Sports

Local players continue their pursuit of a major league dream

Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey, left, and catcher Josh Thole, right, meet on the mound for a conference in-between pitches during the third inning of a baseball game, Saturday, June 15, 2013, in Arlington, Texas.
Toronto Blue Jays starting pitcher R.A. Dickey, left, and catcher Josh Thole, right, meet on the mound for a conference in-between pitches during the third inning of a baseball game, Saturday, June 15, 2013, in Arlington, Texas. AP

Several players from the metro-east are continuing to pursuit of a career in professional baseball, from the three that were drafted just last month to Highland right-hander Jake Odorizzi, who is in his sixth major league season.

Here’s an update on each through games played Sunday, July 9:

OFF AND RUNNING

CHAD SPANBERGER, 21, of Granite City, was selected from the University of Arkansas in the sixth round of this year’s draft by the Colorado Rockies. The 6-3, 235-pound first baseman was assigned to Grand Junction of the short-season Pioneer League, where he hit a home run in his first pro game. Through 13 games as of Sunday, he’s hitting .353 with five home runs and 12 RBIs in nine games. Spanberger is slugging .765 and has an OPS of 1.158.

JOSH FLEMING, 21, is a graduate of Columbia High School and the first player ever drafted out of Webster University in St. Louis. He was taken in the fifth round of this year’s draft by the Tampa Bay Rays. He has, so far, picked up in his pro career where he left off this spring at Webster, where he was 8-1 with a 0.68 ERA. Assigned to the rookie league Princeton (West Virginia) Rays, he earned the victory in a perfect two-inning debut. He was roughed up in a July 6 outing, however, allowing four runs on four hits in just 2.1 innings. On the season, Fleming is 1-0 with a 6.14 ERA, but he is still averaging more than a strikeout per inning.

TANNER HOUCK, 21, a 6-5, 218-pound right-hander from Collinsville was the No. 1 pick of the Boston Red Sox and the 24th overall selection in the June 12 draft. He received a signing bonus of $2,614,500 and was assigned to the Lowell (Massachusetts) Spinners of the rookie-A New York-Penn League, where he has yet to make a game appearance. Houck was 4-7 with a 3.33 ERA in 14 starts and 94 2/3 innings this spring as a junior at Missouri. He walked 24, struck out 95 and limited opposing hitters to a .220 average. 

ON THE RISE

AUSTIN BOSSART, 24, is a 2011 graduate of O’Fallon and former first-team all-state catcher. He was drafted in the 14th round by the Philadelphia Phillies in 2015 out of the University of Pennsylvania, where he was the Ivy League Co-Player of the Year. He currently is in class A Clearwater of the Florida State League. Bossart is the back up to Dominican-born starter Delvi Grullon, but is getting a start every three games and batting .214 with a pair of home runs and seven RBIs.

GEOFF HARTLIEB, 23, a 2012 graduate of Highland High School, has been more dominant as a professional pitcher than he was even in college or high school. A fastball that routinely touched the mid-90s caught the attention of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who drafted him in the 29th round (No. 885 overall) of last year’s draft out of Lindenwood University in St. Charles, Missouri. Hartlieb earned four wins while averaging more than a strike out per inning in short-season Bristol, Virginia of the Appalachian League. He started this season for the low-A West Virginia Power of the South Atlantic League, but was quickly promoted to Bradenton of the advanced-A Florida State League. In 32.2 innings pitched, he’s 1-2 with a 1.06 ERA. He’s converted seven of nine save opportunities.

BRYAN HUDSON, 20, a 6-foot-8, 220-pound left-hander from Alton was the third round pick of the Chicago Cubs in 2015. He pitched just six innings in rookie ball and 58.2 innings in short season class A Eugene of the Northwest League in 2016. Hudson currently is with the South Bend (Indiana) Cubs of the class A Midwest League, where in 14 starts he is 3-3 with a 4.54 ERA. In 73.1 innings, he’s struck out 47 batters, but has also walked 31 and hit seven.

KANE SWEENY, 24, of Millstadt, is a 2011 graduate of Belleville West and the 29th pick of the New York Yankees in the 2015 draft. The organization released him after the 2016 season during which he batted .269 between Class A Charleston and low-A Staten Island. He’s currently batting .338 with six home runs and 33 RBIs in 43 games with the Washington Wild Things, however, and will be representing the East Division in the independent Frontier League All-Star Game in Joliet July 12.

IN THE BIGS

JAKE ODORIZZI, 27, is in his sixth season in the big leagues and fifth with the Tampa Bay Rays. The Highland right-hander reached the All-Star break with a 5-4 record and a 4.63 ERA. He’s struck out 72 batters in 83.2 innings pitched. After reaching arbitration-eligible years of service, he received a pay raise from $520,700 per year to $4.1 million this season. He’ll be eligible for arbitration again in 2018 and can be a free agent in 2020.

JOSH THOLE, 30, the former Mater Dei standout, has split eight major league seasons between the New York Mets and Toronto Blue Jays. He was released by Toronto when pitcher R.A. Dickey — who preferred to pitch to Thole — signed a free agent contract in Atlanta. Thole was promptly signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but in a March 8 spring training game against the Cubs, tore a hamstring. The resulting surgery likely will keep him out the remainder of the season.

LOOKING FOR WORK

CODY DAILY, who will turn 25 on July 28, is a product of Granite City High School and Southern Illinois University in Carbondale. He was signed out of SIU by the White Sox in June 2016 and had a solid season for the class A Kannapolis Intimidators of the South Atlantic League, batting .281 with eight home runs and 71 RBIs. The White Sox released Daily in March, however.

JAKE DEPEW, 25, was selected in the ninth round of the 2010 MLB Draft by the Tampa Bay Rays straight out of Granite City High School. After two seasons with the class AA Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League, the big catcher was invited to the Rays spring training as a non-roster, but elected free agency. He signed a minor league contract with the Boston Red Sox on Nov. 21 and was assigned to class A Pawtucket. On June 23, after 32 games with the Portland Sea Dogs of the Eastern League, Depew was given his release. He was hitting .218 with 2 home runs and 11 RBIs. 

BRYANT HOLTMANN, 24, was a 24th-round pick of the Arizona Diamondbacks out of Florida State University. The left-handed pitcher, a resident of New Baden and graduate of Central High School in Breese, spent two seasons with the Missoula Osprey of the class A Pioneer League. He was released following the 2016 season, however, in which he posted a 1-2 record with a 6.28 ERA.

Sports Editor Todd Eschman: 618-239-2540, @tceschman

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