The year-in and year-out success of the Dirtbags isn’t by accident. With premier instruction inside of an organization dedicated to instilling discipline, fundamentals and a passion for the game, elite players are attracted to the Dirtbags and often find a way to maximize their potential as they prepare and move on to the next level.
As the Cactus League is set to welcome nine former Dirtbags to MLB spring training camps, the Florida-based Grapefruit League will find seven ex-Dirtbags on big league diamonds this spring, continuing the Dirtbags strong legacy of developing future big leaguers. With spring training beginning this week, here’s a look at the one time Dirtbags that’ll be spread throughout Florida as they gear up for a shot at glory in October.
Mike Wright Jr.
Right-handed pitcher Mike Wright Jr. is preparing for his fourth go in the majors this spring. A third-round draft pick out of East Carolina in 2011, the Bennettville, S.C. native debuted in May 2015 with the same Baltimore Orioles organization which drafted him less than four years prior. Wright appeared in 12 games as a rookie, making nine starts for the O’s. The next season, Wright helped Baltimore reach the American League playoffs, earning 12 starts in 18 appearances. In his three seasons in the bigs, Wright has logged 144.1 innings, over 43 games, striking out 104 batters. The Orioles hold their spring training in Sarasota.
In his first season receiving regular playing time, Hicks rewarded the Detroit Tigers with a strong season. Debuting with the Seattle Mariners on Aug. 29, 2015, Hicks appeared in 17 games for the M’s. The Tigers signed the Virginia product prior to the 2016 season and used him for one game, before calling on him for 60 starts behind the plate in 2017. Hicks batted .266 with 12 doubles and six home runs, posting a .766 OPS. As the Tigers look to rebuild to their former dominant ways, Hicks appears set to help lead the Motor City revival.
The Dirtbags will have a Detroit battery mate as right-handed pitcher Alex Wilson joins Hicks in Lakeland this spring. Wilson is a former second-round draft pick of the Boston Red Sox, appearing in 44 games between the 2012-2013 seasons for Boston, before becoming a mainstay in the Tigers bullpen. Wilson enjoyed a stellar 2015 season, holding a 2.19 ERA over 59 games, going 3-2 with two saves over 70 innings for Detroit. A veteran of 231 MLB games, Wilson has pitched 259 innings over five seasons, sporting a 3.20 ERA.
New York Yankees
In his first season back with the New York Yankees, Warren showed why the Pinstripes coveted him, helping New York return to the postseason. After helping the Chicago Cubs break the curse and win the 2016 World Series, the right-hander’s return to the Bronx helped New York have one of MLB’s best bullpens. Appearing in 46 games, Warren went 3-2 with four saves next to a 2.35 ERA. In 57.1 innings, the 2009 fourth-round draft pick out of North Carolina struck out 54 batters against just 15 walks. Entering his seventh MLB season, Warren owns a 3.45 ERA over 505.2 innings and a stingy .235 batting average against. Warren and the Yankees hold spring training in Tampa as the AL East club looks to return to the playoffs, after falling one game shy of the World Series in 2017.
Like Warren, Moran perfected his craft in Chapel Hill as a Tar Heel before becoming one of the country’s top prospects. The first-round draft pick of the Miami Marlins in 2013, Moran is with his third organization, but after showing a flash of promise 2017 season the stage is set for the former Dirtbag to become a big league force. For the World Series-winning Houston Astros, Moran appeared in seven games, going 4-for-11 at the plate with a triple and a home run. Moran debuted with Houston on May 18, 2016, needing less than three years from his draft day to reach the bigs. Moran went on and saw action in nine games in 2017. The Astros traded Moran to the Pittsburgh Pirates on Jan. 13, 2018, giving the third baseman an opportunity to become an everyday regular and hopefully an anchor as the Pirates attempt to rebuild, starting with this spring training in Bradenton.
From Rocky Mount, N.C., outfielder Brian Goodwin heads to the Washington Nationals’ spring training in Jupiter ready to pick up where a strong 2017 campaign ended. For the National League East Division champions, Goodwin made 74 starts, batting .251 on the year with 21 doubles and 13 home runs. Posting an .811 OPS, Goodwin helped Washington weather a series of injuries in the outfield, after only having 42 big league at-bats over 22 games under his belt. Drafted with the 34th overall pick out of Miami Dade Community College in 2011, Goodwin was an organizational all-star for Washington in 2012, an International League all-star in 2016 and now heads into 2018 looking to make another impact in a lineup full of all-stars for the Nationals.