Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Duke Baseball Players in the Minors

Duke University is a school well-recognized for its academic and athletic excellence. But few know of its rich history when it comes to baseball alumni. Particularly in the 1940s and 1950s, Duke was a baseball power in the Southern Conference. Two of their most famous baseball alumni came from this era. There's Dick Groat, the two-way star who had his number retired by the basketball team and then went on to be the 1952 NL MVP. There's also Lawrence Columbus Davis, who many would recognize by his nickname, Crash. The man whose likeness was portrayed in Bull Durham by Kevin Costner graduated from Duke in 1942. Like in the movie, Crash Davis was "in the show," but it was for more than 21 days, but he did have a lot of minor league experience. You can read more about the colorful real-life Crash here.

These days, the Duke baseball program has taken a drop from its once proud days. It has produced recent major leaguers such as Scott Schoenweiss, Chris Capuano, and Quinton McCraken. However, these players are remnants from a dark day in Duke Baseball, when the program was mired in a steroid scandal. The team has since cleaned up its act, at the expense of years at the bottom of the ACC. The last few seasons have proved better, and they've gotten a few top notch recruits. But how are former Dukies performing in the minors today?

The list is short and his headlined by Larry Broadway, a 7 year minor league veteran currently with the Washington Nationals' organization. Broadway has been on a AAA team for a few years now, but has not yet received his cup of coffee. Unfortunately that doesn't look promising for this season either, as in 2008 Broadway is hitting just .270/.345/.414 in 345 at bats as the Columbus Clippers' main first baseman. Broadway was a terrific hitter at Duke from 2000-2002 and was drafted by the then-Expos in the 3rd round of the 2002 draft. He signed a minor league contract prior to the 2007 season.

From more recent Duke teams comes Danny Otero, a pitcher who was with the Blue Devils from 2004-2006. He then transferred, to South Florida, and was subsequently drafted by the Giants in the 21st round. This season he's split time between two A-level teams, Augusta in the Sally League and San Jose in the California League, where he has struggled in his first 14 appearances, with a 6.08 ERA. While not a Duke grad, he is still a former Blue Devil and we wish him luck.

Jimmy Gallagher did graduate from Duke, in 2007, and was also drafted, in the 7th round by the White Sox. After signing, the southpaw outfielder hit well in the Rookie league, his .952 OPS looking promising for the conversion to wood bats. However, he has struggled mightily this season in the Sally League, hitting a weak .264/.296/.401. He needs to find the plate patience he had at Duke, when he was named the #2 prospect in the Coastal Plain summer league in 2006.

The learning curve has been a bit easier on Gallagher's classmate, Tony Bajoczky, a four-year letter winner at Duke. A reliever for Duke, Bajoczky was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 34th round, and rocketed all the way to AA in his first professional season. This season, he's spent the whole year at high-level A Lancaster, in the California League, where he has started 19 games, and though has excellent control (just 1.06 BB/9 IP), his strikeouts (5.47 K/9) and ERA (4.73) need to improve if he is going to move up through the system. According to, Bajoczky throws two fastballs, a changeup, and a curveball, and is praised for his aggressiveness on the mound. We're hoping he pitches his way to the majors!

Finally we have Brett Bartles, a 3B-OF who played three years with Duke from 2005-2007, hitting for a high average while improving his slugging all three years. The Reds took Bartles in the 30th round of the 2007 draft, and he played rookie ball while continuing to improve his power. This season he has risen three levels to high-A Sarasota, in the Florida State league, although the majority of his at bats have come in the Rookie League. There's not much information on him, but this article notes that he did return for his degree (as did Broadway). Good for him!

That appears to be it for current minor leaguers from Duke. The team is still in a rebuilding phase, and we hope they continue to improve their professional player outlook. This year, two players were drafted with Duke ties. Nathan Freiman, a Draft-Eligible Sophomore, was picked in the 11th round by the Rangers, but elected to return to school, where this two-way player will continue to bat leadoff on the 2009 Blue Devils. Eric Pfsterer, a high school pitcher from Ramsey, NJ was highly ranked, but elected not to sign and will pitch for Duke in the fall. Good luck to all the Blue Devil players!

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