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LB In MLB: Opening Day Scouting Report

Last season was one of the busiest ever for Long Beach baseball players in the MLB, and this season already has a wide range of news and notes from the local boys in The Show.

Troy Tulowitzki ended his first spring training with the New York Yankees on a high note earlier this week. The former Long Beach State Dirtbags shortstop hit his fourth home run of the spring on Monday in the final warmup game before the regular season.

Tulowitzki, 34, was traded by the Toronto Blue Jays after missing all of 2018 due to injury. He had surgery on both of his heels, and worked out at Blair Field in December while waiting for a new contract with a new team. The Yankees came calling and Tulowitzki has won the Opening Day job at shortstop because of his strong spring and an injury to Didi Gregorius.

“Just thinking of taking the field on Opening Day, it will be cool when it happens,’’ Tulowitzki told the New York Post. “I didn’t know what I was in for. I didn’t know if I’d stay on schedule, play nine innings or go back-to-back. But my body held up, I feel good and I’m excited about that.”

Tulowitzki is entering his 13th season with 224 home runs and 779 RBIs in his career.

Aaron Hicks also signed a new contract with the Yankees during the offseason after having a career year in the outfield. The Wilson High alum will make $70 million over the first seven years of the new deal after posting career-best numbers in games played (137), home runs (27), RBIs (79), runs scored (90) and wins above replacement (4.7).

Unfortunately, Hicks has been dealing with a back injury during spring training. He told ESPN that he was “doing great” after a second cortisone shot last week, but Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he doesn’t think Hicks, 29, will be ready for the first week of the season. Hicks is eligible to come off of the injured list on April 4.

Evan Longoria is hoping for a bounce-back season at third base with the San Fransisco Giants. The LBSU Dirtbags product is coming off of the worst offensive season of his 12-year career after averaging 26 home runs and 89 RBIs over 10 years with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Longoria, 33, told the San Fransisco Chronicle last week, “I feel like a completely different player right now. I’m definitely in a better place in my head than I was last year. I expect to go out there and perform the way I’m capable. I’m really looking forward to this year.”

Shane Carle has been impressive in his first full spring training with the Atlanta Braves. The former Dirtbags pitcher posted a 2.86 ERA in 53 appearances out of the bullpen last season in his second year as a pro. Carle, 27, had 11 strikeouts in 10.1 innings this spring while giving up four earned runs on two home runs.

J.P. Crawford was optioned to Triple-A Tacoma by the Seattle Mariners earlier this month. The Lakewood High alum was traded from the Philadelphia Phillies during the offseason with hopes of winning the shortstop job for the Mariners. Crawford, 24, had six hits and six strikeouts in his 27 plate appearances this spring. He was the 16th overall selection of the 2013 draft.

Chase De Jong also got bad news this month after starting spring training with the Minnesota Twins. The Wilson High alum and right-handed pitcher was sent to the minor league camp last week after compiling a 10.45 ERA in five outings.

Matt Duffy has spent most of spring training on the injured list for the Tampa Bay Rays. The Lakewood High alum and LBSU Dirtbags product put on 25 pounds during the offseason to avoid injury. Duffy, 28, missed all of 2017 with a heel injury, and the third baseman hit .294 in 136 games last season.

Former Dirtbags Jeff McNeil and Garrett Hampson will open the 2019 season on big league rosters after making their MLB debuts in 2018. McNeil is starting at third base and batting sixth for the New York Mets, while Hampson is a utility player for the Colorado Rockies. The infielder hit .279 in the spring with four home runs and seven stolen bases.

Marco Estrada already made his first start for the Oakland A’s after being traded from the Toronto Blue Jays in the offseason. The former Dirtbags pitcher gave up five hits and three earned runs on two home runs in one of the season opening games against the Seattle Mariners in Tokyo, Japan, last week. Estrada, 35, is in his 11th year with his fourth team.

Nick Vincent signed a free agent deal with the San Fransisco Giants and made the opening day roster. The former Dirtbags pitcher had a 3.17 ERA while striking out a batter per inning during spring training. Vincent, 32, spent four years with the San Diego Padres, and three with the Seattle Mariners. He has a 3.14 career ERA with 332 strikeouts in 332 innings.

Justin Turner was born in Long Beach, and will be a key to the Los Angeles Dodgers success this season. Turner, 34, is back at third base after struggling with injuries last year, and hit .465 this spring with a .814 slugging percentage.

Bryan Shaw is starting his ninth year as a pro, and his second in the Colorado Rockies bullpen. The former Dirtbag joined the Rockies after five seasons with the Cleveland Indians, but he struggled last year trying to find a role in Colorado. Last year, Shaw posted a 5.93 ERA and a 1.79 WHIP over 54.2 innings, and it hasn’t been much better this month. Shaw, 31, had a 5.59 ERA and a 1.86 WHIP through 9.2 spring training innings.

Jason Vargas is trying to extend his 14-year career in the New York Mets rotation. The LBSU product has pitched well enough during spring training to stay in the conversation about the Mets starting rotation. Vargas, 36, was an All-Star in 2017 with the Kansas City Royals.

Jared Hughes delivered one of his best campaigns in his first year with the Cincinnati Reds after signing a 2-year deal. The former Dirtbags pitcher has a 2.69 career ERA after six years with the Pittsburgh Pirates and one with the Milwaukee Brewers. Hughes, 33, had a 1.94 ERA and seven saves coming out of the Reds bullpen last season.

Travis d’Arnaud will start the season on the injured list for the New York Mets. The Lakewood High alum missed most of last year due to injury, and will try to get back behind the plate before the end of the month. d’Arnaud hit 16 home runs and drove in 57 runs as the everyday catcher for the Mets in 2017.

JJ Fiddler
JJ Fiddler is an award-winning sportswriter and videographer who has been covering Southern California sports for multiple newspapers and websites since 2004. After attending Long Beach State and creating the first full sports page at the Union Weekly Newspaper, he has been exclusively covering Long Beach prep sports since 2007.