By Roger Hoover / Jacksonville Suns
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Jacksonville Suns have a rich tradition of sending talented players to the major leagues. This season several former Suns will continue to play beyond the regular season, as the MLB postseason begins in earnest tonight, with the American League Divisional Series starting followed by the National League Divisional Series on Friday. After the National and American League Championship Series, the World Series will begin on Tues., Oct. 21.
Below is a guide to watching former Suns in the postseason, and be sure to check Jacksonville’s Facebook and Twitter pages to keep up with how these former Suns do as baseball moves along in October.
Kansas City Royals
Jason Frasor (2003). Originally drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the 33rd round of the 1999 draft, he was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2002. In his first year in the organization in 2003, Frasor pitched for the Suns in the first year at the Baseball Grounds. It was Frasor’s first year as a relief pitcher, and with the Suns he pitched in 35 games getting 17 saves while going 1-0 with a 2.95 ERA. He was traded the next season to the Blue Jays organization, and made his major league debut in Toronto during the 2006 season.
After pitching with the Blue Jays from 2006-2011, he was traded to the Chicago White Sox in 2011, then traded back to the Blue Jays in 2012. Last season he signed as a free agent with the Texas Rangers, then this year in July he was traded by the Rangers to the Royals. To finish the year with the Royals, Frasor was 3-0 with a 1.53 ERA in 23 appearances, helping Kansas City to its first postseason berth since 1985. The Royals face the Los Angeles Angels in the American League Division Series.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
No former Jacksonville Suns are on the Angels’ postseason roster.
Anibal Sanchez (2009) Sanchez began his career in the Boston Red Sox system before being traded to the Marlins in a deal that sent big pieces Josh Beckett and Mike Lowell to Fenway Park in the post-2005 offeseason. Sanchez made pitched in the Southern League in 2006 with the Carolina Mudcats while they were a Marlins affiliate, going 3-6 with a 3.15 ERA in 15 starts. Sanchez joined the big league Marlins later that season, tossing a no-hitter on September 6, 2006 against the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Sanchez would see time in a Suns uniform in 2009, making two rehab starts with Jacksonville during the first year of the Suns/Marlins affiliation.
Sanchez was traded to the Tigers on July 23, 2012 and finished the year as a member of the Detroit rotation. Sanchez pitched through the postseason for Detroit, going 1-2 with a 1.77 ERA and his most notable performance was a seven-inning three hit shutout performance against the New York Yankees in Game Two of the 2012 ALCS. In 2013 year Sanchez has set a career-high in victories going 14-8 with a career-best 2.57 ERA in 29 starts.
This season Sanchez has battled injuries, going 8-5 with a 3.43 ERA in 21 starts. The Tigers will face the Baltimore Orioles in the American League Division Series.
Andrew Miller (2009-10). Drafted by the Detroit Tigers in the first round of the 2006 draft out of the University of North Carolina, Miller was involved in one of the biggest trades in Marlins history. After brief major league time in 2006 and 2007, prior to the 2008 season the Marlins acquired him along with Dallas Trahern, Burke Badenhop, Frankie De La Cruz, Cameron Maybin and Mike Rabelo for established stars Dontrelle Willis and Miguel Cabrera.
Miller first made it to Jacksonville in 2009, pitching in one game in May, but the majority of the 2010 season saw the prospect in a Suns uniform. In 2010 he went 1-8 with a 6.01 ERA in 18 starts. Despite his Southern League struggles, Miller made finished the season with the Marlins, going 1-5 with a 8.54 ERA.
The Marlins traded Miller to the Boston Red Sox for Dustin Richardson prior to the 2011 season, and remained at Fenway Park until the 2014 trade deadline when he was sent to the Orioles. Miller pitched well with Baltimore to close the season, going 2-0 with a 1.35 ERA with a save in 23 apperances. The Orioles will face the Detroit Tigers in the American League Division Series.
San Francisco Giants
No former Jacksonville Suns are on the Giants’ postseason roster.
St. Louis Cardinals
No former Jacksonville Suns are on the Cardinals’ postseason roster.
Los Angeles Dodgers
Clayton Kershaw (2007-08) A first round selection (sixth overall) by the Dodgers in 2006, Kershaw rose quickly throughout the L.A. system reaching Double-A Jacksonville just a year later in 2007. That season Kershaw made five starts for the Suns, going 1-2 with a 3.65 ERA. In 2008 Kershaw began the season as the Suns’ ace, going 2-3 with a 1.91 ERA in 13 games and 11 starts in a Jacksonville uniform. Kershaw earned his first call-up to the big leagues on May 28 before being sent back Jacksonville, then he joined the Dodgers for good on July 22, 2008.
Since that point, Kershaw has been a four-time National League All-Star (2011-14), the 2011 and 2013 N.L. Cy Young Award Winner, a two-time N.L. strikeout champion (2011, 2013), and three-time N.L. ERA champion (2011-13). This season may have Been Kershaw’s best, going 21-3 with a 1.77 ERA, and is likely going to win his third Cy Young Award, and there is also consideration he will be the National League Most Valuable Player. Kershaw led the National League in ERA, ERA+, winning percentage, WHIP, strikeouts per nine innings, complete games, and wins above replacement for both pitchers and all players in the N.L.
The Dodgers will face the St. Louis Cardinals in the National League Division Series.
A.J. Ellis (2006-07): Kershaw’s catcher in the big leagues also saw time in Jacksonville during the mid-2000s in Ellis. He was selected by L.A. in the 18th round of the 2003 draft out of Austin Peay. The first action for Ellis in a Suns uniform came in 2006, playing in 82 games and hitting .250 with 21 RBI and no homers. A year later he was back in Jacksonville, spending the entire year with the Suns. That season saw Ellis raise his batting average to .269 with eight homers and 57 RBI.
Ellis made it to the big leagues first in 2008 with the Dodgers, but developed into the role of regular L.A. catcher in 2012. Ellis was behind the plate in 93 games this year for L.A., hitting .191 with three homers and 25 RBI, but continued to be the heart and soul of the club as the defensive catcher.
Matt Kemp (2006) A sixth round selection by the Dodgers in 2004, Matt Kemp made the jump to Double-A in 2006 with the Suns. Beginning the year with Jacksonville, Kemp put up solid numbers, hitting .327 with seven homers and 34 RBI in 48 games before his first call-up to Los Angels on May 28, 2006. That would be Kemp’s only time with the Suns, and he became a major league regular in 2008.
Kemp has been a two-time National League All-Star, led the National League in home runs and RBI in 2011 and has also won a pair of Silver Slugger and Gold Glove awards.
This season “The Bison” has battled injuries in spring training, yet went on to play 150 games for the Dodgers this year. He hit .287 with 25 homer and 89 RBI, and was the National League Player of the Month for September after hitting .322 with nine homers and 25 RBI as the Dodgers clinched the N.L. Western Division title.
No former Jacksonville Suns are on the Nationals’ postseason roster.
For the latest Suns news this offseason, fans are encouraged to visit www.jaxsuns.com and can keep up with the Jacksonville Suns on the club’s Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram social media platforms, as well as the “Tales from Bragan Field” blog: www.sunsradio.com.