Nashville Sounds. The ex-River Rat was solid at AAA, posting 44 strikeouts against 11 walks in 41.1 innings. He went 4-1 on the year, and held opponents to a .220 average.
Chris Heston moved around quite a bit this year. He started with AAA Tacoma, before being called up by the Mariners. After the Mariners DFA’d him, the Dodgers took a flyer on Heston and sent him to AAA Oklahoma City. A week later, he was traded to Minnesota where he played with the Twins before finally ending the year at AAA Rochester. He finished the season with 49 strikeouts in 66.2 minor league innings.
The next level was full of Florida League alumni, as a whopping twenty-two players ended their season in AA.
Drew Weeks turned in a career year for the Hartford Yard Goats. The 2012 Sanford River Rat collected 41 extra-base hits on the year, including 22 doubles, 2 triples and 17 home runs. He scored 69 times and drove in an additional 63 en route to an All-Star nomination.
The Yard Goats also featured former Lightning pitcher Matt Pierpont on the mound. Used mostly as a middle reliever, Pierpont put together a record of 8-1 with two saves in 28 appearances. In 62.1 innings, he struck out 55 batters, had a 2.02 ERA and held opponents to a .176 batting average with an astonishing 0.76 WHIP.
Tyler Neslony parlayed an All-Star first half into a promotion to the AA Mississippi Braves. As a member of the Florida Fire Frogs, the former Lightning outfielder slashed .309/.378/.442 with 21 extra-base hits. After moving on to AA, he scored a dozen times and drove in 14 in 43 games.
Dustin Demuth turned in an All-Star campaign of his own for the Biloxi Shuckers. The ex-Diamond Dawg finished the season with 92 hits, 40 runs, 40 RBI, 20 doubles, 2 triples and 9 dingers. The former All-American from Indiana was an All-Star for Winter Park in 2011.
Other Players in AA: Walker Sheller (DeLand), Tyler Warmoth (DeLand), Brendon Sanger (Leesburg), Jhalan Jackson (Sanford), Cory Taylor (Leesburg), Keith Curcio (Sanford), Emilio Ogando (Winter Park), Kyle Bird (Sanford), Garrett Nuss (Orlando Freedom), Tyler Marincov (Sanford), Stephen McGee (Orlando Mavericks), Peter O’Brien (DeLand), Connor Lien (Sanford), Lindsey Caughel (Leesburg), Dante Bichette (Winter Park), Todd Hankins (Sanford), Cody Hall (Orlando Mavericks), Stephen Cardullo (Sanford).
A total of thirteen players ended their season in High-A leagues across the country.
Colby Lusignan, who played three years for the Leesburg Lightning, put up impressive numbers throughout the year. He hit 9 homeruns and had 49 RBI, and also earned a Player of the Week award as a member of the Greensboro Grasshoppers. He was then called up to Jupiter in July, and collected two more Player of the Week awards in back to back weeks, July 30 and August 6. For the year, he ended with 31 doubles, 3 triples and 15 homeruns while driving in 74 runs.
Seth McGarry earned both Mid-Season and Post-Season All-Star nominations for his performance this year. As a member of the Bradenton Marauders, the righty chalked up 14 saves with a 1.34 ERA. In July, he was traded to the Phillies for MLB vet Joaquin Benoit. As a member of the Clearwater Threshers, he tacked on five more saves to his total while striking out 17 batters in 14 innings. His 19 total saves led the Florida State League.
Long-time Florida League vet Devin Raftery enjoyed another standout campaign in limited action. He did not make his season debut until early July, but made up for lost time with a nice stat line. In eleven games, he went 2-0 with two saves and 22 strikeouts in 19.2 innings. His ERA sat at 1.93, and hitters only managed a .176 average against him.
John Silviano joined Lusignan on the Hammerheads to give Jupiter a potent power combo in the middle of the lineup. The former DeLand Sun went for 17 doubles, 5 triples and 13 homeruns while driving in 55 on the year. The highlight of his season came on June 14th when he cranked two homeruns and drove in seven in a game against the St. Lucie Mets.
Others in High-A: Zach Reks (DeLand), Darick Hall (Sanford), Daniel Sweet (Winter Park), Casey Scoggins (Leesburg), Reid Love (Leesburg), Connor Marabell (Sanford), Austin Glorius (WG & AS), Forrest Wall (Winter Park), Ian McKinney (Winter Park)
At the single A level, we find eleven former Florida League players:
Seth Elledge was the first alumni taken in the 2017 MLB draft when he went in the fourth round to the Mariners. He made four appearances in Low-A Everett before advancing to Clinton. On the year, he made 19 appearances for the Lumberkings, posting a 3-0 record with five saves. He had an incredible 42 strikeouts in only 25 innings of work. Elledge was the Florida League Reliever of the Year in 2015 as an inaugural member of the Altamonte Springs Boom.
The Greenville Drive took home the South Atlantic League championship with the help of 2015 Florida League MVP Santiago Espinal. The former Sanford River Rat hit .280 with 64 runs, 18 doubles, four triples, four homeruns, 46 RBI and 20 steals as the starting shortstop.
Danny Woodrow enjoyed an All-Star season for the West Michigan Whitecaps. In 116 games, Woodrow hit .271 with a .341 on-base percentage. He scored 73 times and drove in 47 while swiping 31 bases. The former Creighton Blue Jay suited up for the Winter Park Diamond Dawgs in 2015.
Former College Park Freedom reliever Justin Lawrence was enjoying success before an injury shut him down early in the season. Still, he showed enough flash to land himself on the Rockies Top 30 prospect list. In 16 games, he tallied six saves while striking out 20 in 16.1 innings. Opponents hit only .172 against him while boasting a miniscule 0.86 WHIP.
Others in A Ball: David Martinelli (Winter Park), Adam Atkins (Sanford), Andrew Deramo (DeLand), Chase Williams (Sanford), Joe Dudek (DeLand), Casey Schroeder (Winter Park), Christian Williams (Sanford)
Short Season A
The second most popular level for alumni was at Class A Short Season. A total of 14 former players found themselves in these ranks at the end of the year.
After being selected by the Rangers in the 17th round, Tyler Ratliff was assigned to Rookie Level ball. He demolished pitching there, collecting 17 hits in 34 at-bats over eight games, quickly earning a promotion to the Spokane Indians. His hot streak continued as he slashed .264/.330/.421 over the year, earning himself an All-Star bid in the process. All six of his homeruns came in his stint with the Indians.
Another former Lightning player found success this year in the form of Kameron Esthay. A 26th round pick of the Nationals, Esthay played in 52 games for the Auburn Doubledays. He led the team in RBI (30) and total bases (86) while posting a .273 batting average. He played for the Lightning in 2014 out of Baylor University.
Yahir Gurrola parlayed a standout season at UNF into being drafted by the Phillies in the 27th round of this year’s draft. He played for the GCL Phillies and Williamsport Crosscutters, hitting .287 with 13 doubles, 31 runs scored, 30 RBI and 15 stolen bases combined. Gurrola was a member of the Winter Garden Squeeze during their inaugural season in 2014.
Alex House put up positive numbers in his first year with the Tri-City Valley Cats. The former River Rat and 2015 Championship Game MVP appeared in nine games, logging 20.1 innings. He struck out 23 batters against only seven walks, and finished with a 3.54 ERA.
Others in Short Season A: Jason Bahr (San & AS), Tra’mayne Holmes (Altamonte), Reed Hayes (Sanford), Demetrius Sims (Sanford), Keith Skinner (Sanford), Michael Cruz (Altamonte), Matt McLean (Winter Garden), Sam Tidaback (Altamonte), Burris Warner (Sanford), Spencer Trayner (Winter Garden)
Most of the draft picks from 2017, along with a handful from 2016 found themselves in Rookie Ball to end the season.
Kevin Santa actually played in three levels over the summer, including A+ Modesto and AAA Tacoma. The bulk of his time was spent with the AZL Mariners though, where he performed admirably. The former River Rat slashed .331/.417/.449 while scoring 26 times and driving in 17 more. He had three doubles, three homeruns and stole nine bases.
Connor Hoover joined Santa on the AZL Mariners and posted a ridiculous .481 on-base percentage across 49 games. He collected 35 hits and also walked 43 times. He added 40 runs and 16 steals to his ledger. Hoover was a member of the 2015 Altamonte Springs Boom.
Another 2015 River Rat who saw success was Laz Rivera. In 47 games for the AZL White Sox, Rivera totaled 19 extra base hits (12 doubles, 5 triples, 2 home runs) and had a batting average of .296. He scored 37 runs and drove in 24.
Max Hogan dominated Gulf Coast League pitching for the GCL Orioles. He led the team in runs (32), triples (5), on-base % (.452) and slugging % (.519). Perhaps most impressive was his nearly 2:1 walk to strikeout ratio (32:17). Hogan played for the College Park Freedom in 2013.
Others in Rookie Ball: Kevin Williams (Sanford), Justin Smith (Sanford), Tyler James (Altamonte), Cody Beckman (Sanford), Ryan Valdes (Winter Park), Igor Baez (Leesburg), Cameron Hanes (Winter Park), Matt Hardy (Altamonte), Mitch McKown (Winter Park), Brett Morales (Altamonte), Joey Markus (DeLand)