Long Beach State Produced the Most MLB Players in 2010
According to Press-Telegram columnist Bob Keisser, 17 former Long Beach State baseball players performed in the major leagues this year. "No other college team can boast of having that many players in the majors in 2010."
Known as Dirtbags during their college years, the group is headlined by three All-Stars, namely American League Most Valuable Player candidate Evan Longoria, National League Player of the Month for September Troy Tulowitzki, and MLB strikeout leader Jered Weaver. There isn't a university in the country that came close to duplicating the feats of this trio.
Tulowitzki and Weaver were college teammates in 2003 and 2004. Tulo and Longoria played side-by-side in the infield on the 2005 club. All three players were drafted in the first round by their respective teams: Weaver in 2004 by the Los Angeles Angels, Tulowitzki in 2005 by the Colorado Rockies, and Longoria in 2006 by the Tampa Bay Rays.
Longoria hit .294/.372/.507 with 46 2B, 5 3B, 22 HR, 72 BB, 96 R, 104 RBI, and 15 SB in 20 attempts for the Rays this season. He was the AL Rookie of the Year in 2008 and has been named to the All-Star team in each of his first three MLB seasons while being the recipient of a Gold Glove and a Silver Slugger in 2009. Longoria, who turned 25 last week, led the AL and NL with 7.7 Wins Above Replacement (brWAR) in 2010.
Tulowitzki posted career highs in AVG (.315), OBP (.381), and SLG (.568) this season. He hit 15 HR during the final month, including 14 in a 15-game stretch when the Colorado Rockies won 13 times to climb within one game of the NL West lead. The slick-fielding shortstop missed 33 games with a fractured wrist in June and July but still managed to jack 27 HR in only 122 G and 529 PA. He turned 26 yesterday.
In addition to leading the majors in Ks, Weaver topped the AL in GS (34); finished second in K/BB (4.315); third in IP (224.1), K/9 (9.35), and WHIP (1.07); fifth in ERA (3.01), ERA+ (135), and FIP (3.06); seventh in H/9 (7.50); and ninth in BB/9 (2.17). The 6-foot-7 righthander ranked second among pitchers in brWAR (5.4) and fifth in fgWAR (5.9). He pitched six or more innings in 31 of his 34 starts, ranking second in quality starts with 27. Unfortunately, Weave had the 10th-worst run support among 43 qualified starters, which negatively affected his W-L record (13-12). The five-year veteran turned 28 last week. Unsigned beyond 2010, he will be entering the second of his three arbitration seasons in 2011.
Longoria and Tulowitzki have two of the most team-friendly contracts in baseball. It's hard to believe but Longo made only $950,000 this year and will earn just $2 million in 2011, $4.5M in 2012, and $6M in 2013. The Rays have a $7.5M team option with a $3M buyout in 2014, an $11M option in 2015, and an $11.5M option in 2016. According to Cot's Baseball Contracts, the latter option may increase to $14M based on rankings in the MVP voting. Tulo, meanwhile, will earn $5.5M in 2011, $8.25M in 2012, and $10M in 2013. The Rockies have a $15M team option with a $2M buyout in 2014. At signing, Troy's deal was the largest ever for a player with less than two years of MLB service.
In alphabetical order, the following ex-Dirtbags also competed in the big leagues this year (with years at Long Beach State in parentheses): John Bowker (2002-04), Andrew Carpenter (2006), Bobby Cramer (2000-01), Bobby Crosby (1999-2001), Brad Davis 2002-04), Greg Dobbs (1999), Danny Espinosa (2006-08), Marco Estrada (2005), Jason Giambi (1990-92), Paul McAnulty (2002), Cesar Ramos (2003-05), Jeremy Reed (2000-02), Jason Vargas (2004), and Vance Worley (2006-08).
Crosby was a first-round draft pick (25th overall) by the Oakland A's in 2001. The shortstop was named the AL Rookie of the Year in 2004 when he hit .239/.319/.426 with 34 2B and 22 HR in 151 games and 623 plate appearances. Giambi, a second-round pick by the A's in 1992, won the AL MVP in 2000 when he hit .333/.476/.647 with 43 HR, 137 BB, and 137 RBI. The lefthanded slugger led the league in OBP, BB, and OPS+ (187). He placed second in the MVP voting the following season after topping the circuit in OBP (.477), SLG (.660), OPS (1.137), OPS+ (198), 2B (47), and BB (129).
After Longoria, Tulowitzki, and Weaver, the next most valuable player in 2010 as measured by WAR was Vargas. The Seattle Mariners southpaw started 31 games, tossed 192.2 innings, and produced a 2.15 K/BB ratio, 1.25 WHIP, and a 3.78 ERA. The 27-year old succeeded by throwing strikes and keeping the ball in the park. Nearly 90 percent of his pitches were either fastballs or changeups.
Look for Espinosa and Worley to make a bigger splash in the NL East in 2011. Espinosa played shortstop at Long Beach State and in his three years in the minors but was primarily a second baseman after the Washington Nationals called him up when rosters were expanded on September 1. He belted three homers in his first 15 plate appearances and slugged six for the month. The combination of striking out too often (30 times in 112 PA) and hitting only .239 on balls in play reduced his batting average to .214 but a slugging average of .447 was more in-line with his MiLB production (.455). Espinosa, a member of the U.S. team in the Futures Game in 2009 and 2010, figures to compete for the second base job for the Nats next spring. At worst, he should make the team as a backup middle infielder.
Worley was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies in the 20th round out of McClatchy HS (Sacramento, CA) in 2005 and the third round after his junior year at Long Beach State in 2008. He signed and combined to go 3-2 with a 7.57 K/BB ratio, 1.07 WHIP, and a 2.66 ERA in 11 GS and 61 IP in the New York Penn League (Short-Season A) and South Atlantic League (Low Class A) that summer. Worley struggled in 2009 at Double A Reading (7-12, 2.04 K/BB, 1.38 WHIP, and 5.34 ERA) but bounced back in 2010 (10-7, 2.59 K/BB, 1.30 WHIP, and 3.36 ERA) while earning a trip to the big leagues this summer before making his Triple A debut for Lehigh Valley. The bespectacled righthander went 1-1 with a 1.38 ERA for the Phillies, highlighted by five scoreless innings against the Atlanta Braves one week after his 23rd birthday in the second-to-last game of the season. He should get a good look next spring.
Since former Long Beach head coach Dave Snow's arrival in 1989, at least two players from every Dirtbags team reached the major leagues. I'll let Keisser, who also serves as the Press-Telegram's beat writer for Long Beach State, take it from here.
The 1989 team sent Kyle Abbott, Darrell Sherman and Tom Urbani to the majors.
Mike Weathers succeeded Snow in 2001 and resigned after the 2010 season. He turned the program over to Troy Buckley, who served as the school's pitching coach from 2001-2007 and associate head coach in 2010. He was the minor league pitching coordinator with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2008 and 2009. Buckley worked with Carpenter, Cramer, Estrada, Ramos, Vargas, Weaver, and Worley in his previous stint at Long Beach State. It will be interesting to see if he can be as successful at producing position players as the two previous head coaches.
As Keisser concludes, "It's about the foundation that's been built, one that includes a ramp to the majors."