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As the Major League Baseball season rolled through Memorial Day Weekend, there are a number of young Long Beach ballplayers hoping to make their way up to the big leagues before the season is done.
Among the most intriguing prospects now on the doorstep of an MLB roster is former Millikan Rams infielder Spencer Steer. The University of Oregon product was recently promoted to the Minnesota Twins’ Triple-A affiliate in St. Paul, where he’s already belted a pair of home runs in his first week with the Saints.
Steer has transformed his skill set as a minor leaguer, blossoming into a legitimate power threat. The 24-year-old hit 8 homers and 13 doubles in 35 games at the Double-A level this season, and has a .586 slugging percentage which is more than 100 points better than his previous best.
Minnesota’s player development director, Alex Hassan, lauded some pretty high praise on Steer in a recent interview with The Athletic.
“Spencer has been one of the most coachable players we’ve had during my time with the Twins,” said Hassan, who was hired by the Twins in 2018. “From the moment he joined our system, he’s had a genuine thirst for knowledge and to learn exactly what he needs to do to improve.”
Another young infielder waiting at the Triple-A level is former Lakewood Lancer Brendon Davs, who was claimed off waivers by the Detroit Tigers organization on May 20. The 24-year-old Davis is hitting .247 across 43 games in Triple-A this season, including 14 multi-hit games. He’s also added six home runs and 28 RBIs. Davis was previously with the Los Angeles Angels organization, but could have a clearer path to The Show with a rebuilding Tigers team.
Former Dirtbags catcher David Banuelos is also just outside the big leagues, and is actually Steer’s teammate with the St. Paul Saints in Triple-A. Banuelos has always been regarded as an elite defensive catcher, with some pop in his bat as well. The 25-year-old launched his third home run of the season last week as he looks to continue his climb up the Twins’ organization.
Of course, there are also plenty of Long Beach guys who are established vets in the big leagues. One of the elder statesmen is San Francisco Giants third baseman Evan Longoria, who returned to the lineup on May 11. The former Dirtbag star got off to a bit of a slow start after returning from finger surgery, but his power stroke got going last week. The veteran slugger had a two-homer game on May 25, then closed the weekend with homers in back-to-back games in Cincinnati, giving him four long balls in a four-game stretch.
Another Dirtbags veteran, Bryan Shaw, is in his 12th big league season as a key reliever in the Cleveland Guardians bullpen. Shaw had one rough outing that skewed his season stats, but has otherwise been solid for the Guardians, allowing just three runs in 14 innings across his other 18 appearances.
Also in the bullpen, former Wilson Bruins hurler Tommy Nance has carved out a role with the Miami Marlins. Nance was with the Chicago Cubs a season ago, but has brought his electric strikeout stuff to South Beach where he’s fanned 12 batters in 8.2 IP with a 3.12 ERA in his first seven games with Miami.
Closer to home, Lakewood and Long Beach State product Matt Duffy has had a nice year for the Angels so far. The 31-year-old infielder posted a four-hit game last Saturday for the Halos to raise his season batting average to .290. It was the fifth four-hit game of Duffy’s career and first since Aug. 12, 2019, when he was with the Tampa Bay Rays.