After having the largest Major League Baseball draft class in Illinois State history, the Redbirds have yet to disappoint in their professional debuts. The six players that were drafted joined an already impressive group, compositing a total of 11 Redbirds playing throughout the MLB, from the Majors to Class A in the Minor Leagues.
While many are still moving up through the lower levels of the minor league, they have shown plenty to be excited about for the future. Relief pitcher Neal Cotts represents ISU as the only Redbird in the Majors. Pitching in his first season since 2009 after years of struggling with health issues following Tommy John’s surgery, the former World Series champion is experiencing his best statistical season yet, with an ERA of 3.54 and 57 strikeouts for the Texas Rangers.
The season has not been without its ups and downs. Cotts holds a record of 2-6 and has struggled in some recent game situations. Still, due to his otherwise solid numbers, it’s very possible the Rangers will attempt to trade him given the amount of quality innings he has thrown in. It’s been a disappointing season for the Rangers, and due to the demand for quality arms, Cotts could very well be pitching for a contender in the coming weeks.
For recent draftees Jeremy Rhoades and Brock Stewart, it has also been a season of ups and downs as the two adjust to professional baseball, though both have shown incredible promise. At times, Rhoades has looked every bit of the ace the Los Angeles Angels believed they were getting when they drafted him in the fourth round. However, he has struggled with consistency and currently holds a 4.73 ERA and a 1-0 record through 26 innings pitched.
Stewart has also struggled with consistency but overall has been remarkably dependable in save situations. After recording a save in his professional debut, Stewart is three for four in save opportunities with a respectable 3.86 ERA and 33 strikeouts. Both pitchers have played exclusively in the Pioneer League for the duration of the season.
While all the aforementioned players have had respectable seasons, perhaps the most impressive Redbirds have been Eric Aguilera and Chad Hinshaw, who play in Class A and Class A Advanced, respectively. Both players, who are in their second years as pros and are making their way up the Minor League system, have showed intriguing potential this year.
Hinshaw has been on fire recently, hitting at least twice in five of his last six games. He currently owns a .258 batting average with 12 doubles, five triples, and seven home runs. Aguilera has been equally effective at the plate with a .295 average including 19 doubles and 14 home runs. Hinshaw and Aguilera both belong to the Los Angeles Angels organization and could very well be playing on the same roster in the near future.
While each of these players has a great deal to learn, each has also shown the potential they flashed while playing on Duffy Bass Field. ISU fans should eagerly follow the careers of these former Redbirds as they move up the Minor League system and perhaps towards an eventual call to the Majors.