After the first month of the Major League Baseball season, there’s plenty of great news to report on Long Beach’s former ballplayers. From red hot starts to early season call-ups, it’s been an enjoyable 2022 campaign on the diamond.
The shining star so far has been Seattle Mariners shortstop J.P. Crawford. The former Lakewood Lancer has taken his game to another level after signing a five-year contract extension in the offseason. Through May 8, Crawford is hitting .340 with a sparkling .981 OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage) to go with his Gold Glove defense.
He ranks fifth in all of baseball with a 198 wRC+, which measures a player’s ability to create runs for his team. That mark indicates that Crawford has been 98 percent better than the average major leaguer so far. It’s still early, but Crawford looks well on his way to securing career highs in home runs and RBIs while hitting in the heart of the Seattle lineup, and he’s a strong candidate to finally make his first All-Star Game appearance this summer at Dodger Stadium.
Crawford isn’t the only Lakewood alum tearing it up early on. Travis d’Arnaud is off to a strong start with the Atlanta Braves, hitting just a shade under .300. That mark gives him the best batting average in baseball among catchers and he’s second among MLB catchers with 13 RBIs.
Former Long Beach State Dirtbag Jeff McNeil is off to a great start for the New York Mets, ranking 12th in MLB in batting average with a .323 mark through this past weekend. McNeil was an All-Star in 2019 and has battled injuries ever since, but has a chance at a career year as a regular in a solid Mets lineup.
Speaking of injuries, fellow Dirtbag Garrett Hampson had his season derailed by a hand injury, but made an immediate impact once he returned. In his first at-bat back in the Colorado Rockies lineup, Hampson launched a three-run home run. He’ll need to battle for playing time on a Rockies team that’s exceeded expectations so far, but his speed and defensive versatility make the 27-year-old a valuable piece of the roster.
Former Wilson Bruin star Aaron Hicks has settled into a nice role with the New York Yankees, helping the Bronx Bombers to the best record in the American League. The switch-hitting Hicks has been slotted in as the primary leadoff hitter for the Yankees-especially against right handed pitching–and has flourished in the role. His .395 on-base percentage ranks 14th in the big leagues, and the 32-year-old has shown his speed with four stolen bases on the young season. He’s stolen double-digit bases three times in his career, but has never had more than 13, which he accomplished in 2015 during his last season with the Minnesota Twins.
Speaking of Wilson Bruins, righthander Chase De Jong was called up by the Pittsburgh Pirates on Apr. 22 and picked up the win in his season debut at Wrigley Field against the Cubs. The 28-year-old is off to a good start in his sixth big league season, working as a multi-inning reliever for the Pirates. De Jong has a 2.45 ERA in 7.1 innings across four relief appearances.
Also getting a midseason callup was Long Beach State alum Jarren Duran, who was promoted to the Boston Red Sox on May 6 after destroying Triple-A pitching through 18 games. Duran was immediately put into the leadoff spot and had a triple and a run scored in his first game back in Fenway.
As for the next wave of big leaguers out of Long Beach, former Lakewood Lancers left-handed pitcher Ricky Tiedemann has been outstanding in his first five starts at the Single-A level. The third-round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in last year’s draft is 3-1 with a 1.44 ERA and an impressive 39 strikeouts in his first 25 professional innings for the Dunedin Blue Jays.