Where are these former IronPigs now?
Brock Stassi, seen here with the Lehigh Valley IronPigs, is now playing with the Sacramento River Cats under former Pigs manager Dave Brundage. PHOTO COURTESY OF CHERYL PURSELL/LEHIGH VALLEY IRONPIGS
It’s time to take a look around Major League Baseball and throughout the minors, trying to find former IronPigs players and where they’ve wound up.
We start very close to home, though, as the Phillies on Monday dealt right-hander Tom Eshelman to Baltimore for international slot pool money. What that means for the Phillies is they get more money to sign international free agents than what MLB allotted them initially. It will allow them to maybe give a guy more money to get him to choose the Phillies over another team, or to sign more players than would have been possible.
Let’s hope they use the money wisely, because Eshelman was starting to look like the guy who was the Phillies 2017 Minor League Pitcher of the Year. In his last three starts for Lehigh Valley, Eshelman was 1-1 with a 2.14 ERA, including throwing a complete game in his last outing in Buffalo on Friday. In four games at the Triple-A level this season, Eshelman posted a 2.77 ERA. The Orioles assigned him to Triple-A Norfolk, who come in to play the IronPigs in late July. With the Orioles struggling mightily at the major league level, Eshelman may be a quick call-up for Baltimore.
J.P. Crawford was playing pretty well for Seattle, but an ankle sprain landed him on the 10-day IL and will keep him out likely until the last week in June. In 17 games with the Mariners, he was hitting .279/.343/.426 with one home run and five RBIs. Reliever Jesse Biddle became a teammate of Crawford’s after he was dealt to the Mariners by Atlanta back on May 20. Biddle has struggled this season and is a combined 0-1, 6.50 in 22 relief appearances with the Braves and Mariners.
The Tecolotes de los Dos Laredos of the Mexican League – which is generally equivalent to Triple-A competition – are home to former IronPigs and Phillies outfielder Domonic Brown. Last season, Brown hit 18 home runs, drove in 65 and hit a combined .253 with Monterrey and Dos Laredos. This season, he’s already matched his home run total and has 55 RBIs and a .307 average. His efforts were good enough for him to be named to play in the Mexican League All-Star Game, reminiscent of when he played in the Major League All-Star Game in 2013.
Jake Thompson, who was part of the Cole Hamels deal back in 2015, is also playing in a foreign league, pitching for the Lotte Giants in the Korean Baseball organization. Thompson has made 11 starts for Lotte and is 2-3 with a 4.74 ERA. He has 60 strikeouts in 62 2/3 innings in his first season in the KBO. Thompson may face former IronPig and Phillie Darin Ruf, who is in his third season with the Samsung Lions in the KBO, where he is hitting .276/.401/.481 with seven home runs and 40 RBIs. Ruf has played in 324 games with the Lions with a line of 71-289-.315/.406/.571, compared to a line of 35-96-.240/.314/.433 in 286 major league games.
Finally, former IronPigs manager Dave Brundage is in his third season at the helm of the Sacramento River Cats, the top affiliate of the San Francisco Giants. Former IronPigs Brock Stassi plays for Brundage, but went on the 7-day IL just three games into his assignment with the Cats. Stassi actually started the season at Double-A Richmond and hit .315 in 25 games before being promoted. Pat Venditte, the former IronPigs ambidextrous reliever, is also on Sacramento’s roster and has a 1.72 ERA in 16 relief appearances. Venditte was with the Giants for two games, but was sent back after posting a 16.20 ERA in the abbreviated opportunity. The River Cats are 32-31 this season, and 152-193 under Brundage overall.
NOW HE’S HERE, NOW HE’S NOT ... Nick Williams is back with the Phillies after another short stint at Triple-A. He was sent down when the Phillies acquired Jay Bruce from Seattle, but wound up heading back to join the team in Philadelphia when rookie Adam Haseley went on the IL with a groin strain after playing in just two games with the Phillies.
SINKING SLOWLY ... After an extra-innings win in Buffalo on Sunday, the IronPigs returned to the .500 mark with a 30-30 record. Their loss Saturday night had dropped them below .500 for the first time since they lost on Opening Day. The exodus of key players to the majors to cover for injuries has hurt Lehigh Valley, and there isn’t much help in sight. Keep an eye out for outfielders Mickey Moniak, and/or Cornelius Randolph, to possibly be promoted from Double-A Reading at some point in the near future.