Thursday, December 15, 2016

Unknown Heroes: Totally Random Rookie Edition

Every once in awhile, a player gets called up from the minors that I immediately take a liking to, with no real rhyme or reason.  Sometimes that player is not even really all that good.  Yet I like them anyway, and I try hard to find cards of them, when they are available.  I won't be talking about any star players here.  Some of these guys were top prospects, but most were just depth options.  I may do more of these posts at some point, this is by no means an exhaustive list, but these are just five players that I really enjoyed watching despite their careers never really taking off.

I have covered Hansack before.  The Nicaraguan pitcher had a long and winding path to the Major Leagues that saw him actually leave baseball for a few years.  He was seen by a Red Sox scout and moved quickly, finally making his Major League debut at 28 in 2006.  In his second game, he was in the midst of a no-hitter on the final day of the season, before rain ended the game early.  He made short stints in the next two seasons as well.  Hansack finished his Major League career 2-2 with a 3.70 ERA, striking out 18 and walking seven in 24.1 innings.  It wasn't much, but it was more than a lot of other players.  Hansack was an interesting story at the least.

Ryan Lavarnway was smart.  He attended Yale University and was working towards a degree in Philosophy (one of my minors) when he was drafted by the Red Sox.  Lavarnway was actually one of Boston's top prospects at one point.  The catcher was much better at the plate than behind it and hit more than 20 home runs in a season three times in the minors.  Lavarnway was called up to the Majors in 2011 and had a somewhat successful stint, hitting two home runs in the second to last game of the season.  He had a longer shot in 2012, but did not hit well.  He came back again in 2013 and was a little better, but he was starting to run out of time to make an impact.  He started bouncing around after 2014 and did not play in the Majors in 2016.  His final numbers in Boston over 97 games were .201/.249/.315 with five home runs and 34 RBIs.

My first Red Sox refractor that I pulled from a pack was Anastacio Martinez.  At one point, the Red Sox were trying to corner the market on pitchers named Martinez in the Majors and Minors.  Anastacio Martinez, another Dominican pitcher, signed as an international free agent in 1998 and had some electric stuff in the minors.  Martinez was traded to the Pirates in 2003, but was sent back less than two weeks later when Brandon Lyon's injury was discovered.  He pitched three games in the Pirates system.  Martinez finally made his Major League debut in 2004.  Now a reliever, Martinez was 2-1 with an 8.44 ERA.  He bounced around for several seasons after that, but left the Red Sox system after the 2005 season.

Van Buren is the only player on this list that actually made his Major League debut with a team other than the Red Sox.  He played in six games for the Cubs in 2005.  The Red Sox purchased his contract from the Cubs in December of 2005.  He had been utilized primarily as a closer in the minors and saved 25 games for the Iowa Cubs in 2005 and had 16 saves for the Pawtucket Red Sox in 2006.  Van Buren pitched in ten games for the Boston Red Sox in 2006 and was 1-0, but with an 11.77 ERA.  He was not terribly impressive at the Major League level.  After the season, he was sold to the Washington Nationals.  He never made it back to the Majors.

Like Lavarnway, Eric Wedge was once a top prospect as a catcher.  He did not have as much power, but he was a more well-rounded catcher.  He made his Major League debut in 1991 and singled in his only at-bat.  The next season, he played in 27 games and hit five home runs and drove in 11 runs.  But Boston had a number of catchers, both at the Major and Minor League level.  Wedge was left unprotected in the expansion draft and was selected by the Rockies.  He did not play much for Colorado in their inaugural season and was back in Boston for two games in 1994.  Wedge has since gone on to have some success as a Major League manager. 

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