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Hitter of the Day: Mike Hessman, 1B/3B, Tigers (Toledo, AAA): 2-5, R, HR, BB.
By now you’ve probably heard the story. You’ve almost certainly heard Hessman compared to Crash Davis, the iconic character that Kevin Costner played in Bull Durham. And while that Hollywood performance creates a certain mystique, Hessman’s real-life story lands far short of Susan Sarandon’s company or even a coaching stop in Visalia. It certainly deserves so much more attention than the novelty mention on Twitter that it received.

Hessman’s home run on Monday night was the 433rd of his minor-league career, setting the all-time mark. It will be dismissed because it’s the minor leagues, and because Hessman hit just .188 in 250 major-league plate appearances, and spent almost his entire career on buses in the minor leagues. But he made it to the majors and you didn’t. And he has over 5,000 plate appearances in Triple-A and you don’t. And neither do I, despite every effort I could put forth.

We all play until the game tells us we’re no longer good enough. For some of us, that’s at 12. For others, that’s in high school. For me it was at 22, after a successful college career, but still short of my dream to be a professional player. It’s a cruel game, no matter how much we love it, and some of us are hanging on to every last thread of it that we can grasp.

But Mike Hessman, at age 37, is still playing. He may be a career .232 hitter in the minor leagues, but he’s still playing. No one has hit more home runs in minor league baseball than he has, and that’s a hell of an accomplishment. It’s a testament to one man’s desire to continue to play the game he loves, and he should be applauded for that.

Congratulations, Mike, and on behalf of all of us, please keep swinging.

Pitcher of the Day: Chase DeJong, RHP, Dodgers (Rancho Cucamunga, A+): 6 IP, 3 H, R, 0 BB, 7 K.
DeJong, who was traded to the Dodgers this summer in exchange for international slotting flexibility, was subsequently bumped from Low-A to High-A after switching organizations and has done nothing but miss more bats since becoming Dodger property. Armed with a potential plus fastball/curveball arsenal, he has the stuff to hang in the California League as a 21-year-old and has done well thus far. He’s got the size to be a starter, with the typical third-pitch development being an important factor. But he’s a strong acquisition for the Dodgers given that all he cost them was money.

Best of the Rest

Aramis Garcia, C, Giants (Augusta, A-): 4-6, 2 R, HR, K. Garcia can hit. It was only a matter of time before he figured out Low-A ball, and while it took him a little longer than many expected given his college exploits, he got there and has attacked the Sally league with abandon in the past month. He’s ready for a test in the California League in the last month of the season so prepare him for next year’s assignment, but regardless of placement, Garcia has reaffirmed himself as a potential piece for the Giants’ future.

Orlando Arcia, SS, Brewers (Biloxi, AA): 2-3, 2 R, 2B, BB, K, 2 SB. The power production has improved, though not drastically so for Arcia, who still profiles as a defense-first player. Luckily, that works at shortstop, especially when you’re really good at it. He may never hit for power, but he should hit consistently enough to be an everyday bat at a premium position, with strong-enough contact skills to let his hit tool play to its optimal level.

Jake Bauers, 1B, Rays (Montgomery, AA): 2-5, R, 2 2B. Bauers is making a case for himself as one of the more underrated prospects in all of baseball. He’s a first-base-only player, which immediately limits his profile and thus knocks him down most rankings, but he’s got the makings of a bat that will play there. He doesn’t offer the premium power that is so often required at first base, but his hit tool makes up for it, and he has enough power to get the job done. It’s not the most exciting profile, but he was the best first baseman in the Florida State League for the first half of the season before being promoted, and while he’ll ultimately get overlooked in most rankings, he should end up spending a lot of time in a big-league lineup.

Alex Bregman, SS, Astros (Lancaster, A+): 3-5, 3B, SB, CS. The Astros have already jumped Bregman to High-A ball, which is not surprising given the refinement that he got at LSU. Still, some saw Bregman as a signability pick at second overall, when in fact he was worthy of the selection based solely on merit. He’ll be poised to move quickly, and while his ceiling might not be as high as many would presume with such a high pick, his floor is quite high and he should have no problem reaching the big leagues.

Notable Prospect Starters

  • Michael Feliz, RHP, Astros (Corpus Christi, AA): 7 IP, 4 H, 0 R, 2 BB, 5 K.
  • Colin Rea, RHP, Padres (El Paso, AAA): 7 IP, 5 H, 3 R, BB, 3 K.
  • Jose Berrios, RHP, Twins (Rochester, AAA): 7 IP, 7 H, 3 R, BB, 4 K.
  • Taylor Guerrieri, RHP, Rays (Montgomery, AA): 5 IP, 2 H, 0 R, BB, 3 K.

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Congrats and a hearty huzzah to Mike Hessman!!
Mike Hessman has had an incredible career. He is in the top what, .05% of baseball players? I know we normally have to ignore this fact to actually talk about and analyze the game, but his career really does remind us just how good anyone who can have a pro career really is, even if that player wasn't good enough to play in the show.
Jeff, great write up on Mike Hessman. I was one of those guys that had to give it up when I was 12. I used to wonder why guys stick around so long until I read "Bullpen Gospels".
My favorite part of Mike Hessman's PECOTA card is his 2024 projection of still hitting 11 bombs. Awesome.