USC Prospects Making a Living in Minor League Baseball

The USC Trojans boast the most national championships in all of Division-I baseball (12), thanks to a strong crop talent that have built a legacy for baseball dominance in Los Angeles. Currently, the Trojans have 22 alums that are playing professional baseball up and down the spectrum. Here is an in-depth look at some of the best Trojan graduates making their pay on a daily basis in the life of professional baseball players.

TOP PROSPECT

 

The Trojans rising star Mike O’Neill, a product of the AA St. Louis Cardinals club, is playing for the Springfield Cardinals of the Texas League.

In his final season with the Trojans, O’Neill batted .344 (64-for-186) with a career-high 14 doubles, three home runs, 25 RBI and five stolen bases earning All-Pac-10 Conference honorable mention recognition.

O’Neill was selected to play in the AA All-Star game after an impressive campaign hitting .322 in the first half, the third highest in the league. The 25-year-old prospect is currently hitting .327 with 2 HR and 20 RBI, this after fighting as a 31st round pick in the 2010 MLB First-Year Player Draft.

TRIPLE-A

The Trojans currently have five prospects at the Triple-A level. The only one to appear in a Major League game this season (six to be exact) has been Brad Boxberger for the San Diego Padres. He is currently playing for the Triple-A Tuscon affiliate, posting a 4.94 ERA with 48 strikeouts in 32.1 IP this year.

The prospect who has played the best baseball this season has been second baseman Grant Green of the Triple-A Sacramento River Cats. The Oakland A’s prospect is batting .320 with 11 HR and 49 RBI this season. The Trojans all-time leader in triples (20) is finding his hitting-stroke in the minors, racking up base knocks in 9 out of his last 10 games.

Over in the Pacific Coast League, outfielder Roberto Lopez is fighting for a spot on the Anaheim Angels on their AAA affiliate  the Salt Lake Bees. The 25th-round pick in 2008 is hitting .286 this season after starting the season on a tear, going .313 in the month of April. The Trojans played three games this season in Salt Lake City, taking two out of three from the Utah Utes.

Joining him is Los Angeles Dodgers center-fielder Nick Buss, who is hitting .290 on the season which ranks him among the top-20 minor leaguers in the Pacific Coast League. The 8th-round pick is making a name for himself with the Triple-A Albuquerque Isotopes, ranking third in the league with 58 RBI and fourth with nine triples.

 

After reaching the big leagues last season for the Pittsburg Pirates, 30-year-old Jeff Clement has driven in 35 runs for the Triple-A Rochester Wings. Clement is competing in his eighth season of minor league baseball, earning 2005 Baseball America All-America First Team, USA Today Sports Weekly All-America first team and Collegiate Baseball All-America first team honors.

DOUBLE-A

Over in the Double-A level, the Trojans have four prospects taking the ranks including some recent college baseball stars, led by the aforementioned top prospect Mike O’Neill.

The Trojans home-grown talent Ricky Oropesa, is suiting up for the Richmond Flying Squirrels of the Double-A Eastern League. Following a prolific three-year career, culminating with a .331 batting average in 170 games notching 40 doubles, three triples, 40 home runs (top-five all-time), plus 159 RBI. The Rancho Cucamonga native is batting .207 with six home runs, six doubles and  23 RBI as the Giants 17th-ranked prospect entering the 2013 season.

Over on the pitching side, Anthony Vasquez leads the charge for Trojans prospects. The 18th pick back in the 2009 First Year Players Draft is battling back from a ruptured vessel in his brian suffered in 2012. Vasquez is up and down between Single-A Clinton and Double-A Jackson for the Seattle Mariners. In his most recent AA start, Vasquez allowed six runs (4 ER) in 4.2 IP.

Finally, the budget-savvy Tampa Bay Rays have a resourceful DH Keith Castillo with Double-A Montgomery Biscuits of the Southern League. The San Pedro native is hitting .268 with 8 RBI.

CLASS-A ADVANCED

Four Trojans are taking the field in High-A baseball, the level where some of the youngest players coming out of college look to climb the ranks or go home packing.

Right-handed pitchers Austin Wood and Andrew Triggs, infielder Hector Rabago and outfielder Joe De Pinto have competed in High-A Minor League Baseball this season.

Andrew Triggs is pitching for the Wilmington Blue Rocks, the Carolina-League affiliate of the Kansas City Royals. Through 35.2 innings of work this season, Triggs has struck out 40 batters posting a 2-2 record with six saves for the Blue Rockets.

In his final season at Troy in 2012, Triggs was named Pac-12 Baseball Spring Scholar-Athlete of the Year after throwing a team-leading 105.2 innings, posting a 5-6 record with a 3.49 ERA.

For Travis Wood life stayed close in the LA Basin, competing for the Angels Single-A affiliate the Inland Empire 66ers. This the case before being placed on a rehab assignment following a trip to the DL on May 11th. Wood recorded 18 strikeouts in 21.2 innings of work for the 66ers.

Hector Rabago is on the 7-day disabled list, following one appearance with the Tampa Bay Yankees. Rabago last suited up on May 7th, going 1-3 in his High-A debut. Joe De Pinto was reassigned to High-A, following a short stint with the Birmingham Barons. Now with with the White Sox High-A affiliate the Winston-Salem Dash, De Pinto is hitting .260 with eight RBI.

CLASS-A

Pitchers Robert StockMartin ViramontesChad Smith and second baseman Matt Foat are all currently suiting up in Class-A.

Following three years at USC with a .263 career batting average (122-for-464) notching 20 doubles, four triples, 14 home runs and 74 RBI, Robert Stock is now pitching for the Peoria Chiefs.

The St. Louis Cardinals prospect boasts a 2.45 ERA this season following a rough outing on June 30th allowing 2 ER in 0.1 innings. Besides that poor outing Stock has recorded 14 strikeouts while recording four saves as a reliable reliever.

Martin Viramontes spent four years at LMU before transferring to USC for senior athletic status after utilizing a medical redshirt in 2009. This season with the Milwaukee Brewers affiliate Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, Viramontes has thrown 37 strikeouts in 25.2 innings this season.

Chad Smith out of Thousand Oaks California is having quite the season on the mound with the West Michigan Whitecaps. The Detroit Tigers prospect has an impressive 2.28 ERA with a 3-4 record this

season mostly out of the bullpen. Smith received his first start of the season on Saturday, throwing 4 innings allowing three runs (2 ER) against Bowling Green.

 

On the offensive end, Matt Foat is hitting .266 with nine RBI for the Washington Nationals Class-A Hagerstown Suns. This coming after a strong senior campaign in 2012, one in which Foat batted .323 (65-for-201) driving in a club-leading 27 runs.

SHORT SEASON CLASS-A

Two of the Trojans most recent starters, outfielder Greg Zebrack and infielder James Roberts have been assigned to short season Class-A Minor League Baseball.

Grandpa Zebrack is putting on the big boy pants for the Auburn Doubledays, the short-season affiliate of the Washington Nationals. After going un drafted in the 2013 First Year Players Draft, the Trojans fifth-year senior is hitting .158 in seven games this summer.

After contemplating a possible return to Southern California, infielder James Roberts has appeared in five games for the Mahoning Valley Scrappers. The Cleveland Indians short-season 15th-round prospect is hitting .333 with four RBIs, ranking in the top-25 in both departments.

Brandon Garcia started his professional career in 2012 in the Texas Rangers organization is playing for the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League as a catcher. This following a solid four-year career featuring back-to-back seasons hitting over .300 with four home runs.

ROOKIE BALL

Pitcher Jordan Hershiser, the 34th round selection of the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 2012 MLB First Year Players Draft is also competing in rookie ball for the Ogden Raptors.

The final prospect on our list, lead the Trojans in batting average and RBI this season, righfully earning the title of Captain Clutch. Adam Landecker has begun his professional career for the GCL Pirates of the Rookie Gulf Coast League. The Pirates 21st-round pick is batting .259 with hits in six of seven games this season.

Many of the Trojans top recruits will join Landecker in rookie-ball, following their selection in the 2013 MLB Draft. Most notably, first round picks J.P. Crawford and Dominic Smith are taking to the diamond as we speak, looking to cement their future in the big leagues.

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Tags: Adam Landecker Brad Boxberger James Roberts Jeff Clement Mike O'Neill Minor League Baseball MLB Draft Rod Dedeaux USC Baseball USC Trojans

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