Steven Strasburg has gotten a ton of well deserved attention for his dazzling debut for the Washington Nationals over the past month, and I’m sticking with my pre-season prediction that he will be the National League Rookie of the Year (ahead of the over-hyped Jason Heyward of Atlanta) when the season is over. But he’s not alone in representing the Mountain West Conference in Major League ballparks this summer. Strasburg, the former San Diego State star, may be the most recognized but he’s not alone in representing the MWC on big league pitching mounds.
A pair of former Aztecs, Aaron Harang and Justin Masterson, have already established some big league credentials. Harang is in his ninth season, and is a cornerstone of the starting rotation for the Cincinnati Reds, having already made 17 starts and pitched over 100 innings this season. He is currently 6-7 with a 5.02 ERA. Masterson is in the middle of this third big league season, having been traded last year from the Red Sox to the Cleveland Indians. This season, the former second round draft pick has been a regular member of the Indians rotation, going 3-7 with a 4.85 ERA. He broke a three-game slide with an impressive 6-1 win over Toronto in his last start, going 8 1/3 innings and giving up just a single run.
Now in his third year, former New Mexico Lobo Danny Herrera has become a key member of the bullpen for those first place Reds. A left-handed specialist, Herrera has already pitched in 36 games, posting a 3.91 ERA while going 1-3 so far.
Baltimore rookie Jake Arrieta, a former TCU Horned Frog, was called up in June and got off to a tremendous start when he shut down the New York Yankees and the San Francisco Giants in his first two Major League starts. He allowed just three hits and a single run in seven innings against the Giants to move to 2-0.
“The kid is pretty impressive,” said teammate Miguel Tejada of Arrieta after the game in San Francisco. “It doesn’t look like he only has two starts in the big leagues.”
Things got a little tougher for Arrieta after that, and he saw his record dip to 2-2 after a loss to Oakland. Still, the righthander appears to have a bright future with the O’s.
Arrieta’s former TCU teammate, right handed reliever Sam Demel, was traded by the A’s early in the season to the Arizona Diamondbacks, where he reached the big leagues and has become a heavily used member of their bullpen. Demel went unscored upon in his first four outings for Arizona, and after seven outings, he had a 3.68 ERA and seven strikeouts. Several observers are predicting that Demel will be the D-Backs closer of the not-to-distant future.
Andrew Cashner, still another Horned Frog, is in the middle of his rookie year with the Chicago Cubs, and has been a stalwart in the Cubs bullpen. The club’s 2008 first round draft pick made a rapid climb to the big leagues, and has not disappointed, posting a 2.40 ERA in 12 appearances so far. Like Demel, he appears to be a closer of the future for his club.
Scott Atchison has followed a different kind of path from TCU to the big leagues. Atchison played in Fort Worth well before the Jim Schlossnagle era. In fact, Scott was All-SOUTHWEST CONFERENCE and All-WAC during his days as a Frog, having been drafted in 1998.
Atchison has made the long journey from Texas to Seattle, San Francisco, JAPAN and finally now, Boston, where he’s become a dependable part of the BoSox bullpen. His journey hasn’t ended there, however, as he’s been sent down to triple A and recalled three times this season alone. Atchison is currently 1-1 with a 5.13 ERA and pitching well for the Red Sox.