.@josh6jung just cleared TWO fences. 😳 pic.twitter.com/Cug8T0GT2u
— Texas Rangers (@Rangers) March 10, 2023
By Jerry Briggs
Special for The JB Replay
With the Major League Baseball season starting on Thursday, I’m working to compile vignettes on athletes from the state of Texas who likely will make their way onto opening-day rosters. The list will include players who played their high school or college baseball in the state. Here is a list of the players, in alphabetical order — likely with more to come as I continue with the research:
Tyler Alexander/LHP/Detroit Tigers/Chicago native/Southlake Carroll HS/TCU – The 28-year-old Alexander is scheduled to pitch out of the bullpen for the Tigers. He’s pitched 95 games, with 42 starts, over the past four seasons in the majors. Alexander is 9-22 with a 4.36 earned run average. He was drafted by the Tigers on the second round in 2015.
Brandon Belt/INF/Toronto Blue Jays/Nacogdoches/Lufkin HS/University of Texas – Signed in January a reported one-year, $9.3 million free-agent contract with the Jays of the American League after spending 12 seasons and winning two World Series rings with the Giants in the NL. Expected to play with the Jays both as a DH and at first base behind all star Vlad Guerrero. Helped lead the Texas Longhorns to a runner-up finish at the 2009 College World Series. Played for UT coach Augie Garrido from 2008 to 2009.
Cavan Biggio/UTILITY/Toronto Blue Jays/Houston St.Thomas HS/University of Notre Dame – Signed in January a one-year $2.8 million contract. The son of former Houston Astros star Craig Biggio is expected to be utilized as a spot starter in both the infield and outfield. Starting his fifth year in the majors with a .228 average and a .740 OPS. Biggio helped lead St. Thomas to the 2011 TAPPS Class 5A state championship.
Matt Carpenter/DH-1B/San Diego Padres/Galveston/Missouri City Elkins HS/TCU — The 37-year-old Carpenter is expected to be the Padres’ left-handed bat in a platoon with right-side swinging Nelson Cruz. He’ll also play first base as the former 13th-round draft pick out of TCU enters his 13th season in the major leagues. Carpenter has batted .263 for his career with 1,192 hits. He’s also slugged 170 homers, including 36 in his best year with the Cardinals in 2018. Last year with the Yankees, Carpenter showed he could still play, hitting 15 homers in 47 games.
JT Chargois/RHP/Miami Marlins/Sulphur, La., HS and Rice University – Traded from the Rays to the Marlins in the offseason. Expected to pitch out of the bullpen. The righthander is 12-6 with a 3.54 ERA in a career playing for the Twins, Dodgers, Rays and now the Marlins. In college, Chargois pitched three seasons for a Wayne Graham-coached Rice team that reached the NCAA tournament each year from 2010-2012.
Hunter Dozier/INF/Kansas City Royals/Wichita Falls/Denton HS/Stephen F. Austin University — Projected as a starter at third base alongside shortstop Bobby Witt, Jr., another Texan, from Colleyville Heritage High School. Dozier is a seventh-year MLB player, all with the Royals. Revamped his swing in efforts to rekindle success from 2019, when he hit 26 home runs. Drafted eighth overall on the first round in 2013 out of Stephen F. Austin. In his senior year at SFA, he was Southland Conference Player of the Year and a finalist for the Brooks Wallace award for best shortstop.
Nathan Eovaldi/RHP/Texas Rangers/Houston native, attended Alvin HS. — Projected to pitch second in the starting rotation for the Rangers. One of the Rangers’ top offseason acquisitions after he spent the past five seasons with the Red Sox. A former opening-day starter for Sox. Entering his 12th year in the majors with a 67-68 record and a 4.16 ERA. Drafted in the 11th round in 2008, by the LA Dodgers, out of Alvin High School.
Kyle Finnegan/RHP/Washington Nationals/Houston-area Kingwood HS/Texas State University — Projected to pitch out of the Nationals’ bullpen as he starts his fourth season in MLB. Led team last year with 14 holds and finished second with 11 saves and a career-high 70 strikeouts. In his career, he has forged a 12-13 record with a 3.43 earned run average. Played for Coach Ty Harrington at Texas State from 2011-13.
Paul Goldschmidt/1B/St. Louis Cardinals/The Woodlands HS/Texas State – An eighth-round draft pick by the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2009, Goldschmidt has become one of the best in baseball. He was the National League’s Most Valuable Player last year and started this spring for Team USA in the World Baseball Classic. In 12 major league seasons, he’s made seven All-Star game appearances and has hit .295 with 315 homers and 1,042 RBIs. Played for Ty Harrington at Texas State from 2007-09.
Randal Grichuk/OF/Colorado Rockies/Lamar Consolidated HS – Grichuk is in his second season with the Rockies and his 10th in the majors. He’s battled a sports hernia during spring training but is expected to be ready to play next month. He’s hit .247 for his career, with 175 homers. Spent four seasons each with the Cardinals and with the Blue Jays before coming to Colorado last spring in a trade. Grichuk is a former 2009 first-round draft pick out of Lamar Consolidated High School.
Trent Grisham/OF/San Diego Padres/Burleson/Richland, North Richland Hills HS — Broke into the big leagues in 2019 with the Milwaukee Brewers. Started in the outfield the past three seasons with the San Diego Padres, winning gold gloves as a centerfielder in 2020 and 2022. Trying to bounce back offensively after hitting .184 last year. Selected in the first round, 15th overall, out of high school in 2015 by the Brewers. Played in Triple A for the San Antonio Missions in 2019 before his call up to the majors. Hit for the cycle in his last game before getting the call to the big leagues.
Darick Hall/INF/Philadelphia Phillies/Hereford, Ariz./Dallas Baptist University — The 27-year-old Hall is expected to start at first base for the defending National League champions in the wake of an injury to Rhys Hoskins. Hall started last season at Triple A Lehigh Valley and played well, hitting 28 HR with 88 RBIs before getting called up to the Phillies in June. He played in 41 games for the Phillies and hit .250 with nine homers. Hall was drafted in the 14th round by the Phillies in 2016 out of Dallas Baptist.
Ke’Bryan Hayes/3B/Pittsburgh Pirates/Tomball Concordia Lutheran HS – Hit .333 in the spring and was making hard contact consistently. Starting his fourth season in the majors, all with the Pirates. Played 136 games last year, his career high. He’s a career .261 hitter. Drafted by the Pirates out of high school in 2015 with 32nd pick on the first round.
Taylor Hearn/LHP/Texas Rangers/Royse City HS, in Texas; San Jacinto College, Oklahoma Baptist – Hearn’s home of Royse City is 50 miles northeast of Globe Life Field, the home of the Rangers, with whom he has pitched for parts of the past four seasons. Hearn, the son of Clem Hearn, a former professional rodeo star, is 12-15 with a 4.95 earned run average in his career, all with the Rangers.
Corey Julks/OF/Houston Astros/Friendswood/Clear Brook HS/University of Houston — The Astros announced Tuesday that Julks made the team as a fourth outfielder. Julks hit .270 with 31 homers and 89 RBIs last year at Triple-A Sugar Land. Julks was an all-Conference USA player for coach Todd Whitting at the University of Houston in 2017.
Josh Jung/INF/Texas Rangers/San Antonio MacArthur HS/Texas Tech — Expected to start at third base on opening day for the Rangers. Hit a home run in the first at-bat of his major league debut last September. He went on to struggle a bit with a .204 average, but he did slam five homers in 26 games. Played for coach Tom Alfieri at MacArthur and for Tim Tadlock at Texas Tech. Made All-American and played in the College World Series for Tech in 2018 and 2019. Drafted by the Rangers in 2019 with the eighth overall choice on the first round.
Clayton Kershaw/LHP/Los Angeles Dodgers/Highland Park HS – Veteran left-handed pitcher signed a one-year contract for $20 million, meaning he will pitch for the Dodgers for a 16th season. The three-time Cy Young Award winner and nine-time National League all star is 197-87 with a 2.48 ERA in his brilliant career. He was 12-3, 2.28 last season. Kershaw was selected seventh overall in the 2006 draft by the Dodgers out of Highland Park High School in the Dallas area.
Corey Kluber/RHP/Boston Red Sox/Coppell High School in Texas/Stetson University – Kluber, who will turn 37 on April 10, is expected to be in the Red Sox’s starting pitcher on opening day. He pitched in 2009 and 2010 with the Double A San Antonio Missions and has spent the last 12 years in the majors. Kluber claimed Cy Young Awards with the Cleveland Indians in 2014 and 2017. Bouncing back physically from a few injury-plagued seasons, Kluber pitched 164 innings last year with the Rays. He finished 10-10. Kluber is 113-71 in his career.
Shea Langeliers/C/Oakland A’s/Portland, Ore. native/Keller, Tx, HS/Baylor University – After showing enough to satisfy management in the second half of his rookie season last summer, Langeliers appears poised to become the A’s starter behind the plate. He hit .218 with six home runs and 22 RBI. It’s been written that the 25-year-old probably won’t make people forget the departed Sean Murphy, but officials are apparently betting that the A’s can make it work. Langeliers played for Rob Stramp at Keller HS and for Steve Rodriguez at Baylor. He was the ninth pick in the 2019 draft, out of Baylor, by the Braves.
Nick Lodolo/LHP/Cincinnati Reds/Laverne HS, Calif./TCU – Lodolo will enter his second season in MLB as a starter. Likely he is the Reds’ No. 2 starter behind Hunter Greene. Last season as a rookie, he ranked among the National League rookie pitching leaders in ERA (4th, 3.66), wins (T5th, 4) and strikeouts (3rd, 131). Played at TCU for three seasons under Jim Schlossnagle and pitched on NCAA tournament teams in 2017 and 2019. Lodolo went to the Reds as the seventh overall pick in the draft in 2019.
Lucas Luetge/LHP/Atlanta Braves/Brenham/Bellville HS/Rice University – Luetge, at 36, will pitch out of the Braves’ bullpen. Dispatched from the majors to the minors in 2015, he toiled there for most of seven seasons before getting a break with the Yankees. Wearing the pinstripes, he went 8-6 over the last two seasons with an ERA of around 2.70. In December, the Yankees traded him to the Braves for SS Caleb Durbin and RHP Indigo Diaz. His pro career began in 2008 when he was taken in the 21st round by the Brewers out of Rice.
Hoby Milner/LHP/Milwaukee Brewers/Dallas/Fort Worth Paschal HS/University of Texas – The 32-year-old Milner, coming off his best year in the big leagues, will pitch out of the bullpen for the Brewers. He’s has played for four teams in the last six years, pitching in 160 games. He’s 3-3 with a 4.31 earned run average. Milner has pitched for the Brewers the past two seasons, and last year he established a career high with 67 appearances. He had a 3-3 record, a 3.76 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. Milner was drafted in the seventh round out of UT in 2012 by the Phillies.
A.J. Minter/LHP/Atlanta Braves/Tyler/Brook Hill School in Bullard/Texas A&M – Minter is expected to help anchor the Braves’ bullpen once again. He’s pitched six previous seasons, all with the Braves, and has posted 25 saves and 84 holds during that time. His record is 16-19, and his ERA is 3.24. He’s also made 17 postseason appearances, including three in the 2021 World Series. Minter played for Coach Terry Pirtle at the Brook Hill School in East Texas. Played for Rob Childress-coached teams at Texas A&M from 2013-15.
Max Muncy/INF/Los Angeles Dodgers/Midland native/Keller HS/Baylor University — The 32-year-old Muncy is expected to take over at third base in an infield that is undergoing significant changes with the loss of Justin Turner and Trea Turner. Muncy likely is up for the task. He’s nothing if not versatile, playing first base two years ago and splitting time at second and third last year. Offensively Muncy struggled last year, hitting .196, well below his career average. This year he hopes to get closer to his career high of .263 so that his home run/RBI numbers can return to the 30/90 range. In 2012, Muncy was drafted on the fifth round by the Oakland A’s, a few weeks after he led 49-win Baylor to an NCAA Super Regional.
Colin Poche/LHP/Tampa Bay Rays/Flower Mound/Flower Mound Marcus HS/ University of Arkansas/Dallas Baptist — The 29-year-old lefthander will start his third season in the majors pitching out of the Rays’ bullpen. In the past two seasons, both with the Rays, he’s pitched 116 games. Poche is 9-7 with a 4.32 ERA in his career. Attended Arkansas and later Dallas Baptist in college. Selected in the 14th round of the 2016 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks and traded to the Rays in 2018. Raised eyebrows in 2020 when he posted concerns about social injustice, specifically the killing in 2014 of Tamir Rice in Cleveland.
Ryan Pressly/RHP/Houston Astros/Flower Mound Marcus – The 34-year-old Pressley has been a mainstay in the Astros’ recent era of excellence. He joined the team in July of 2018, coming down to Houston in a trade with the Minnesota Twins. The Astros, who won their first title in 2017, have made playoff runs in each of the five seasons that Pressly has been on the roster. In the World Series last fall, he made five appearances, didn’t allow an earned run and earned two saves. Pressly is embarking on his 11th season in the big leagues. He’s 29-28. He’s got an ERA of 3.20, and he’s got 77 saves, including 59 in the last two seasons. In high school, Pressly attended American Heritage Academy for three years and was an 11th-round pick of the Red Sox out of Marcus HS in 2011.
Brooks Raley/LHP/New York Mets/San Antonio native/Uvalde HS/Texas A&M — A hamstring injury kept the 34-year-old Raley out of game action for about three weeks this spring, but it’s expected that he’ll have time to ramp up activity, allowing him to be activated by opening day. With closer Edwin Diaz injured and lost for the season, the Mets will need other bullpen arms to step up, and Raley has the experience to fill in. He’s pitched in 160 games in the regular season and in another 15 in the postseason since 2020. The Cubs drafted Raley in the sixth round out of Texas A&M in 2009. He first pitched in the big leagues in 2012.
Anthony Rendon/INF/Los Angeles Angels/Houston Lamar HS/Rice University – The 32-year-old Rendon is determined to show that he can re-create the sucess that prompted the Angels to reward him with a $245 million, long-term contract three years ago. A power-hitting third baseman, he slugged a total of 103 home runs in a four-year stretch from 2016-19 with the Washington Nationals. Since joining the Angels in 2020, he has hit only 22 homers, as he’s been dogged by an assortment of injuries. In college, Rendon produced a career .373 average over three seasons for Wayne Graham at Rice University. Named as the national Player of the Year in 2010, he followed that with another strong season in 2011 that prompted the Nationals to pick him sixth overall in the draft.
Drew Smith/RHP/New York Mets/Fort Worth/Crowley HS/Dallas Baptist – The 29-year-old righthander is making a reported $1.3 million and will pitch in the bullpen for a Mets team expected to contend for the National League pennant. Smith has been in the major leagues for the parts of the last five seasons, all with the Mets. Last year, he made 44 appearances and went 3-3 with a 3.33 ERA. He’s 7-6 and 3.24 in his career. Smith was drafted by the Tigers in the third round in 2015. Reached the big leagues in 2018, and sat out all of 2019 after elbow surgery.
Trevor Story/INF/Red Sox/Irving HS – The playing status of the 30-year-old Story is in question after he underwent a procedure on his right elbow in January. The surgery on his throwing arm has been described as an internal bracing on the ulnar collateral ligament, an alternative to Tommy John surgery. The hope is that Story could be ready at midseason. But officials told cbssports.com that they can’t ‘bank on him’ being back this year. It’s a setback for the Red Sox. Story hit .238 with 16 homers and 66 RBIs for the Sox last year. In six seasons at Colorado, he was an all-star twice. Story was the 45th pick in the 2011 draft out of Irving High School.
Ross Stripling/RHP/San Francisco Giants/Pennsylvania native/Southlake Carroll HS/Texas A&M – The 33-year-old Stripling is expected to pitch as a starter in his first year with the Giants after signing a two-year contract for $25 million. Stripling is 38-38 with a 3.78 ERA in seven seasons in the majors. Last year, he pitched well in Toronto, going 10-4 with a 3.01. In high school, Stripling played for Larry Hughes at Southlake Carroll. In college, he pitched the Rob Childress-coached Aggies to three NCAA tournaments, including the 2011 College World Series.
Noah Syndergaard/RHP/Los Angeles Dodgers/Mansfield Legacy HS – Signed a one-year contract with the Dodgers for $13 million. Expected to be the fourth starter behind Julio Urias and fellow Texans Dustin May and Clayton Kershaw. Syndergaard started his MLB career in New York, playing six years with the Mets. In 2016, his second season, he made the NL all-star team. Syndergaard played parts of last year with the Los Angeles Angels and the Philadelphia Phillies. With the Phillies, he pitched in three playoff games, including a World Series start against the Houston Astros. He was drafted 38th overall by the Toronto Blue Jays out of high school.
Jameson Taillon/RHP/Chicago Cubs/The Woodlands HS – Signed by the Cubs in the offseason as a free agent. Expected to be the fourth starter in the rotation behind Drew Smyly, Justin Steele and Marcus Stroman. He is 51-35 with a 3.84 ERA in six MLB seasons. Last year, he was 14-5 with a 3.91 ERA for the Yankees. Coming out of high school in the Houston area, he was the second overall pick in the 2010 draft by the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Ryan Tepera/RHP/Los Angeles Angels/Brazoswood HS/Blinn College/Sam Houston State – The former 19th-round draft pick broke into the majors in 2015 with the Blue Jays. Has also pitched for the Cubs and the White Sox. The 35-year-old will pitch out of the bullpen for the Angels. Tepera is 17-18 in his career with a 3.50 ERA, including 5-4 and 3.61 last year.
Jose Trevino/C/NY Yankees/Corpus Christi St. John Paul II/Oral Roberts – Will enter his second year with the Yankees and his fifth in major league baseball coming off a season in which he made the American League all-star team, played in the playoffs and won a Gold Glove. He’ll share time behind the plate with Kyle Higashioka. He was slowed in spring training with a wrist sprain.
Michael Wacha/RHP/San Diego Padres/Iowa City native, Texarkana Pleasant Grove HS, Texas A&M University – Signed as a free agent in the offseason, Wacha will enter his 11th season bidding for a spot at the back of the starting rotation for a team that is built to win. He’s been solid in his career, 74-50 with a 4.05 ERA. After seven years in St. Louis, he moved in 2020 to the New York Mets and in 2021 to the Tampa Bay Rays and in 2022 with the Boston Red Sox. He is on a one-year contract with the Padres, with player options for 2024, 2025 and 2026.
Bobby Witt Jr./INF/Kansas City Royals/Fort Worth-area Colleyville Heritage HS — Will enter his second season in the big leagues with high expectations. As a rookie, the son of former Rangers pitcher Bobby Witt hit .254 with 20 home runs and 80 RBIs. He also stole 30 bases. He entered the majors last season rated as the No. 1 prospect in baseball. The No. 2 overall pick in the 2019 draft (behind Orioles catcher Adley Rutschman) will get the shortstop job full time this year after the Royals traded Adalberto Mondesi.
Note: Compiled from player bios and reports at mlb.com and from baseball-reference.com.