On September 17, 2021, 21-year-old Jordan Díaz went 1-for-4 with his team-leading 13th home run for the Lansing Lugnuts in a 6-4 home victory against West Michigan.
On September 18, 2022, 22-year-old Jordan Díaz made his MLB debut for the Oakland Athletics, going 1-for-3 with a single.
Díaz, named to the 2021 High-A Central Post-Season All-Star Team after pacing the Lugnuts in batting average (.288), hits (96), doubles (24), RBIs (56) and slugging percentage (.483) in addition to homers, became the second member of the 2021 Nuts to reach the Majors one year after playing in Lansing, joining pitcher Norge Ruíz.
In making the Major Leagues, the native of Montería, Colombia, tied a franchise record: 12 former Lugnuts have debuted in The Show this year, topping all seasons in club history except for 2017.
173 players have now worked their way from Lansing to Major League Baseball.
- The first of the 12 this season was the only one who made it onto a Major League roster from Spring Training: Zach Jackson, debuting April 9 out of the Athletics bullpen.
Jackson was a third-round pick of the Blue Jays in 2016 who dominated in relief for the Lugnuts in 2017. Three years later, the Athletics selected him in the Rule 5 Draft, Minor League portion, and he turned in a stellar 2021 with Double-A Midland. His rookie year, coming at age 27, has been strong before landing on the Injured LIst: 67 K in 48 innings pitched, with a 3.00 ERA and 125 ERA+.
- On April 19, Zach Logue became the second straight former Lugnut to debut with the A's.
Acquired with Kirby Snead, Kevin Smith and Gunnar Hoglund in the offseason for All-Star third baseman Matt Chapman, the 2018 Nuts southpaw starter made his first MLB appearance.
Since then, Logue has received regular opportunities in the Oakland rotation, with 14 games, 10 starts, logging a 6.79 ERA in 57 innings.
- The very next day, April 20, Christian Lopes received the call.
It had taken ten years for Lopes to climb the ladder from Lansing to the Major Leagues; he had been a regular for the 2012 Lugnuts of Noah Syndergaard/Aaron Sanchez/Kevin Pillar fame.
At age 29, he played in four MLB games, going 0-for-9 with a walk and five strikeouts before returning to Triple-A.
- The stay was similarly short for another Lugnuts infielder. Vinny Capra made his MLB debut for the Blue Jays on May 1.
An off-the-radar MiLBer, Capra was selected in the 20th round in 2018 out of Richmond, playing in 25 games with the Nuts during his first professional season and hitting .266. He skipped over High-A to Double-A New Hampshire in 2019, but struggled to a .229 average in 110 games. But then Capra caught fire in 2021, batting .327 with surprising power for the Fisher Cats. Suddenly he was very much on the radar.
He played in eight games for the Jays, going 1-for-5 with a single, two walks and a strikeout before returning to the minors where another solid season (.283 avg. in Buffalo) has been sidelined by two different injuries.
- A sidewinding left-handed reliever from Florida, Danny Young posted a 2.70 ERA in 21 appearances for the 2016 Lugnuts. He spent parts of the next three seasons in New Hampshire's bullpen before heading to Cleveland in the 2019 Rule 5 MiLB draft.
In February 2022, Young signed as a free agent with the Seattle Mariners, where he found his path to the Major Leagues.
Young made his MLB debut on May 9 for the M's, appearing in two games and striking out five batters while allowing three runs in 3 2/3 innings.
He was subsequently claimed off waivers by the Braves, for whom he turned in 2 2/3 scoreless innings before heading to Triple-A Gwinnett.
- At the end of May, the sixth newest Major League Lugnut arrived – and it was with a fifth different team. Josh Winckowski, a month away from his 24th birthday, had bounced around since starring in the Lansing rotation in 2019.
On January 27, 2021, he was traded by the Toronto Blue Jays to the New York Mets with Yennsy Díaz and Sean Reid-Foley in exchange for Steven Matz. Two weeks later, on February 10, Winckowski was included in a seven-player, three-team deal, moving to the Boston Red Sox (with the headliner, Andrew Benintendi, heading to Kansas City).
So it was with Boston that Winckowski debuted on May 28, making the first of what has now become 14 starts for the Red Sox. In 67 1/3 innings, he has a 5.75 ERA, striking out 41 batters while walking 26.
(A bonus call-up: On June 14, broadcaster Jesse Goldberg-Strassler, the voice of the Lugnuts since 2009, flew in for a three-game cup of coffee to call the A's series at Fenway Park. In his second game, Winckowski beat the A's to notch his first MLB win.)
- The most prominent Lugnut to arrive in the Majors dropped in on June 11: catcher Gabriel Moreno was called up to Toronto.
In May 2019, a 19-year-old Moreno showed up in Lansing to replace the promoted Alejandro Kirk (who's continuing to do well for himself, too), homered in his first at-bat, and went on to show tremendous, advanced hitting ability.
Then he hit .373 in 32 games with Double-A New Hampshire and the secret was out: He became one of the highest regarded prospects in baseball, let alone one of its top catching prospects.
In 19 games this year with the Blue Jays, Moreno has hit .279. It is just the start.
- Let's stay with the Blue Jays, because right-hander Maximo "Max" Castillo, all 6-foot-2, 280 pounds of him, came up to the Majors on June 19th.
It had been a measured road for Castillo to the Majors. 2017 in Bluefield, 2018 in Lansing (131 1/3 innings), 2019 in Dunedin, 2021 in New Hampshire, and then from New Hampshire to Buffalo to Toronto in 2022. A ridiculous stint in Triple-A Buffalo notably aided things: 2 runs allowed in 27 1/3 innings for a 0.66 ERA.
Castillo pitched capably with the Blue Jays, with a 3.05 ERA and 130 ERA+ in 20 2/3 innings before he was traded to Kansas City with Samad Taylor for Whit Merrifield on August 2. He's since made two starts for the Royals, totaling 9 2/3 innings with only three runs allowed. And he's still only 23 years old.
- In a match made in aquatic heaven, on July 31, Jake Fishman officially became a Miami Marlin.
A legend at D-III Union College where he led all college pitchers with a 0.41 ERA, Fishman was taken in the 30th round round by Toronto in 2016. His stint with the Lugnuts in 2017 wasn't long – four appearances, 6 2/3 innings – but it sure was memorable, with 15 strikeouts notched, including seven in two innings on August 26 against Fort Wayne.
Selected in the Rule 5 MiLB portion by Miami, he was effective for the Triple-A Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp in 2021 (3.67 ERA, .213 avg.) and then even better this year (2.25 ERA, .194 avg) before landing in Miami. In three MLB appearances, the most recent on September 17, Fishman has allowed only one run on eight innings. He's doing just fine, thank you very much.
Union College Dutchmen, represent.
- So far, all of these Lugnuts were from years ago. 2012 for Lopes, 2016 for Young, 2017 for Fishman and Jackson, 2018 for Castillo and Logue and Capra, 2019 for Moreno and Winckowski. How about someone more recent?
How about a pitcher who appeared in games for Lansing on July 31, August 4, August 7 and August 11 during the 2021 season?
On August 19, 2022, reliever Norge Ruíz appeared in his first MLB game for the Oakland Athletics.
Norge is a different sort of story. When he joined the Nuts last year, he was 27 years old. It was a pseudo rehab assignment; after all, he had first pitched at the High-A level in 2017. In 2018, he pitched in both Double-A and Triple-A. And then in 2019, he pitched in Double-A and Triple-A again. But in 2021, he was recovering from injury, trying to work his way back up the ladder to Double-A Midland before suffering a setback with the Lugnuts. His appearance against the Dayton Dragons on August 11, was the last time he pitched in 2021.
Freshly healthy for 2022, he was reliable for Triple-A Las Vegas in a difficult pitching environment, earning his ticket to Oakland when an opportunity arose in the bullpen.
Mission accomplished for a man rated the No. 3 international prospect when the Athletics first signed him. He hopes, as do the A's, to be a part of the Oakland bullpen for a long time to come.
- September brings fresh chances for prospects to show their skills. On September 13, Miami chose to open the door to one of its top prospects, acquired via trade at the deadline: Blue Jays first-rounder Jordan Groshans.
The 12th overall pick of the 2018 draft, Groshans arrived in Lansing to begin 2019 with great fanfare. He lived up to expectations, too, hitting .337/.427/.482 with six doubles and two homers before a foot injury shut him down after 23 games.
Returning in 2021, he skipped over High-A and went right to New Hampshire, holding his own against Double-A pitching with a .291 average and an .817 OPS. In his Buffalo debut this season, however, he showed little power in 67 games before the Jays traded him to Miami with Edward Duran for pitchers Anthony Bass and Zach Pop on August 2.
The power resurfaced with Jacksonville, where he slashed .301/.398/.416 with seven doubles and two homers, setting the stage for his Major League arrival.
Groshans's first Major League home run arrived shortly thereafter, slugged against fellow former Lugnut Noah Syndergaard.
His brother was happy about this.
26 seasons of Lugnuts baseball, 173 Major Leaguers produced.
That's what it's all about, seeing players rise through Lansing on their way to the Major League stage.
Stay tuned, there's going to be plenty more to come.