(Plus notes on Senzel, Minor, Ray, Gray, Wright and Price):
One just needs to pick up where he left off. The other is trying to live up to high expectations.
But while they have been on different paths, two former Chattanooga Lookouts could gain a lot of attention this season. Each, at one point, was the No. 1 prospect in all of professional baseball. So far, it has worked out for one, not so much for the other.
Corey Seager, the All-Star shortstop of the Los Angeles Dodgers, is coming off two completely different surgeries, one on his right elbow, the other on his left hip. He played only 26 games last year. The elbow problem required Tommy John surgery. If that weren’t enough, he had hip surgery in August. Seager played in Chattanooga in the AA Southern League in 2014, a highly regarded prospect all along the way in his pro career. In 2016, Seager was considered the top major-league prospect by mlb.com, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. He delivered by winning the National League Rookie of the Year Award that year.
Seager is believed to be rcovered and is expected to be ready for Opening Day against the Arizona Diamondbacks on Thursday.
Byron Buxton also played in Chattanooga, when the Lookouts were an affiliate of the Minnesota Twins. In 2014, Buxton himself was the No. 1 prospect according to all three graders, mlb.com, Baseball America and Baseball Prospectus. He has had some success, notably a Gold Glove Award in 2017 when he also had a hot second half offensively, but his career has not gone as well as Seager’s.
And yet, Buxton has been the buzz of spring training this year, batting .410, with four home runs and 15 RBIs. He survived a scare last week when he collided with Boston Red Sox shortstop Xander Bogaerts, bruising the right side of Buxton’s face. But he has been back in action. Buxton was in the lineup today in a 5-5 tie with the Colorado Rockies, going 0-for-3.
Buxton is another one of those Twins who played Rookie-level ball at Elizabethton in the Appalachian League. He played 21 games there in 2012, batting .286. In four big-league seasons, he has hit .230.
For two sure-fire stars, Seager’s road has been remarkably smoother than Buxton’s. But you don’t get to be the No. 1 prospect in baseball for nothing. Seager may have surpassed Buxton in performance thus far, but it’s too early to give Seager the edge in talent.
Notes from here and there:
Former University of Tennessee star Nick Senzel was sent to the minors Friday and quickly became injured. Senzel, who had been trying to win the center field job for the Cincinnati Reds in spring training, suffered a right ankle sprain in a minor league game on Monday. The Reds say he will need to wear a boot for 7-14 days. …
… Former Vanderbilt pitcher Mike Minor gets the Opening Day start for the Texas Rangers on Thursday against the Chicago Cubs. The Cubs will start Jon Lester.
Former Brentwood High pitcher Robbie Ray is scheduled to start Friday for the Arizona Diamondbacks against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Former Vanderbilt pitcher Sonny Gray is scheduled to pitch Saturday in Cincinnati against the Pirates.
Another former Vanderbilt hurler, Kyle Wright, has made the team for the Atlanta Braves after an outstanding spring and is in the starting rotation. He will pitch Sunday against the Phillies.
Former Blackman High School and Vanderbilt pitcher David Price is scheduled to start in the Red Sox’ fifth game of the season on Monday in Oakland. Price has been ill this spring with norovirus, but he may be used in a spot relief role in one of Boston’s early games against Seattle, according to manager Alex Cora.
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