A.J. Pollock shines while four other former Notre Dame baseball players are also on MLB rosters.
The Irish don’t have many big time names currently in Major League Baseball, but one stands out with his start to the season. A.J. Pollock has always been a good big league player. He had a very nice season in 2015, but was unfortunately sidelined nearly all of 2016 with a fractured elbow. He returned last season, but the results were a mixed bag. Fortunately, in his age 30 season and contract year, he could be about to breakout.
Pollock just received National League (NL) Player of the Month for April, after hitting .291 with 9 homers and 24 RBIs. He is also the early WAR (Wins Above Replacement) leader in the NL. Assuming he continues with his hot start, he will be in for a nice pay day this off-season.
John Axford is also having himself a nice resurgent season at age 35. Axford broke into the league in 2009 and has always been a very reliable reliever. However, the last few seasons his stats began to tail off while with the Oakland Athletics.
He signed a 1-year deal with the Toronto Blue Jays over the summer, and through 12 games in April he recorded a 2.08 ERA in 13 innings pitched. Two key stats are helping Axford so far in 2018. His strikeout percentage is at its highest since 2015 while his walk percentage is at its lowest since 2013. Hopefully he can keep it up the rest of the way.
Mancini broke onto the scene last season; placing 3rd in the American League (AL) Rookie of the Year rankings. Playing mostly left field for the Baltimore Orioles, Mancini finished April with 3 homers, 9 RBIs and a .272 batting average. The 2013 8th round pick has been a pleasant surprise since his September call-up in 2016.
The most recognizable name on this list, and former two-sport standout at Notre Dame; Samardzija started his season late after suffering a strained pectoral muscle in Spring Training. He was able to make 3 April starts with the San Francisco Giants, but is still building up arm strength. Like usual, he should be counted on – at the very least – as an innings eater for the Giants. Through almost 14 innings, he boasts a pedestrian 5.27 earned run average – although most of the damage was accumulated in his second start.
Veteran relief pitcher, David Phelps, went down with a torn UCL requiring Tommy John surgery in late March. The Seattle Mariners hope to have Phelps back for next season. Throughout his 6 year career, he has been reliable as a starter and reliever, but settled into a bullpen role in 2017.
Minor League Report
Dan Slania made his major league debut last season for the Giants, but only saw 1 scoreless inning out of the pen. Slania began this season in AA, and could be in line for another call-up later this season. In 9 appearances, he has a 3.09 ERA and 10 strikeouts.
After his 5th round selection in 2016, Cavan Biggio (son of Hall of Famer Craig Biggio), has steadily moved up the Blue Jays farm system. This year, he finds himself in AA as a 23 year old slashing .320/.436/.707 with 6 homers and 19 RBIs. If he keeps this up, he will be in AAA quickly.
Stay tuned as we bring you monthly updates from the former Irish standouts around Major League Baseball.