Marco Estrada, Brandon McCarthy lead locals at pro level

Whether it was at the major or minor league level, plenty of former area baseball players competed on professional diamonds not only across the United States, but in Canada and Mexico.

There were a number of story lines along the way, as the 2013 campaign saw former Glendale Community College and high school standouts making contributions in professional baseball.

It wasn't only on the field where stories were made, as off-the-field issues followed a handful of players throughout the year.

In Major League Baseball, starting pitchers Marco Estrada of the Milwaukee Brewers and Brandon McCarthy of the Arizona Diamondbacks spent significant time on the disabled list. When healthy, the duo enjoyed pockets of success, though the Brewers and Diamondbacks had their share of struggles and missed out on the postseason.

In the minors, Christian Bergman thrived with the Tulsa Drillers and was selected to participate in the Texas League All-Star Game and Alonzo Gonzalez helped the Vancouver Canadians win their third straight Northwest League title. Some players earned promotions in the minors, while another was taken in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft in June.

The following wrap-up highlights the seasons that were for local products at various stages of their careers in 2013.

Marco Estrada (Glendale Community College, 2003) pitcher, Milwaukee Brewers: Ups and downs defined the 2013 season for Estrada, a former Western State Conference honoree. The right-hander was sidelined nearly two months with a hamstring injury and the Brewers finished 14 games under .500, 74-88, for fourth place in the National League’s Central Division.

Still, Estrada, 30, fared well when healthy and produced some career highlights. He finished 7-4 with a 3.87 earned-run average in 21 starts and struck out 118 in 128 innings.

His best work came after he returned from the disabled list Aug. 7. He went 3-0, picking up victories against the Texas Rangers, Cincinnati Reds and Atlanta Braves. In his first nine appearances after returning from the disabled list, he posted a tidy 2.15 ERA.

Estrada topped Atlanta on Sept. 23, as he allowed two hits and struck out six in seven scoreless innings to help Milwaukee earn a 5-0 road victory. In six of his last eight starts, Estrada allowed one run or less and recorded at least six strikeouts in each of his last six appearances.

Estrada closed out the season Sept. 29 with another sharp effort against the host New York Mets. He allowed one run and two hits and struck out eight, but didn’t factor into the decision in Milwaukee’s 3-2 defeat.

“I needed it,” Estrada told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “Obviously, the first half wasn't the greatest (4-4, 5.32 ERA in 12 starts). I thought I threw some good games, but I had some really bad ones.

“To come back and stay healthy and finish strong means the world. I hope I showed them enough. I'm glad I ended strong and gave them something to think about.”

Estrada will be eligible for arbitration in the offseason, but he might have made a case for the Brewers to have him back in the rotation in 2014.

“Marco has pitched in the second half the way we thought he would all year,” Milwaukee Manager Ron Roenicke told the Journal Sentinel. “We’ll see if he can maintain that through a season. We’ll certainly go into spring training with the thought that he can do it.

“That was a great way for him to finish the season. He gets strikeouts with the fastball, he gets strikeouts with the breaking ball, he gets strikeouts with the change-up. When he’s on like that, he can really go through lineups.”

Brandon McCarthy (Glendale native) pitcher, Arizona Diamondbacks: After a scary ending to his 2012 season when he took a line drive off his head, McCarthy missed a large chunk of this year with related injuries but improved as the season wrapped.

In his first season in Arizona, McCarthy went 5-11 with a 4.53 earned-run average and spent nearly two months on the disabled list with shoulder inflammation. He also had a setback in his minor-league rehab when he suffered a seizure, linked to his frightening injury in 2012, on June 3.

McCarthy, 30, did return to the show and put together some strong performances for the Diamondbacks (81-81 for second place in the National League’s West Division). In his final outing of the season Sept. 28 against the visiting Washington Nationals, he yielded only two runs in seven innings in a 2-0 defeat.

He struck out 76 and allowed 161 hits in 135 innings. One of McCarthy’s best efforts came Aug. 26 against the visiting San Diego Padres. He struck out five and scattered five hits in seven innings in Arizona’s 6-1 victory.

McCarthy finished up the campaign with seven consecutive solid performances. In that stretch, McCarthy registered a 2.94 ERA in 49 innings. He also might be a candidate to return to the starting rotation for Arizona in 2014.

“I know there are still things to build on, but in the end it’s a positive,” McCarthy told “My strikeout numbers have to go up. When I feel like I’m commanding it for seven innings, one strikeout, even against a good team, isn’t enough. I need to be at least at a five or six level. I think the development of my off-speed stuff is the way to get there. I can throw strikes all day long. It’s just being able to throw strikes that I want them to swing at.”

In his final seven outings, McCarthy walked three batters and struck out 21.

Christian Bergman (St. Francis High, 2006) pitcher, Tulsa Drillers: Every season, it seems the former All-Area Baseball Player of the Year selection takes another stride in his career. Bergman’s career continued on the upward swing through Tulsa after he was named the California League’s Pitcher of the Year in 2012.

The right-hander made steady progress throughout the season with the Drillers, the double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. He was selected to participate in the Texas League’s 77th All-Star Game, but didn’t participate because he pitched eight innings two days earlier.

Shortly after the All-Star game, Bergman received an additional accolade, being named the league’s pitcher of the week, which ended Aug. 4. Bergman turned in a fine effort Aug. 2 against the Northwest Arkansas Naturals. He tossed a three-hitter and struck out six in going the distance for the first time in the season to lift visiting Tulsa to a 5-0 victory.

Bergman went 8-7 with a team-best 3.37 earned-run average. He struck out a team-high 111 in 171 innings. He yielded 162 hits in 171 innings and allowed 76 runs (64 earned), with a team-best 1.08 WHIP.

Bergman helped the Drillers (68-70 overall) win the first-half championship in the league’s North Division and qualify for the postseason. Unfortunately for Bergman and the Drillers, they were swept in a best-of-five series against Arkansas.

In the first game of the series, Bergman surrendered four home runs in Tulsa’s 8-3 defeat. He went 5 2/3 innings, giving up six runs (five earned) and striking out four.

“I had some ups and downs and that goes along with any season,” Bergman said. “I wanted to go out there and replicate what I did in 2012.

“When you go from A to AA, it’s quite a big jump and you can see a difference in the level of play. I had my worst outing in the playoffs and I had hoped to go out on a better note. If anything, it gives me extra motivation going into next season. I’ll go into spring training and look to make a statement and not be satisfied with what I did in 2013.”

Ryan Sherriff (Glendale Community College, 2011) pitcher, Palm Beach Cardinals: Sherriff showed he had something to offer at the next level this year.

The left-hander produced another good season with Palm Beach, the class-A advanced affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals, and near the midway point of the season, he was promoted to the double-A Springfield Cardinals.

Sherriff, a former Glendale Angeleno and Vaquero, finished 4-4 with a 2.31 earned-run average with Palm Beach. The starter struck out 41 and walked 13 in 13 appearances spanning 78 innings.

At Springfield, Sherriff went 2-1 with a 3.33 ERA in five games. Sherriff, who helped Glendale college advance to the state tournament in 2011, registered 18 strikeouts in 27 innings before being reassigned to Palm Beach on June 22.

“I feel like I’m getting better,” Sherriff said. “My stats and ERA showed what I could do.

“I learned a lot again. In the Texas League, the hitters are a lot more selective and you have to make the adjustments a lot quicker. In the Florida State League, the players are aggressive, but not as aggressive. My goal next year is to make it to double-A out of spring training.”

In his last 10 games — all with Palm Beach — Sherriff went at least five innings in nine appearances. In that stretch, he went 3-3 with an even 2.00 ERA. He struck out 28 in 63 innings.

His best outing in that span came Aug. 3 against the visiting Dunedin Blue Jays. Sherriff allowed one hit and struck out three in going the distance to help Palm Beach notch a 7-0 victory.

Palm Beach finished 64-71 and in fifth place in the Florida State League’s South Division.

Alonzo Gonzalez (Glendale Community College, 2012) pitcher, Vancouver Canadians: In his young career, Gonzalez has bounced between the starting rotation and bullpen looking for a permanent home. The lanky lefty may have found his niche in relief this season.

The former Glendale Angeleno saw time as a starter and reliever on the mound for Vancouver, the class-A short affiliate of the Toronto Blue Jays which won its third straight Northwest League championship.

Gonzalez, who stands at 6-foot-5 and 200 pounds, finished 0-2 with a 2.68 earned-run average. He struck out 30 batters in 37 innings for Vancouver. In 11 appearances, Gonzalez made four starts. He fared better as a reliever, going 0-1 with a 2.41 ERA in 18 1/3 innings.

Vancouver advanced to the postseason, and Gonzalez found himself in a key role in the series-clinching game against the Boise Hawks on Sept. 9. He went 1 2/3 innings and had two strikeouts to earn a hold in Vancouver’s 5-0 home victory.

Gonzalez also pitched the first game. He struck out three in 1 2/3 innings in a game Boise won, 5-0.

Vancouver finished 39-37 and took second in the league’s North Division.

It turned out to be quite a turnaround for Gonzalez, who began the season with the Lansing Lugnuts, the Blue Jays’ class-A affiliate. Things didn’t go well in Lansing for Gonzalez, who went 2-9 with a 5.56 ERA in 18 appearances — mostly starts — before being moved to Vancouver and the bullpen.

Joe De Pinto (St. Francis High, 2007) outfielder, Winston-Salem Dash: When given consistent playing time, De Pinto, who is property of the Chicago White Sox, showed he can make an impact in minor league baseball. The former All-Area honoree split the season between the Winston-Salem and Birmingham Braves.

De Pinto, who attended USC, earned a promotion to Birmingham, the White Sox’s double-A affiliate. In five games with Birmingham, De Pinto batted .375 (six for 16) with two runs batted in and four walks.

At Winston-Salem, the class-A advanced affiliate of Chicago, he hit .236 (43 for 182) with three home runs and 16 runs batted in. De Pinto collected 15 doubles and scored 36 runs in 58 games.

De Pinto’s best performance with the Dash came July 12. De Pinto collected two doubles, hit a solo home and scored a pair of runs to spark the Dash to an 11-3 victory against the Myrtle Beach Pelicans.

The Dash finished 71-69 for their fourth winning season in the last five years. They took third place in the Carolina League’s Southern Division.

Lonnie Kauppila Jr. (La Crescenta native) infielder, Everett AquaSox: Kauppila realized a life-long dream when he was drafted in the 16th round and 477th overall in the Major League Baseball First Year Player Draft by the Seattle Mariners in June.

The two-time All-Area Baseball Player of the Year struggled at the plate for Everett, the Mariners’ class-A short affiliate, while playing up the middle of the infield as a second baseman and shortstop. Kauppila, who was an All-Pac 12 Conference honorable mention with Stanford University, batted .182 (20-110) with one home run and 12 runs batted in. He registered four doubles and scored 12 runs.

Kauppila’s first professional milestone came Aug. 18, when he hit his first career home run in Everett’s 6-2 home victory against the Eugene Emeralds. Kauppila, who attended Crescenta Valley High before transferring to Burbank, hit a solo home run in the sixth inning.

Kauppila also enjoyed a good effort Aug. 22 against the Vancouver Canadians. He had two hits and drove in a pair of runs in Everett’s 8-4 win. Kauppila had a run-scoring single in a six-run third inning and had a sacrifice fly in the eighth.

Everett finished 44-32 and won the second-half championship in the Northwest League’s North Division. It finished 21-17 in the second half.

In the first round of the playoffs against the Vancouver Canadians, Everett was swept in the three-game series. Kauppila went hitless in seven at-bats and drew a walk in the playoffs.

Jesse Meaux (Glendale High, 2007) pitcher, Asheville Tourists: It proved to be a season of misfortune for Meaux, a former All-Area honoree, on and off the field.

The right-hander got off to an excellent start with Asheville, the double-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies. Meaux, 24, was 0-0 with one save and five holds in 16 appearances with Asheville before suffering a strained right shoulder and being placed on the seven-day disabled list.

Before going on the disabled list, Meaux had a team-best earned-run average of 0.90. He allowed two earned runs in 20 innings and struck out 26 and walked 17 in that span for a 1.25 WHIP.

Meaux, a UC Santa Barbara product, sustained the injury during his last appearance May 24 against the Rome Braves. The Tourists opted to shut Meaux down for the season in order to get him back on track for the 2014 season.

However, Meaux encountered legal trouble off the field July 27. Meaux and teammate Michael Mason were charged with two counts each of first-degree rape and first-degree sexual offense (four total counts apiece). Each offense is classified as a B1 felony in North Carolina and carries a range of potential sentences based on prior offenses, with a minimum of 12 years per charge. Meaux was also suspended indefinitely by the Colorado Rockies.

Meaux’s next hearing was scheduled for Nov. 22 in district court.

Asheville finished 63-73 and in sixth place in the South Atlantic League’s Southern Division.

Chad Nacapoy (Crescenta Valley High, 2007) catcher, Princeton Rays: After getting some international experience while playing for Team Philippines in the World Baseball Classic Qualifier in November, the former All-Area selection returned to Princeton to improve in all facets of his game.

Nacapoy, a former member of the Glendale Angelenos, hit .158 (six for 38) with one run batted in for Princeton, a rookie affiliate of the Tampa Bay Rays. He scored a pair of runs in 13 games.

Nacapoy finished off the season on a bright note. He had a run-scoring single to help Princeton record an 8-4 road win against the Bristol White Sox on Aug. 30.

Princeton went 25-43 and finished in last place in the Appalachian League’s East Division.

Fernando Valenzuela Jr. (St. Francis High, 2000) designated hitter/ first baseman, Leones de Yucatan: Valenzuela, a former standout at St. Francis High, continued an impressive run in the triple-A Mexican League this season. One of the highlights not only of the year but his career came when he was named to the All-Star team for the second time in his seven years in Mexico.

Though Leones de Yucatan finished 50-61 and didn’t appear in the postseason after finishing sixth in the league’s Sur Division, Valenzuela certainly did his part at the plate.

Valenzuela, who transferred to UNLV after playing at Glendale college, batted .346 (131 for 379) with five home runs and 56 runs batted in. In 104 games, Valenzuela notched 26 doubles, two triples and scored 53 runs. He walked 33 times and had 176 total bases.

Valenzuela, 31, also finished the season strong. In his last 10 contests, he hit .324 (11 for 34) and scored four runs. Valenzuela collected two hits in each of his last two games.

Jason Botts (Glendale Community College, 2000) outfielder, Piratas de Campeche: An eight-year professional baseball career may have come to a close for Botts this season.

After a brief stint competing in the major leagues with the Texas Rangers, Botts has spent the past few seasons in Japan and the triple-A Mexican League, but played his last game with the Piratas on May 3 before being released by the team.

Botts last played in the majors with Texas in 2008, hitting a pair of home runs in 15 games.

With Campeche, Botts, who was selected by Texas in the 46th round of the 1999 First-Year Player Draft, batted .256 (32 for 125) in 36 games with four home runs, seven doubles and 22 runs batted in.

Botts, 33, began the season with a sizzling start. One of his top games came April 7 against Rieleros de Aguascalientes. Hitting in the clean-up spot, Botts went five for five to lead Campeche to a 15-5 victory. Botts had a three-run home run, drove in four runs and scored three runs.

Campeche went 47-63 for seventh place in the Sur Division.

Fernando Rios (Glendale High, 1997) outfielder, Rieleros de Aguascalientes: Rios participated in 47 games while competing in the triple-A Mexican League. Rios, 34, batted .245 (26 for 106) with one home run, three doubles and 11 runs batted in. He scored 11 runs and walked nine times.

Rios’ lone home run came July 23 against Vaqueros de la Laguna. He hit a three-run home run in the fourth inning to help Rieleros de Aguascalientes to a 9-2 road victory.

Rios finished up his season on a positive note, batting .276 (eight for 29) with five runs batted in.

Rieleros de Aguascalientes finished 53-58 and in fifth place in the Norte Division.

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