baseball Edit

2022 Pro Hogs in the Minors

Matt Cronin and Kevin Kopps are just two of several former Razorbacks in the minor leagues to start the 2022 season.
Matt Cronin and Kevin Kopps are just two of several former Razorbacks in the minor leagues to start the 2022 season. (USA TODAY Sports)

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Baseball is in full swing across all levels of the sport and there are plenty of former Hogs that are trying to make their way to Major League Baseball.

Arkansas has nine former players on the big stage to begin the 2022 season: Brian Anderson (Marlins), Jalen Beeks (Rays), Andrew Benintendi (Royals), Dallas Keuchel (White Sox), Zach Jackson (Athletics), James McCann (Mets), Drew Smyly (Cubs), Ryne Stanek (Astros) and Trevor Stephan (Guardians).

By HawgBeat’s count, Arkansas also has 24 former players who are on a minor league roster at some level. Here is a rundown of those players…

Triple-A

Grant Koch - Indianapolis Indians (Pirates)

Koch began the 2021 season at the Single A-Advanced level, but made his way to Triple A to start this season. Like his time at Arkansas, Koch has excelled behind the plate with a .990 career fielding percentage in the minors. The success behind the plate has not translated to his bat though, as he has hit .191/.275/.317 in three seasons.

Blaine Knight - Norfolk Tides (Orioles)

Like Koch, Knight made his way from High-A last season to Triple A this year. He started 13 games with three different teams last season, earning a 3-6 record with a 5.40 ERA, 71 strikeouts and 28 walks. He has a career ERA of 5.06 during his three seasons in the minors. Knight also earned a non-roster invite to the Orioles’ spring training this year.

Casey Opitz - Iowa Cubs (Cubs)

Opitz was drafted in the eighth round by the Cubs in the 2021 MLB Draft and quickly advanced to Triple A before the end of the season. He spent just one game in the rookie league before going to Single A, where he spent 16 games. He capped off his 2021 minor league campaign playing two games for the Iowa Cubs in Triple A ball. Opitz hit .250/.400/.268 to go along with his .990 fielding percentage.

Blake Parker - Memphis Redbirds (Cardinals)

A former catcher at Arkansas, Parker has made his professional living as a pitcher. His career has included parts of nine seasons in the big leagues with the Cubs, Mariners, Yankees, Angels, Twins, Phillies and Guardians. Coming off a season in which he posted a 3.09 ERA over 43.2 innings in Cleveland, Parker is not ready to hang up his cleats and recently signed a minor league deal with the Cardinals.

Matt Reynolds - Syracuse Mets (Mets)

Reynolds has seen time in the majors with the Mets, Royals and Nationals, but he did not make the show in 2021. He spent all of last season with the Charlotte Knights, the Triple A affiliate of the White Sox. Reynolds hit with a .269 average and drove in 39 runs in 309 at bats. He will be looking to make it to the bigs for the first time since playing three games with the Royals in 2020.

Double-A

Jax Biggers - Frisco RoughRiders (Rangers)

Biggers made his way to Triple A for five games last season, but will start back in Double A this year. He recorded 65 hits, 31 RBI and four homers with the RoughRiders last season. Biggers has a minor league career batting average of .247 across his 212 games played.

Matt Cronin - Harrisburg Senators (Nationals)

Last season was a success for Cronin, who made his way from the Rookie League to Double A ball. He threw a total of 20 innings, struck out 50 batters and earned four saves across the three teams he played for in 2021. He has a career ERA of 2.08 during his two seasons in minor league ball.

Dominic Fletcher - Amarillo Sod Poodles (Diamondbacks)

Fletcher spent 102 games with the Sod Poodles last season, hitting .264/.314/.445. He recorded 106 hits, 56 RBI and 15 home runs while striking out 109 times. He spent the majority of his time in right field and center field and earned a .983 fielding percentage in 2021.

Kevin Kopps - San Antonio Missions (Padres)

After being drafted in the third round by the San Diego Padres in the 2021 MLB Draft, Kopps picked up right where he left off with Arkansas. He threw 14.2 innings across the Rookie League, High A and Double A last year. He posted a 0.61 ERA, allowed just five hits, one run and struck out 22 batters. Kopps will likely be in the majors sooner rather than later.

Barrett Loseke - Somerset Patriots (Yankees)

Loseke got his first taste of Double A ball last season and he will start there this year. He has a career ERA of 3.41 across 103 innings pitched in the minors. He struck out 91 batters last season and walked 31.

Zack Plunkett - Tulsa Drillers (Dodgers)

Plunket spent most of his time in High A ball last season, but saw seven appearances on the mound for the Drillers. He posted a 6.92 ERA in his 13 inning pitched with Tulsa. He has an ERA of 4.21 across his two seasons in the minors.

Evan Lee - Harrisburg Senators (Nationals)

Lee continues his journey in the Nationals organization after being drafted by Washington in the 15th round of the 2018 MLB Draft. He started 20 games for Wilmington in High-A last season, earning a record of 4-3 to go with a 4.32 ERA. He struck out 104 batters compared to his 32 walks. Lee is getting his first shot at ball past the High A level since being drafted.

High-A

Isaiah Campbell - Everett AquaSox (Mariners)

Campbell is back for his second season with the AquaSox after going 3-1 in 19.1 innings last season. He posted a 2.33 ERA to go with 20 strikeouts. Campbell did not start a game last season, but did average nearly four innings per appearance out of the bullpen.

Ryan Costeiu - Tri-City Dust Devils (Angels)

After being drafted in the seventh round by the Los Angeles Angels, Costeiu made 11 appearances across Single A and High-A ball. He pitched 17.2 total innings, giving up 15 hits, seven earned runs and striking out 31 batters.

Lael Lockhart - Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers)

Lockhart was drafted by the Dodgers in the ninth round of last year’s draft and made nine of his 10 appearances with the Lake Loons. He posted a 2-1 record to go with a 3.55 ERA. Lockhart struck out 23 batters in his 12.2 innings pitched and batters hit just .222 against him.

Casey Martin - Jersey Shore BlueClaws (Phillies)

Martin worked his way from Single A to High A last season and he spent 29 games with the BlueClaws. In those 29 games he had just 15 hits in 110 at bats. Martin struck out 120 times during the course of his 2021 campaign and his on base percentage is just .291 as a minor leaguer.

Caden Monke - Quad Cities River Bandits (Royals)

Monke pitched for three Royals affiliates over the course of his short campaign after being drafted in the 14th round of last year’s MLB Draft. He was able to help the River Bandits win the High-A Central championship. Monke threw 13.2 innings with a 1.32 ERA, 17 strikeouts and seven walks during his first season in the minors. According to MLB.com, the Royals are open to Monke taking on any type of role, including a starting role.

Cody Scroggins - Greenville Drive (Red Sox)

Scroggins made 18 appearances with the Greenville Drive last season after moving up from Single A. He had a 5.82 ERA in 21.2 innings pitched. He had just 20 strikeouts to go with 17 walks. Scroggins will be looking to make the jump to Double A this year for the first time in his minor league career.

Charlie Welch - Everett AquaSox (Mariners)

The pinch-hitting extraordinaire hit with a .348 average in his 46 at bats in the Rookie League last season. Welch smashed three homers and drove in 13 runs during his 20 games. Welch played 11 of his 20 games at catcher and started six behind the plate. He posted a .988 fielding percentage.

Single-A

Christian Franklin - Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs)

Franklin played just four games in the Rookie League before making the jump to Single A last season. He hit .200/.402/.292 in 20 games for the Pelicans. Franklin recorded 13 hits in his 65 at bats and drove in just five runs.

Patrick Wicklander - Charleston RiverDogs (Rays)

Arkansas’ ace from the 2021 season threw 11.1 innings in the Rookie League last season. He gave up just eight hits, no runs, three walks and struck out 22 batters. Wicklander earned a 2-0 record in his 2021 minor league campaign and he is already 1-0 after a three inning outing April 9. He gave up one hit and struck out six batters for the RiverDogs.

Heston Kjerstad - Delmarva Shorebirds (Orioles)

After being drafted No. 2 overall in the 2020 MLB Draft, Kjerstad has yet to play in a minor league game. He missed the entire 2021 season due to myocarditis — heart inflammation. He was placed on the 7-day injured list April 8 due to a hamstring injury, but he is expected to finally get back on the field this season.

Jake Reindl - Myrtle Beach Pelicans (Cubs)

Reindl spent his 2021 season with the Pelicans and earned a 5.97 ERA in 24 appearances. He gave up 39 hits and 23 earned runs in 34.2 innings. Reindl has a career 4.44 ERA in the minors.

Rookie League

Jacob Kostyshock - ACL Rockies (Rockies)

Kostyshock will be picking up where he left off in 2021 — with the ACL Rockies. He appeared in three games and started two last season. Things did not go well in his 2.1 innings pitched as he gave up six hits and four earned runs while striking out none.

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Transfer Hogs

Bryce Bonnin - Dayton Dragons (High-A, Reds)

Part of Arkansas’ 2018 national runner-up team, Bonnin ended his career at Texas Tech and became a third-round draft pick. He battled injuries much of 2021 and is actually not currently listed on the Dragons’ roster, but that’s how he appears on the Reds’ top prospects list on MLB.com.

Brenden Heiss - Lake Elsinore Storm (Single-A, Padres)

Heiss was a top-200 recruit coming out of high school who turned down a 31st-round selection in the 2016 MLB Draft to play at Arkansas. However, he lasted just one year with the Razorbacks before spending time with at John A. Logan C.C., Florida Gulf Coast and NAIA Southeastern University.

Colin Poche - Durham Bulls (Triple-A, Rays)

Following two years at Arkansas, Poche had success at Dallas Baptist and became a 14th-round draft pick. He actually made it to the big leagues in 2019, appearing in 51 games for the Tampa Bay Rays, but is now back in the minors.

Jackson Rutledge - Fredericksburg Nationals (Single-A, Nationals)

Like Bonnin, Rutledge was a freshman on the 2018 national runner-up team before transferring. He landed at San Jacinto J.C. and evolved into a first-round pick. Following a promising 2019 campaign, Rutledge struggled across three levels in 2021, posting a 7.68 ERA over 36.1 innings. He’s currently on the 7-day injured list.