Joe Mauer and the Top 20 MLB Stars Playing for Their Hometown Teams
Every baseball player dreams about the same situation; bottom of the ninth, full-count, game seven of the World Series.
For the batters, they hit the game winning homer. For the pitchers, they blow the final strike by the hitter. Regardless of the outcome, each and every occurrence results in their team, their favorite team, winning the World Series.
Evey kid grows up wanting to play for their favorite team. For 95 percent of professional athletes, that dream never comes to fruition.
Sports, after all, is a business. And organizations are forced to draft or sign the best available players, regardless of where they grew up and what teams they rooted for.
For the fortunate few who are able to play close to where they developed as amateurs, their friends and families are able to keep an eye on their every move as former hometown heroes make their way into the national spotlight.
What follows is a list of 20 players, each of whom is lucky enough to live that exact lifestyle.
Data Courtesy Of:
Jason Heyward, Atlanta Braves
It will likely be a long time before Jason Heyward's family forgets his first major league at-bat.
On April 5th 2010, the New Jersey born but McDonough, Georgia raised 20-year-old Heyward strode to the plate for his first major league at-bat against Carlos Zambrano and the Chicago Cubs.
Heyward smoked a Zambrano offering to deep right field, breaking a 3-3 tie in the first inning with his three run blast. The Brave went on to win 16-5.
As he rounded the bases, TV cameras showed Heyward's large family celebrating jubilantly in the stands. Surely the moment had to be a dream come true for the preseason's No. 1 major league prospect.
Heyward went on to have a stellar rookie season, posting a .277/.393/.456 triple slash line with 29 doubles, five triples, 18 homers and 11 steals.
Currently he is suffering through a sophomore slump, hitting just .213 over 49 games after missing a few weeks with inflammation in his shoulder.
There is no doubting, however, that the J-Hey kid will eventually turn it around and build off the success he had in 2010.
With incredible plate discipline for a player his age, a bright future awaits him.
Dan Wheeler, Boston Red Sox
The Boston Red Sox are New England's team.
Even though relief pitcher Dan Wheeler hails from Rhode Island, that's good enough to make him a local boy in Boston.
The 33-year-old right-handed reliever signed a one-year, $3 million deal with Boston this offseason to help solidify what had been a shaky Red Sox bullpen. The contract includes a team option for 2012.
Wheeler, who was drafted by the Rays out of Arizona Junior College in 1996, has had a consistently good track record in stints with Tampa (2X), Houston and the New York Mets.
Over 597 major league innings, Wheeler has registered a strikeout rate of 7.9 K/9 and a walk rate of 2.7 BB/9, good for a very solid 2.9:1 ratio.
He is a flyball pitcher who is susceptible to the longball, however, particularly when his slider/cutter isn't as sharp.
Still, Wheeler has been a consistent bullpen arm for the better part of a decade, and he's finally put himself in good position to pitch for a World Series ring.
Chris Volstad, Florida Marlins
The Marlins selected Chris Volstad with the 16th overall pick in the 2005 Major League Baseball Amateur draft out of Palm Beach Gardens high school.
Though he's been a better selection than their other two first round picks that year (Aaron Thompson and Jacob Marcreaux), Volstad has been pretty underwhelimg thus far in the major leagues.
The towering righty (6'8", 232 pounds) is still young (24), however, so there is time yet for him to improve on his career 4.71 ERA.
Volstad never truly impressed in the minors as he did in high school, failing to ever strike out more than a handful of hitters (6.64 K/9 in High-A in 2007) while he walked nearly half as many (2.51:1, also a full-season peak in High-A).
He was pretty poor over his first two major league seasons, finishing with FIP's of 5.29 (29 starts) and 4.34 (30 starts) respectively.
Volstad has improved his ratios in 2011, posting a career high 6.44 K/9 rate with a 2.26:1 K/BB split. These rates are acceptable since Volstad keeps the ball on the ground, posting a career 49 percent worm-burner mark.
Even still, right now this is not the profile worthy of a mid first round selection in the major league draft.
But Volstad is a four pitch pitcher (fastball, slider, curveball, change-up) whose control will likely improve as he ages.
He still has massive size and potential (particularly as his still developing slider improves), so I wouldn't give up on him just yet.
Gaby Sanchez, Florida Marlins
Since Miami is such a baseball hotbed, it's not particularly surprising to see our second Marlin on this list.
Gaby Sanchez is one of those late blooming prospects who, while never receiving much hype, has consistently gotten better every year.
The native of Brito Miami High School was taken in the 15th round by the Mariners in the 2002 draft but instead opted to attend the University of Miami; like many other mid level draftees from the Magic City.
Sanchez added 30 pounds of muscle onto his 6"3" frame in two seasons with the Canes, smacking 37 doubles and 14 homers in that span. The Marlins took him in the fourth round in 2005.
Since arriving in the majors, all Sanchez has done is hit; forcing prospect Logan Morrison to the outfield.
Thus far in 2011, Sanchez owns a .312/.390/.511 triple slash with 17 doubles and 12 homers; numbers that put him almost exactly on pace with his full season Double-A totals from 2008.
A former third baseman, Sanchez is also an above average defender at first base, making himself a valuable commodity all-around.
Though the Marlins are in the midst of a 1-16 downward spiral in June, Gaby Sanchez is not to blame. He's been as consistent as ever.
Jason Bourgeois and Michael Bourn, Houston Astros
The Houston Astros have struggled this year to a 27-45 record, good for dead last in baseball.
Their offense to date has been fueled almost entirely by a trio of Texas outfielders.
The first is Hunter Pence (right) a Fort Worth native (and five year veteran) who is hitting .321 and may soon be dealt for prospects.
Pence has particularly poor plate discipline, and his average will likely regress back towards .282, which he has hit exactly the past two years.
With Carlos Lee lumbering around in left field for two more years and $37 million more dollars, Houston natives Michael Bourn (middle) and Jason Bourgeois (left) have split time in center field.
To date, the two have combined to hit .301 over 359 at-bats, with 21 doubles, six triples and a homer (Bourn) while stealing 46 out of 51 bases successfully.
The outfield duo is similar both in their high-contact, low power approach at the plate and the excellent range that they display on defense.
The Astros may eventually deal Pence to build for the future, and to see if they can revive their "Killer B" ways at the top of their lineup with a new group of players (including Brett Wallace).
Aaron Crow, Kansas City Royals
It's a bit befuddling that the Kansas City Royals have continued to use Aaron Crow as a reliever this year.
The 24-year-old native of Topeka, Kansas was twice a first round selection out of Mizzou, first ninth overall by the Nationals in 2008 and then 12th overall by the Royals in 2009.
In between, Crow played independent ball for Fort Worth of the American Association.
He was sent to High-A as a 23-year-old in 2009, posting a 53:6 strikeout to walk ratio over seven starts and 44 innings. Crow was soon promoted to Double-A, where he struggled to a 90:59 rate over 119 innings.
Rather than send him back down for more seasoning as a starter, the Royals allowed Crow to flash his mid nineties fastball and nasty slider in the majors this season; where he's posted a 1.38 ERA and struck out 34 batters in 32.2 innings.
Crow's success has kept him in the major leagues, but its in the Royals best interest, long-term, to see if Crow can crack it as a starting pitcher; no matter how many top 100 pitching prospects they already own.
If they decide not to, he could eventually become Joakim Soria's successor in the ninth inning (after Soria gets traded to the Yankees, of course).
Dan Haren, Los Angeles Angels
Since arriving in the majors in 2005 with the St. Louis Cardinals, Dan Haren has quietly been one of the best and most consistent pitchers in baseball.
Last year's deal that sent the 30-year-old Haren to the Angels from the Arizona Diamondbacks was a true homecoming for this graduate of Bishop Amat High School and Pepperdine University (both locations are within an hour of Anaheim).
Since returning to the AL West, where he pitched as a member of the Oakland A's from 2005-2007, Haren has gone 11-8 in 29 starts with an ERA under 2.75.
He is one of baseball's best control artists, mixing his fastball, cutter, splitter and curve for strikes while avoiding free passes.
Haren generates swings and misses at a strong rate (~10 percent) but since 2008 he also has only averaged about a 1.5 BB/9 rate.
He's never gotten the offensive support to properly compete for a Cy Young award, but there is no doubting that Dan Haren is a true ace.
Jered Weaver, Los Angeles Angels
So long as Jered Weaver is a member of the Los Angeles Angels, Dan Haren will also continue to get overshadowed by his teammate.
The former 12th overall pick out of Long Beach State has developed into an absolute nuisance for major league hitters.
Weaver broke out in 2010, but because of a lack of offensive run support nobody seemed to notice.
The younger Weaver tossed 224 innings last season, striking out 233 batters (best in the majors) and walking just 54. He owned a 3.01 ERA and a 1.07 WHIP.
He's been almost as dominant this season, posting a 96:26 K:BB split over 109 innings and posting an 8-4 record with a 2.53 ERA.
Although he doesn't throw particularly hard (88-92 MPH), Jered's 6'7" frame allows him to hide the ball and get extra extension on his pitches; making it seem to opposing hitters as if the ball is coming in faster (93-95 MPH).
As a fly-ball pitcher, Weaver has been a bit lucky this year in terms of his HR/FB rate. Right now, it sits at just 3.6 percent (7.5 percent career) and will likely come up as the season continues.
Regardless of the expected regression, Jered Weaver is among the best starting pitchers in baseball, and is a true AL Cy Young candidate.
Mark Trumbo, Los Angeles Angels
A native of Anaheim (where the Los Angeles actually plays their games), Mark Trumbo is our third Angel to find his way onto this list.
Trumbo, a fourteenth round pick out of Villa Park High School (Orange, CA) in 2004, is probably only in the major leagues because Cuban slugger Kendry Morales is out for the season.
Trumbo had a sound minor league track record, but his 26 homers at High-A in 2008 and his 36 bombs at Triple-A in 2010 were likely aided by the offensively charged environments of the California and Pacific Coast Leagues.
Still, Trumbo has held his own in the majors, posting a .746 OPS with 13 doubles and 11 homers over 226 at-bats.
He's always struck out a bunch, as his 14:54 BB:K rate in 65 games thus far would attest. But Trumbo is a big body (6'5, 210 pounds), who is not yet as his physical peak (25-years-old).
Clearly he has the power. The next step is the discipline.
It wouldn't be surprising to see him develop into a quality major leaguer.
For now, he's merely average. And that's really all the Angels could have hoped for.
Rod Barajas, Los Angeles Dodgers
Rod Barajas is a 12-year major league veteran, and arguably one of the most under-appreciated players in baseball over the past decade.
Barajas, now 35, is in his second season with the Dodgers after being acquired from the Mets last September for cash.
He has also played for the Diamondbacks, Rangers, Phillies and Blue Jays.
A native of Ontario, California, Barajas was part of the 2001 Diamondbacks squad that took down the mighty Yankees in the World Series.
His peak season came with the Rangers in 2005, when he smacked 21 homers and posted a .770 OPS. With a career .693 OPS, Barajas is by no means a good hitter, but he certainly has some pop in his bat.
Instead, Barajas derives most of his value from the defensive side of his position. He is bi-lingual and by all accounts works phenomally well with his pitchers.
He is also fearless behind the plate, willing to sacrifice his body to block wild pitches and protect the plate from base-runners.
Rod Barajas will likely be little more than a foot-note in major league history, but he certainly deserves recognition for his long tenured contributions working alongside some of the game's best pitchers (Randy Johnson, Curt Schilling, Roy Halladay, Clayton Kershaw).
Joe Mauer, Minnesota Twins
Joe Mauer is a tremendously talented athlete. During his senior year of high school at Cretin-Durham in Saint Paul, Mauer became the first athlete ever selected as high school player of the year in both baseball and football.
He was selected first overall by his hometown Minnesota Twins in the 2001 amateur draft, and turned down an offer to play football for Florida State.
Hall-of-famer Paul Molitor has said that Joe Mauer owns "the best swing he's ever seen". Mauer hit over .500 during every season of high school, and struck out only once during his four seasons of play.
His quick, smooth stroke has translated well to the major leagues, where Mauer owns a career .326 average and 1020 career hits. He is a three time batting champion (2006, 2008, 2009).
He was named the AL MVP in 2009 after hitting .365 with 28 doubles in just 138 games.
Mauer's tendency to hit to the opposite field has kept his power totals down, however, as his 2010 numbers turned to 43 doubles and just 9 homers.
He's spent time on the DL during almost every season of his career, likely as a result of what team doctors are calling bi-lateral leg weakness.
The problem may eventually force Mauer to switch positons, which is unfortunate because he is widely regarded as the best defensive catcher in baseball.
Still, Joe Mauer is a tough athlete who wants to live up to the eight year, $184 million deal the Twins gave him last season. He is a hometown hero who is almost certain to be a Twin for life.
His bat will continue to make him worth the money. The logical next step is for him to threaten .400.
Glen Perkins, Minnesota Twins
Glen Perkins, a native of St. Paul and a former University of Minnesota Golden Gopher, has really found his niche as the Twins lefty set-up man in 2011.
A former first round pick and starter with good control but poor strikeout numbers, Perkins was converted to relief last year and has registed a 1.52 ERA with a 24:9 strikeout to walk rate over 23.2 innings this season.
Perkins relies almost entirely on his fastball/slider combo after all but abandoning the curve-ball and change-up he used as a starter.
The move has prolonged his career, and will provide him with a valuable contract in free-agency as soon as he hits the market.
Tyson Ross, Oakland Athletics
Tyson Ross is another of Billy Beane's top young arms, and he hails from a high school just a few miles from the Oakland Coliseum.
Ross, 24, pitched for Bishop O'Dowd High School in Oakland before accepting a scholarship to the University of Califronia-Berkeley.
His freshman and sophomore season were stellar before his strikeout rate and other stats fell off a bit during his junior year. Billy Beane decided to draft him in the second round anyway.
Ross performed well in the minors, striking out nearly eight batters per nine innings and walking fewer than half that many.
At 6'6" and 225 pounds, he gets great downward movement on his fastball, change-up and slider, forcing ground-ball rates right around 50 percent.
Even if his rate stats in the majors aren't impressive, Ross should keep the ball in the yard. His open delivery, which allows hitters to get a good look at the ball before he throws it, might limit his long-term potential.
Tyson Ross should be a good No. 3 or No. 4 starter in the major leagues, and should extra excited every time he grabs the ball at home.
Neil Walker, Pittsburgh Pirates
Neil Walker was drafted by his hometown Pittsburgh Pirates with the 11th overall pick in 2004.
By 2007, he had been converted from his draft position of catcher to third base. With the arrival of top prospect Pedro Alvarez, Walker has since been moved to second base.
During his minor league career, Walker really failed to live up to the hype of his draft status. But he also wasn't completely unproductive.
Instead, he developed into exactly the type of hitter he has shown himself to be in the major leagues. A .280/.350/.460 line is probably right around Walker's peak.
Defensively Neil can also hold his own. He doesn't make a lot of errors, but his arm isn't exceptional and his range is a bit below average. Still, Walker should develop into an average defender at worst.
What we have here is a steady player who is more than a quality hitter for the position he currently plays.
The Pirates are probably disappointed that Walker will never reach the heights they once saw for him, but they're probably also happy that they at least got a productive, long-term major league out of him.
And who knows, maybe there's an extra gear there, still hidden.
Aaron Harang, San Diego Padres
After a few dismal years from 2008-2010 with the Reds, it was easy to forget how productive Aaron Harang had been in Cincinnati in the four years prior.
Before his downfall in 2008, Harang peaked in 2007, going 16-6 with a 3.73 ERA and a 218:52 strikeout to walk rate over 231 innings.
As a fly-ball pitcher, Harang likely never felt truly comfortable pitching at the Great American Ballpark, however. He surrendered 59 homers over 340 innings between 2008 and 2009.
That's probably what made going home to pitch for the Padres so appealing.
Not only is Harang a native of San Diego and an alumnus of San Diego State, but Petco Park suppresses homers more than any other facility in baseball.
As a result, Harang's 7-2 start to the season really wasn't all that surprising. Whenever he returns from the disabled list with a bruised foot, keep an eye on this monster-hander (6'7", 261 pounds).
He's got some demons to exorcise, particularly against Dusty Baker and the Reds.
Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
Crawford is a native of the Bay area, but ultimately chose to play in college for the UCLA Bruins, where he was named team MVP in 2006 and 2007.
The shortstop is a high-contact gap hitter who likely won't hit more than 15-plus homers or steal more than 15-plis bases at any point during his major league career.
Instead, he could consistently hit around .275 with a bunch of doubles while playing stellar defense. Basically, he's a Freddy Sanchez clone who can play shortstop, with a higher defensive ceiling.
You really couldn't ask for much more than that out of a fourth round draft selection.
The Giants have loaded up recently on college talents that have quickly made their way to the major leagues. Brandon Crawford is merely just the next one in line.
Kyle McClellan, St. Louis Cardinals
Kyle McClellan was a 25th round pick out of Hazelwood West High School in Missouri, way back in 2002.
After struggling in the minors as a starter, he was eventually moved to the bullpen in 2007 where he really shined posting a 24:4 strikeout to walk rate over 29 innings at High-A.
That marked improved to 30:6 over 30 innings after being promoted to Double-A.
McClellan began the year with the Cardinals in 2008, and became a staple in their bullpen; entering 68, 66, and 68 games in the next three seasons respectively.
After the injury to Adam Wainwright in 2011, he has been moved to the starting rotation where his high groundball ways have kept his ERA from exploding; even despite a massive drop in K/9.
McClellan has proven himself to be a valuable member of the Cardinals staff due to his versatility.
His long term home should definitely be in the bullpen, but he has developed into a productive pitcher regardless.
Matt Joyce, Tampa Bay Rays
Particularly because of his strong defensive abilities, the Tampa Bay Rays saw Matt Joyce as a very undervalued player.
As a result, they flipped talented pitcher Edwin Jackson to the Tigers for Joyce back in 2008.
Although he isn't particular fast, Joyce is one of those guys who has great instincts and ususally makes the perfect first step once the ball comes off the bat.
He tends to put himself in the right position to make the play, and rarely makes mistakes.
The pleasant surprise this year has been his bat.
Though he's cooled off hard in June, hitting just .135 for the month, Joyce's numbers for the year are still impressive. He owns a .313/.371/.544 triple slash.
The average and the on-base are probably each about 20-25 piints too high, but the power is very real. Joyce absolute kills righties, as 32 of his 35 career homers have come against them
His OPS versus righties for his career is .888. Versus lefties, it's just .633. This is the difference between a fringe all-star and a replacement level player.
If Joyce can ever figure lefties out, he'll likely make the Midsummer Classic a time or two.
Taylor Teagarden, Texas Rangers
With Mike Napoli currently sidelined by a strained oblique, this may be Taylor Teagarden's last opportunity to prove that he can crack it with the Texas Rangers.
Texas appeared to be very well set at the Catcher position just two years ago, with top prospects Jarrod Saltalamacchia and Taylor Teagarden in the organization.
Since that time, both have been considered busts.
Unlike Saltalamacchia, whose bat may finally be coming around with the Red Sox, Teagarden rates as a terrific defender. For a while, that's all that kept him in the major leagues.
But this third round pick from 2005, who helped the Texas Longhorns to a national championship, has hit just .216 for his major league career, and has been even more abysmal than that since his 16 game call-up in 2008.
Before his call-up, Tegarden had been hot in Triple-A, with a 1.170 OPS and nine homers for Round Rock of the T-ball equivalent PCL.
For his sake, hopefully the confidence he gained in those at-bats translates to the major leagues; otherwise his tenure in Texas is in severe jeopardy.