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LB in MLB: 2024 Baseball Season Starts In Full on Thursday

The 2024 Major League Baseball season will have its full-scale Opening Day on Thursday, with a number of former Long Beach ballplayers on big league rosters and even more waiting in the minor leagues.

With a mix of seasoned veterans and promising prospects, more than two dozen Long Beach representatives participated in Spring Training this year. Here’s how they fared preparing for the new MLB season, with stats through Sunday, Mar. 24.

As always, this offseason brought plenty of player movement, with a number of players ending up with new organizations. Wilson High alum Aaron Hicks joined the hometown club by signing with the Angels back in January, and he’s been tearing it up this spring. Hicks is hitting .375 with a 1.150 OPS, two home runs and three stolen bases in only 40 at-bats for the Halos. 

Fellow Bruins alum Tommy Nance signed with the San Diego Padres back in December, making five relief appearances for the Padres during Cactus League play.

Long Beach native Justin Turner is with his third different organization in as many seasons, hitting three homers with 11 RBIs this spring for the Toronto Blue Jays, where he projects to DH and hit in the middle of the order.

Veteran infielder Matt Duffy, out of both Lakewood High and Long Beach State, signed on with the reigning World Series Champion Texas Rangers this offseason. Duffy got 45 at-bats for the Rangers during Spring Training, hitting .289 with a .340 on-base percentage. He was released earlier this week and will be a free agent for any teams looking for a utility infielder in the 2024 campaign.

Fellow Dirtbags alum Garrett Hampson signed a one-year free agent deal with the Kansas City Royals this offseason. It’s the third big league franchise for Hampson, who appeared in 14 games during camp, hitting just .167 across 36 at-bats.

LHP Clayton Andrews was traded from the Milwaukee Brewers to the New York Yankees this offseason. The former two-way standout at Long Beach State made his MLB debut last season for Milwaukee, and was used five times out of the Yankees bullpen in Spring Training. He’s been assigned to Triple-A to start the 2024 season.

Another Dirtbag with a new home is RHP Darren McCaughan, who made his MLB debut in 2021 with the Seattle Mariners and has picked up a couple starts for the Miami Marlins in spring. He tossed three scoreless innings against the Mets in his last start and has a 5.40 ERA in 8.1 IP.

Lakewood’s Brendon Davis is back with the team that drafted him, the Los Angeles Dodgers, who signed him as a free agent in early January. Davis was 3-for-7 in limited opportunities during Spring Training, and will look to earn playing time in the Dodgers infield this season.

There are also some big league stalwarts out of Lakewood, led by SS J.P. Crawford, who hit .325 with a .386 OBP during a productive spring. In Atlanta, C Travis d’Arnaud will once again have a key reserve role, and he batted .300 in 20 at-bats during Spring Training.

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One of the game’s rising talents on an improving Cincinnati Reds team is INF/OF Spencer Steer out of Millikan. After a terrific rookie season, Steer has the potential to play a number of different positions for the Reds while hitting in the heart of the order. He pummeled the ball in spring with a .340 average and a stellar 1.093 OPS with four homers, three steals and 12 RBIs in only 50 at-bats.

Fellow Millikan alum Jon Singleton got 40 at-bats with the Houston Astros this spring, batting .200 with seven RBIs as he looks to maintain his bench role with the big league club.

As usual, there will be a healthy group of Long Beach State Dirtbags in The Show this year. Veteran RHP Bryan Shaw is back in the Chicago White Sox bullpen, he struck out 12 in 9.1 innings of relief this spring with an unsightly 11.57 ERA.

Former NL Batting Champion Jeff McNeil is entering his seventh season with the New York Mets and had a quiet spring with no hits in 13 AB’s. OF Jarren Duran is looking for an even bigger role with the Boston Red Sox this season, hitting .293 with an .838 OPS in 41 spring at-bats.

Long Beach natives and brothers Trevor and Tylor Megill are expected to be key pieces for their respective teams in 2024. Trevor will be a high-leverage reliever for the Milwaukee Brewers, making seven spring training appearances with a 3.86 ERA. Tylor has made five starts this spring with a 3.92 ERA and 23 K’s in 20.2 IP.

There’s also a host of Long Beach products waiting for their shot at the big leagues who were invited to participate in Spring Training this year, led by top prospect Ricky Tiedemann with the Toronto Blue Jays. The former Lakewood Lancer made three starts this spring, striking out eight in 6.2 innings. If he can stay healthy, he could factor into Toronto’s plans later this summer.

This year’s Spring Training also included the first ever Spring Breakout games, intended to showcase an organization’s top prospects. The first of these games featured the Cincinnati Reds, who selected former Millikan Rams pitcher Julian Aguiar to start the game. The 22-year-old Aguiar allowed one run in three innings against the Texas Rangers’ prospects, and he’ll hope to make his MLB debut later this season in the Queen City.

Seven former Long Beach State players were invited to Spring Training as they continue to pursue their big league dream. C David Bañuelos is now with the Baltimore Orioles and picked up a pair of hits with a .313 OBP in 12 at-bats with his new organization. OF Connor Kokx was back with the Cleveland Guardians in Spring Training going hitless in seven at-bats.

On the pitching side, RHP Devereaux Harrison made a start and relief appearance for the Toronto Blue Jays, posting a 5.40 ERA across 5.0 IP. RHP NIck Avila had a strong camp with the San Francisco Giants, striking out 14 over 10.1 innings out of the bullpen, with a 4.35 ERA, a win and a save.

For the Miami Marlins, RHP Eli Villalobos had a 4.91 ERA in five relief appearances. RHP Dylan Spacke tossed one inning of relief for the Boston Red Sox with two walks and a strikeout. And LHP Adam Seminaris recorded one out in his lone appearance for the Milwaukee Brewers.

Tyler Hendrickson
Tyler Hendrickson was born and raised in Long Beach, and started covering sports in his hometown in 2010. After five years as a sportswriter, Tyler joined the athletic department at Long Beach State University in 2015. He spent more than four years in the athletic communications department, working primarily with the Dirtbags baseball program. Tyler also co-authored of The History of Long Beach Poly: Scholars & Champions.