Varsity Extra

Think Idaho isn’t a baseball state? Think again. These 24 players dot pro baseball

Boise High grad James Hoyt, right, pours beer on teammate Chris Devenski after the Astros clinched the AL West title in September.
Boise High grad James Hoyt, right, pours beer on teammate Chris Devenski after the Astros clinched the AL West title in September. AP

As a cold-weather, sparsely populated state, Idaho remains an afterthought for many professional baseball scouts.

But the Gem State has long punched above its weight in producing talent. One Idaho native earned a World Series ring last year. Another made his second Opening Day roster a week ago. And six more with Idaho ties remain one step from the majors in Triple-A.

We check in with Idaho’s crop of baseball talent after the affiliated minor-league season openers Thursday, including the state’s native-born sons and the talent developed at Idaho’s colleges.

Josh Osich horo
Bishop Kelly grad Josh Osich is in his fourth season with the San Francisco Giants. Orlando Ramirez AP

Josh Osich

Club: Giants

Position: Relief pitcher

Level: MLB

Age: 29

Idaho tie: Bishop Kelly High grad (2007)

The lefthanded specialist made his second Opening Day roster for San Francisco. Entering his fourth MLB season, he’s one of two lefties in the bullpen as the Giants wait for Will Smith to return from Tommy John surgery. After a solid rookie season (2.20 ERA in 28 ⅔ innings), Osich struggled last year to a 6.23 ERA in 43 ⅓ innings. But he impressed with a strong performance in spring training.

James Hoyt horo (2)
Boise High grad James Hoyt went undrafted out of college and was scrubbing boats for a living before trying out for an independent league team in 2011. Tony Gutierrez AP

James Hoyt

Club: Astros

Position: Relief pitcher

Level: Triple-A (rehab)

Age: 31

Idaho tie: Boise High grad (2005)

After a long road to the bigs, the right-hander earned a World Series ring with Houston last season, traveling with the team throughout the playoffs as a non-roster member. A strained oblique robbed him of a chance to compete for his first Opening Day roster after posting a 4.38 ERA with 66 strikeouts in 49 ⅓ innings. He’ll start the season in Triple-A on a rehab assignment and remains part of the Astros’ 40-man roster.

Austin Bibens-Dirkx jubi
Meridian resident Austin Bibens-Dirkx receives a postgame bath from Elvis Andrus after the Rangers’ 9-8 win over the White Sox in August. Tony Gutierrez AP

Austin Bibens-Dirkx

Club: Rangers

Position: Starting/relief pitcher

Level: Triple-A

Age: 32

Idaho tie: Meridian resident

After 12 years in the minors, Bibens-Dirkx made his MLB debut at 32 years old last May. He made six starts and appeared in 24 games for Texas last summer as a swingman, going 5-2 with a 4.67 ERA, 20 walks and 38 strikeouts in 69 ⅓ innings. He declined the Rangers’ assignment to Triple-A in November but signed a new minor-league contract with the team in December.

Stephen Fife
Borah High grad Stephen Fife returned to the United States this spring after pitching in Japan last year. Carlos Osorio AP

Stephen Fife

Club: Indians

Position: Starting pitcher

Level: Triple-A

Age: 31

Idaho tie: Borah High grad (2005)

A member of Idaho’s first Little League World Series team in 1999, his promising career was derailed by a series of injuries, including Tommy John surgery in 2014. He started 2017 with the Marlins’ Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans, going 4-3 with a 3.97 ERA before getting his release to play in Japan. He signed a minor-league deal with the Indians, his fifth MLB organization, in February.

Cy Sneed

Club: Astros

Position: Starting pitcher

Level: Triple-A

Age: 25

Idaho tie: Twin Falls High grad (2011)

A third-round pick of the Brewers in 2014, Sneed shot through the minors. He got a cup of coffee in Triple-A Fresno to close 2017, making four starts and posting an 11.21 ERA. The right-hander repeats the level this spring searching for better results. He’s not on the Astros’ 40-man roster, so a call-up to Houston isn’t imminent.

Parker Morin horo
Former College of Southern Idaho catcher Parker Morin talks with Royals pitcher Kelvin Herrera during a spring training workout Feb. 17. Charlie Neibergall AP

Parker Morin

Club: Royals

Position: Catcher

Level: Triple-A

Age: 26

Idaho tie: College of Southern Idaho

A defense-first catcher, the Royals invited Morin to spring training as a non-roster invitee for the fourth straight season. The career .226 hitter starts the season in Triple-A for the second time in three years. He only played in 48 games last season due to a lengthy stay on the disabled list.

Andrew Ely

Club: Mets

Position: Second base/shortstop

Level: Double-A

Age: 25

Idaho tie: Eagle High grad (2011)

Primarily known as a defensive ace, Ely has held his own at the plate as a pro, hitting .259 with three home runs and 25 RBIs in 97 games in Double-A last year. The Mets picked him up from the Cubs as a Rule 5 draftee in December.

Isaac Anderson

Club: Dodgers

Position: Starting pitcher

Level: High-A

Age: 24

Idaho tie: Rocky Mountain High grad (2012), College of Southern Idaho

The right-hander’s ascent through the Dodgers organization hit a speed bump in 2017. After starting the season as a 23-year-old in Double-A, he went 0-8 with an 8.74 ERA at the level and made five trips to the disabled list. But he closed the year in the Arizona Fall League, posting a 2.25 ERA in a league reserved for baseball’s top prospects.

Damon Jones

Club: Phillies

Position: Relief pitcher

Level: Low-A

Age: 23

Idaho tie: Twin Falls High grad (2013), College of Southern Idaho

An 18th-round draft pick out of Washington State last summer, the 6-5 left-hander made his debut in the short-season A New York-Penn League, posting a 4.85 ERA with three saves in 13 appearances. He showcased swing-and-miss stuff, striking out 38 in 26 innings to earn a promotion to a full-season league. But he also walked 20.

Riley O’Brien

Club: Rays

Position: Starting pitcher

Level: Low-A

Age: 23

Idaho tie: College of Idaho

The Rays selected the right-hander in the eighth round last summer, making him the highest draft pick in College of Idaho history. He excelled in his debut season, posting a 2.20 ERA with 40 strikeouts in 41 innings in the rookie-level Appalachian League and earning himself a promotion to the full-season, Low-A Midwest League.

Martarano
Former Boise State linebacker Joe Martarano, a Fruitland High grad, hit .250 in his first season dedicated solely to baseball. Katherine Jones kjones@idahostatesman.com

Joe Martarano

Club: Cubs

Position: First base/outfield

Level: TBD

Age: 23

Idaho tie: Fruitland High grad (2013)

The former Boise State linebacker walked away from football last spring to focus on his professional baseball career with injuries mounting. Dedicated solely to baseball for the first time, the power-hitting prospect hit .250 with a .340 slugging percentage in 47 games between short-season A and low-A. He remains in extended spring training waiting for an assignment.

Zack Draper

Club: Indians

Position: Relief pitcher

Level: TBD

Age: 23

Idaho tie: College of Idaho, College of Southern Idaho

The left-hander bounced between the rookie leagues, short-season A and Low-A after the Indians took him in the 30th round last year. He posted a combined 3.58 ERA and 28 strikeouts in 26 ⅔ innings between the three stops. He remains in extended spring training, waiting for an opening at the full-season level or for the the short-season leagues to start in June.

Blaine Hardy horo
After four seasons in the majors, former Lewis-Clark State pitcher Blaine Hardy starts the 2018 season in Triple-A for the Tigers. Carlos Osorio AP

L-C State ties in pro baseball

Perennial NAIA power Lewis-Clark State College in Lewiston continues to crank out pro prospects each year. Twelve former Warriors are in the affiliated minor leagues to start 2018.

Name

Club

Pos

Level

Age

Blaine Hardy

Tigers

RP

Triple-A

31

Seth Brown

Athletics

OF

Double-A

25

Jacob Zanon

Mets

OF

High-A

22

Connor Brogdon

Phillies

RP

Low-A

23

Micah Brown

Marlins

3B/SS

Low-A

21

Kevin Hamann

Cardinals

RP

Low-A

24

Seaver Whalen

Rays

3B

TBD

23

J.J. Robinson

Twins

1B

TBD

25

Jake Barnett

Nationals

RP

TBD

23

Noel Gonzalez

Cardinals

RP

TBD

24

Quin Grogan

Twins

RP

TBD

24

Cooper Goldby

Athletics

C

TBD

23

  Comments