DURHAM, N.C. – Thirteen former Blue Devils are currently employed by Major League clubs, including 11 players mentored by seventh-year head coach Sean McNally.
Chris Capuano is currently a fixture of the New York Mets starting rotation, 2007 draft pick Jimmy Gallagher is the everyday first baseman for the Triple-A Charlotte Knights, and former two-way outfielder Alex Hassan has emerged as one of the top hitters in the Double-A Eastern league.
Duke’s newest additions to professional baseball are also enjoying successful seasons, including left-handed closer Christopher Manno and shortstop Jake Lemmerman who were both named All-Stars of their respective Class-A leagues. Duke baseball’s all-time home run leader Nate Freiman has found his power stroke and is one of the most productive batters in the High-A California League with 13 homers and 68 RBI.
Read on for detailed reports regarding each of Duke’s baseball alumni who are playing in the pros.
Greg Burke – RHP – San Diego Padres
Undrafted Free Agent: Signed by the San Diego Padres in 2006
2011 Team: Tucson Padres (Triple-A Pacific Coast League)
2011 MiLB Stats: 1-2, 5.40 ERA, 38 APP, 43.1 IP, 41 K, 16 BB, .305 B/Avg.
Burke is one of the most heavily used relievers in all of minor league baseball. His 38 appearances this season are the most in the Pacific Coast League, putting him right alongside teammate Luis Perdomo who has 38 outings as well. Burke spent over half of the 2009 season in the big leagues with the Padres and has spent the last two seasons at Triple-A. Undrafted out of Duke in 2005, Burke spent one year in independent league baseball before signing as a free agent with the Padres in 2006. He has since made over 300 appearances in professional baseball, including 48 at the major league level.
Chris Capuano – LHP – New York Mets
1999 MLB Draft: 8th Round (238th Overall) – Arizona Diamondbacks
2011 Team: New York Mets (MLB – NL East)
2011 MLB Stats: 7-7, 4.27 ERA, 15 Starts, 90.2 IP, 77 K, 24 BB, .277 B/Avg.
Capuano is having a resurgence in New York and is locked in in the Mets’ starting rotation. In his sixth year in the big leagues, Capuano is 7-7 with a 4.27 ERA and has thrown his best since the beginning of June. In his six June starts, Capuano is 4-2 with a 3.25 ERA. The 6-3 left-hander has beaten surging Milwaukee and Detroit during that span and has gone at least five innings in ever start this season. His average of 2.38 walks per nine innings is the second lowest of his career, as is his 3.21 strikeout-to-walk ratio.
Nate Freiman – 1B – San Diego Padres
2009 MLB Draft: 8th Round (234th Overall) by the San Diego Padres
2011 Team: Lake Elsinore Storm (High-A California League)
2011 MiLB Stats: .300 (94-for-313), 20 Doubles, 1 Triple, 13 HR, 68 RBI, 46 BB, 3 SB
Freiman has found his power stroke and has mashed nine of his 13 home runs since the beginning of May. Duke’s all-time home run leader, Freiman and Padres prospect Jedd Gyorko form one of the most productive offensive duos in the High-A California League, combining for 30 percent of Lake Elsinore’s total run production. He ranks third in the league in RBI, sixth in hits and among the top 10 in home runs, doubles and total bases. He is having an outstanding June, batting .385 with five home runs, nine doubles and 25 RBI for the month. His hot start to the second half of the California League season has the Storm in first place in the CAL South League with a 5-1 record.
Jimmy Gallagher – 1B – Chicago White Sox
2007 MLB Draft: 7th Round (239th Overall) – Chicago White Sox
2011 Team: Charlotte Knights (Class-AAA International League)
2011 MiLB Stats: .262 (73-for-279), 27 Doubles, 2 Triples, 4 HR, 34 RBI, 41 R, 42 BB, 4 SB
Gallagher was the first player drafted during head coach Sean McNally’s six-year tenure, and he is on the verge of breaking through to the big leagues with Chicago’s Triple-A affiliate in Charlotte. On a team that includes White Sox top prospects Dayan Viciedo and Jordan Danks, Gallagher leads the Knights in doubles and walks and ranks among the top three in runs scored and total hits. Gallagher’s Knights are currently five games back in the International League’s South Division, trailing the Durham Bulls.
Jeremy Gould – LHP – New York Mets
2010 MLB Draft: 28th Round (842nd Overall) by the New York Mets
2011 Team: Brooklyn Cyclones (Short-Season Class-A New York-Penn League)
2011 MiLB Stats: 0-1, 4.50 ERA, 4 APP, 2 Saves, 4.0 IP, 4 K, 0 BB, .313 B/Avg.
Like his Duke classmate Ryan McCurdy, Gould moved from extended spring training to the New York-Penn League in the middle of June. Currently settled in as the closer for the Brooklyn Cyclones, Gould has logged two saves in his four appearances along with four strikeouts and no walks. A first baseman and outfielder during his tenure at Duke, Gould was drafted as a pitcher and is still undergoing the conversion to full-time reliever.
Ben Grisz – RHP – Washington Nationals
Undrafted Free Agent: Signed by Washington Nationals in 2011
2011 Team: Auburn Doubledays (Short-Season Class-A New York-Penn League)
2011 MiLB Stats: 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 3 APP, 1 Save, 4.0 IP, 1 K, 2 BB, .154 B/Avg.
Grisz signed with the Nationals as a free agent after graduating from Duke in three years. The 6-1 right-hander has gotten off to a fast start in Washington’s minor league system, logging three scoreless relief appearances and a save. He has allowed just two hits in those four innings and has helped the Doubledays to wins in two of those outings.
Alex Hassan – OF – Boston Red Sox
2009 MLB Draft: 20th Round (618th Overall) by the Chicago White Sox
2011 Team: Portland Sea Dogs (Class-AA Eastern League)
2011 Class AA Stats: .327 (83-for-254), 20 Doubles, 8 HR, 42 RBI, 40 R, 53 BB, 6 SB http://web.minorleaguebaseball.com/milb/stats/stats.jsp?pos=CF&sid=milb&t=p_pbp&pid=572910
Hassan continues to produce in Double-A, leading Portland in hits, walks and on base percentage while also leading the Eastern League in walks and OBP. A two-way outfielder and closer at Duke, Hassan has flashed some power as well, belting eight home runs in 73 games which already matches the career high he set in High-A in 2010. Hassan opened 2011 red hot, hitting .411 in April and .301 in May. He’s currently at .284 in June with five homers and 15 RBI, giving him 42 RBI and 40 runs scored for the year.
Jake Lemmerman – SS – Los Angeles Dodgers
2010 MLB Draft: 5th Round (172nd Overall) by the Los Angeles Dodgers
2011 Team: Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (High-A California League)
2011 MiLB Stats: .289 (77-for-266), 18 Doubles, 1 Triple, 6 HR, 34 RBI, 50 R, 4 SB
The 2010 Pioneer League MVP, Lemmerman was named to the California League All-Star Team and delivered a double, RBI and a run in the High-A showcase. That performance fell right in line with his second season of professional baseball, which includes a .287 batting average, 25 extra-base hits, 32 RBI and 49 runs scored. A fifth-round draft pick by the Dodgers, Lemmerman has moved from the top of the lineup to the middle, appearing in the three, four or five spot in his last five games. The change has given him a boost in RBI, as his 12 batted in during June are his most in a month this season.
Christopher Manno – LHP – Washington Nationals
2010 MLB Draft: 26th Round (776th Overall) by the Washington Nationals
2011 Team: Hagerstown Suns (Class-A South Atlantic League)
2011 MiLB Stats: 1-3, 1.06 ERA, 10 Saves, 27 APP, 34.0 IP, 52 K, 13 BB, .153 B/Avg.
Manno was named to the Class-A South Atlantic League All-Star Team, and with good reason. The left-handed reliever is off to a dominant start in his second professional season and serves at the closer for the Hagerstown Suns, posting a 1.06 ERA and a team-leading 10 saves over his 27 appearances. Strikeouts have been plentiful for Manno, who set Duke’s single-season record for strikeouts per nine inning as a sophomore until teammate Marcus Stroman broke it last season. He has fanned 52 hitters in just 34 innings this year while walking only 13 batters. He opened the year with a 26-inning scoreless streak and has allowed just 18 hits and four earned runs all year.
Ryan McCurdy – C – Houston Astros
Undrafted Free Agent: Signed by the Houston Astros in 2010
2011 Team: Tri-City ValleyCats (Short-Season Class-A New York-Penn League)
2011 MiLB Stats: .273 (3-for-11), 1 Double, 2 RBI, 0 R
After a stint in extended spring training, McCurdy was assigned to Short-Season A ball with the Tri-City ValleyCats. He has a hit in each of his three games, including an RBI double in a 3-2 loss to Lowell on June 29.
Michael Ness – RHP – Houston Astros
2010 MLB Draft: 33rd Round (993rd Overall) by the Houston Astros
2011 Team: Lancaster JetHawks (High-A California League)
2011 MiLB Stats: 2-2, 6.22 ERA, 25 APP, 46.1 IP, 41 K, 16 BB, .327 B/Avg.
Ness has seen plenty of action out of the Lancaster bullpen, getting the call to the mound 25 times. His 46.1 innings in relief lead all JetHawk relievers, as do his 41 strikeouts. He had one of the best outings of his brief pro career on June 18 when he struck out eight batters over 3.2 innings in relief. Ness earned the win in that game as the JetHawks rallied late to earn a 14-8 win over Inland Empire.
Dennis O'Grady – RHP – San Diego Padres
2011 MLB Draft: 34th Round (1,043th Overall) by the San Diego Padres
2011 Team: AZL Padres (Rookie Arizona League)
2011 MiLB Stats: 0-0, 6.43 ERA, 2 APP, 1 Start, 7.0 IP, 4 K, 0 BB, .323 B/Avg.
O’Grady became Duke’s most recent draftee in early June and has already made his first professional start on the mound. After a two-inning relief appearance in his debut, O’Grady got the starting nod on June 29 against the AZL Giants and scattered four hits and two runs over five complete innings. The Giants came back to win immediately after O’Grady left the game, however, giving him a no-decision despite leaving with a 6-2 lead. Over his seven innings, the former Duke ace has yet to walk a batter while striking out four.
Andrew Wolcott – RHP – Arizona Diamondbacks
2009 MLB Draft: 17th Round (516th Overall) by the Arizona Diamondbacks
2011 Team: Injured Reserve (Elbow)
Wolcott is undergoing rehabilitation for surgery to reconstruct a torn ligament in his right elbow. The former first team All-ACC pick suffered the injury early in spring training. Wolcott had reached as high as High-A in 2010 before the injury. He has made 35 starts in his two previous seasons and owns a career walk rate of 2.32 per nine innings over his 182 innings of professional baseball.