July 6, 2007
Former Notre Dame baseball pitcher Jeff Manship wasted no time in establishing himself as a top prospect in the Minnesota Twins organization, and the San Antonio native’s sparkling first-half numbers have paid dividends in the form of a recent promotion to high-A ball with the Fort Myers Miracle of the Florida State League. Manship’s numbers with his previous team, the Beloit Snappers, included a 7-1 record, 1.51 ERA, nearly a 9-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio (77/9) and a lowly .185 opponent batting average – earning him a spot in the Midwest League All-Star Game as the West Division’s starting pitcher. Since his promotion, Manship has gone 1-1 with a 2.70 ERA and 12 Ks in 10.0 innings. He is one of 19 former Notre Dame players who remain active at various levels of pro ball, with those former players including three current Major Leaguers, three who currently are at the triple-A level and four in double-A.
One of Manship’s former Notre Dame teammates, fellow righthander Grant Johnson, also recently was promoted from high-A (Dayton Cubs) to the double-A Tennessee Smokies of the Southern League. Johnson is likely to face former Notre Dame second baseman Steve Sollmann, who has put together an impressive 2007 season at his new position of first base with the division-leading Huntsville Stars (the Milwaukee Brewers double-A affiliate). Sollmann impressively was named the starting first baseman for the North squad in the upcoming Southern League All-Star Game (July 9) and is set to bat in the 2-hole during that game. He entered the all-star game with a team-best 90 hits while batting at a .305 clip with 55 runs scored, 16 doubles, 19 stolen bases and more walks (45) than strikeouts (44).
The Southern League reunion of Sollmann and Johnson will bring together two of the top players from Notre Dame’s record-setting 2004 team that won 51 games and featured possibly the best collection of all-around talent in the program’s history. A total of 14 players from the 2004 Notre Dame roster have gone on to be drafted or signed as free-agents by Major League organizations, with those players including seven RHPs (Johnson, Chris Niesel, John Axford, Ryan Doherty, Jeff Samardzija, Jeff Manship and Dan Kapala), lefthander Tom Thornton, catcher Javi Sanchez, first basemen Matt Edwards and Craig Cooper, second baseman Sollmann, shortstop Greg Lopez and third baseman Matt Macri. Sanchez recently ended his pro baseball career to accept a volunteer assistant coaching position at LSU while Lopez was hampered by injuries and never played on the professional level (he recently completed his first year of medical school). Kapala may sign with the New York Yankees organization before Aug. 15, after which time the Yankees would lose rights to him (he then could return for a fifth year of eligibility in 2008 and could sign with a big-league team after that season).
Cooper is in the midst of his own solid season with the high-A Lake Elsinore Storm, a San Diego Padres affiliate in the California League. His .302 batting average includes 26 extra-base hits (6 HR, 3 3B, 17 2B), 46 RBI and 40 walks. Cooper recently played a lead role in Lake Elsinore’s 30-0 win over the Lancaster JetHawks (he had a pair of home runs as part of the Storm’s 28-hit attack). Macri also is batting above .300, after getting a late start to his 2007 season due to a hamstring injury. He is batting .302 with 21 extra-base hits (8 HR, 13 2B), 21 RBI, 27 runs and 12 walks in 50 games played for the double-A Tulsa Drillers, a Texas League affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.
Notre Dame’s current big leaguers include Brewers infielder Craig Counsell and a pair of National League pitchers: Aaron Heilman (N.Y. Mets) and Brad Lidge (Houston Astros). Former Irish third baseman Brant Ust currently is playing in triple-A with the Tacoma Rainiers (a Seattle Mariners affiliate) while longtime pro player Chris Michalak is serving as a lefthanded starting pitcher for the Columbus Clippers, the triple-A team for the Washington Nationals. Outfielder/first baseman Brian Stavisky likewise is one step from the majors (with the Modesto A’s, an Oakland farm team) while RHP Danny Tamayo formerly of the triple-A Omaha Royals, is returning from a shoulder injury with the double-A Wichita Wranglers of the Texas League.
Chris Michalak – pictured during his 2001 season with the Toronto Blue Jays – again is one level away from the big leagues (photo by Pete LaFleur).
Aside from Tamayo, the other former Notre Dame players currently in double-A include Sollmann, Macri and Johnson. Those at high-A include Manship, Samardzija, Cooper and Doherty (Visalia Oaks). RHP Joey Williamson, a June draftee, has joined the Tri-City Dust Devils (Colorado Rockies/Northwest League) in low-A ball while Niesel is working in rookie ball with the GCL Indians. Axford has played with several teams in the Yankees organization this season and currently is a member of the Staten Island Yankees of the shortseason-A New York-Penn League. Edwards (Evansville Otters/Frontier League) and Thornton (Nashua Pride/Canadian American League) both are competing in different independent leagues this summer.
Michalak’s 15-year pro baseball career has included Major League stints with several teams (the ’98 Diamondbacks, ’01 Blue Jays and ’01/’02 Rangers) while Counsell’s 12 years in the Major League career includes stints with the Rockies, Marlins, Dodgers, Diamondbacks (twice) and Brewers (twice).
Former Notre Dame Players Currently Active in Pro Baseball (stats as of July 6, 2007)
Craig Counsell, IF (Milwaukee Brewers) – 62 GP, 174 AB, 21 R, 42 H, 8 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 15 RBI, 26 BB, 27 Ks, 4-6 SB, .343 OB, .333 slug, .241 batting avg.
Recent articles on Counsell:
Brad Lidge, RHP (Houston Astros) – 2-1, 2.34 ERA, 34 GP, 0-3 save opp., 34.2 IP, 28 H (3 HR), 13 R/9 ER, 16 BB, 44 Ks, .217 opp. avg.
Recent articles on Lidge:
Aaron Heilman, RHP (New York Mets) – 6-3, 3.98 ERA, 40 GP, 0-3 save opp. 40.2 IP, 36 H (6 HR), 21 R/18 ER, 9 BB, 31 Ks, .232 opp. avg.
Recent articles on Heilman:
Chris Michalak, LHP (Columbus Clippers/International League; Nationals AAA) – 3-3, 2.16 ERA, 9 GP/8 GS, 41.2 IP, 37 H (HR), 16 R/10 ER, 11 BB, 16 Ks, .252 opp. avg.
Brian Stavisky, OF (Sacramento River Cats/Pacific Coast League; A’s AAA) – 17 GP, 61 AB, 5 R, 13 H, 4 2B, HR, 5 RBI, 3 BB, 13 Ks, 1-2 SB, .250 OB, .328 slug, .213 batting avg.
Recent article on Stavisky:
Brant Ust, 3B (Tacoma Rainiers/Pacific Coast League; Mariners AAA) – 31 GP, 97 AB, 5 R 24 H, 6 2B, HR, 6 BB, 21 K2, .299 OB, .340 slug, .247 batting avg.
Danny Tamayo, RHP (Wichita Wranglers/Texas League; Royals AA) – 0-1, 5.14 ERA, 5 GP, 7.0 IP, 7 H, 4 R, 0 BB, 5 Ks, .250 opp. avg.
(Omaha Royals/Pacific Coast League; Royals AAA) – 0-1, 20.25 ERA, 2 G, 1 GS, 2.2 IP, 7 H, 6 R, 6 ER, 4 BB, 3 K, .538 opp. avg.
Matt Macri, 2B/3B (Tulsa Drillers/Texas League; Rockies AA) – 50 GP, 172 AB, 27 R, 52 H, 13 2B, 8 HR, 21 RBI, 12 BB, 31 Ks, 2-4 SB, .353 OB, .517 slug, .302 batting avg. … started his season late due to a hamstring injury
Steve Sollmann, 1B/2B (Huntsville Stars/Southern League; Brewers AA) – 83 GP, 295 AB, 55 R, 90 H, 16 2B, 3B, 2 HR, 39 RBI, 45 BB, 44 KS, 19-24 SB, .419 OB, .386 slug, .305 batting avg.
Grant Johnson, RHP (Tennessee Smokies/Southern League; Cubs AA) – 0-0, 4.15 ERA, 12 GP, 21.2 IP, 17 H (3 HR), 10 R, 10 BB, 14 Ks, .217 opp. avg.
(Daytona Cubs/Florida State League; Cubs high-A) – 1-1, 3.57 ERA, 16 GP, 22.2 IP, 19 H (2 HR), 12 R/9 ER, 11 BB, 25 Ks, .221 opp. avg.
â€¢ Johnson’s combined 2007 minor-league stats (started at Daytona) – 1-1, 3.86 ERA, 28 GP, 44.1 IP, 36 H (5 HR), 22 R/19 ER, 21 BB, 39 Ks, .217 opp. avg.
Craig Cooper, 1B (Lake Elsinore Storm/California League; Padres, high-A) – 75 GP, 268 AB, 41 R, 81 H, 17 2B, 3 3B, 6 HR, 46 RBI, 40 BB, 52 Ks, .397 OB, .455 slug, .302 batting avg.
Chris Niesel, RHP (Gulf Coast League Indians/GCL; Indians rookie-ball) – 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 GP, 1.0 IP, H, K, .250 opp. avg.
(Kinston Indians/Carolina League; Indians high-A) – 0-0, 1.93 ERA, 7 GP, 14.0 IP, 12 H, 4 R/3 ER, 4 BB, 9 Ks, .240 opp. avg.
Ryan Doherty, RHP (Visalia Oaks/California League; Diamondbacks high-A) – 0-0, 3.00 ERA, 3 GP, 3.0 IP, H (HR), 2 R/ER, HR, 3 Ks, .083 opp. avg.
Jeff Samardzija, RHP (Daytona Cubs/Florida State League; Cubs, high-A)– 2-5, 4.73 ERA, 19 GP/15 GS, 80.0 IP, 102 H (6 HR), 50 R/42 ER, 28 BB, 31 Ks, .318 opp. avg.
Recent articles on Samardzija:
Jeff Manship, RHP (Ft. Myers Miracle/Florida State League; Twins high-A) – 1-1, 2.70 ERA, 2 GS, 10.0 IP, 12 H (HR), 6 R/3 ER, 5 BB, 12 Ks, .293 opp. avg.
(Beloit Snappers/Midwest League; Twins low-A) – 7-1, 1.51 ERA, 13 GS, 77.2 IP, 51 H (4 HR), 15 R/13 ER, 9 BB, 77 Ks, .185 opp. avg.
â€¢ Manship’s combined 2007 minor-league stats (started at Beloit) – 8-2, 1.64 ERA, 15 GS, 87.2 IP, 63 H (5 HR), 21 R/16 ER, 14 BB, 89 Ks, .199 opp. avg.
Recent articles on Manship:
Matt Edwards, 1B (Evanville Otters; Frontier League, independent) – 0-1, 5.11 ERA, 11 GP/2 GS, 24.2 IP, 34 H (5 HR), 20 R, 14 ER, 8 BB, 21 Ks, .324 opp. avg.
Tom Thornton, LHP (Nashua Pride; Canadian American League, independent) – 0-1, 5.11 ERA, 11 GP/2 GS, 24.2 IP, 34 H (5 HR), 20 R, 14 ER, 8 BB, 21 Ks, .324 opp. avg.
Recent articles on Thornton:
Joey Williamson, RHP (Tri-City Dust Devils/Northwest League; Rockies short-season A) – 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 1 GP, 1.0 IP, 1 K, .000 opp. avg.
John Axford, RHP (Staten Island Yankees/NY-Penn League; Yankees shortseason A) – 36 GP, 131 AB, 18 R, 36 H, 9 2B, 4 HR, 25 RBI, 20 BB, 30 Ks, .382 OB, .435 slug, .275 batting avg.
(Charleston River Dogs/South Atlantic League; Yankees low-A) – 0-1, 2.00 ERA, 8 GP/2 GS, 18.0 IP, 15 H (HR), 9 R/4 ER, 11 BB, 12 Ks, .227 opp. avg.
(Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees/International League; Yankees triple-A) – 0-0, 13.50 ERA, GP, 0.2 IP, R/ER, .500 opp. avg.
(Tampa Yankees/Florida State League; Yankees high-A) – 0-0, 3.00 ERA, GP, 3.0 IP, 2 H (HR), R/ER, BB, 2 Ks, .200 opp. avg.
â€¢ Axford’s combined 2007 minor-league stats (started at Tampa, then SWB, Charleston and currently Staten Island) – 0-3, 3.23 ERA, 17 GP/3 GS, 39.0 IP, 37 H (2 HR), 19 R/14 ER, 25 BB, 36 Ks, .248 opp. avg.