By Ivan Garcia, Contributor
The 2018 Major League Baseball season featured appearances from 12 former Long Beach State Dirtbags, including three big league debuts and a few familiar faces in new places. Some players flourished, others struggled, one retired and another had a promising beginning.
Here are some of the Dirtbags to look out for in “The Show” next season.
After making three appearances—including his major league debut—with the Colorado Rockies in 2017, the relief pitcher was claimed off waivers then traded to the Atlanta Braves in January. The 6-foot-4-inch righty had 53 appearances and finished with a 2.86 ERA, 43 strikeouts and 27 walks in 63 innings.
Carle was left off the Braves National League Division Series roster after battling through shoulder inflammation in the latter part of the season.
After missing the entire 2017 campaign with an Achilles tendon injury, Duffy posted respectable numbers in his first full season with the Tampa Bay Rays, slashing .284/.361/.366 with four home runs, 44 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 132 games.
Duffy’s Rays amassed an impressive 90-72 record in the American League East but missed the playoffs.
The longtime minor league catcher secured a spot on the Seattle Mariners 2018 Opening Day roster and appeared in 10 games before being optioned to Triple-A.
In early July, Marjama decided to retire from baseball in order to pursue a position with the National Eating Disorders Association. In an interview with the Sacramento Bee, Marjama, 29, noted that he battled through an eating disorder while at Granite Bay High School.
In a letter posted on Twitter, Marjama said, “For most of my life I believed that my purpose was to play Major League Baseball.” He added, “Having achieved more than I could have ever imagined in this game, I began to realize that my mission in life means more than a baseball career, earnings, or success.”
The 32-year-old reliever pitched in 62 games for the Seattle Mariners in 2018 and became a reliable arm in the Mariners’ bullpen. However, he struggled this season, finishing with a 3.99 ERA, 56 strikeouts and 15 walks in 56.1 innings.
He became a free agent in November after refusing to accept his outright assignment to Triple-A.
The 35-year-old pitcher started 28 games for the Toronto Blue Jays and finished the season with a 5.64 ERA in 143.2 innings. He joined the Blue Jays in 2015 and had three memorable starts in the 2016 playoffs where he posted a 1-2 record with a 2.01 ERA in 22.1 innings.
Estrada is currently a free agent.
The 31-year-old reliever struggled mightily after signing a three-year, $27 million contract with the Colorado Rockies.
He appeared in 61 games and finished with a 5.93 ERA and a 1.793 WHIP (Walks and Hits per Innings Pitched) in 54.2 innings. His poor performances resulted in only four relief appearances during September and exclusion from the Rockies’ NLDS roster.
In 2019, he’s looking to bounce back as a member of the Cleveland Indians where he accumulated a 3.11 ERA, 1.188 WHIP and 333 strikeouts in 358.2 innings.
The veteran third baseman was acquired by the San Francisco Giants from the Rays in December 2017.
In his first season with the Giants, Longoria played in 125 games and slashed .244/.281/.413, with 16 home runs and 54 RBI. The 33-year-old needs 23 home runs to reach 300 and is 54 RBI shy of 1000. If he remains healthy, he has a good shot of reaching these milestones in 2019.
Longoria’s best years are behind him but he is owed $67.5 million until 2022.
The 35-year-old starter signed a two-year, $16 million contract with the New York Mets in February. In 20 starts for his new club, Vargas posted a 7-9 record with a 5.77 ERA in 92 innings.
The 6-foot-7 reliever had a phenomenal season with the Cincinnati Reds.
Appearing in 72 games, he finished with a 1.94 ERA, 1.017 WHIP, 59 strikeouts and 23 walks in 78.2 innings—the most in his career. The 33-year-old signed for two years and $4.5 million in December 2017.
The New York Mets pitcher made his major league debut on July 10 against the Philadelphia Phillies, pitching 4.2 innings, allowing six runs, seven hits, one walk and three strikeouts.
The 28-year-old was optioned back to the Mets Triple-A affiliate, the Las Vegas 51’s, and was recalled in September when rosters were expanded. Gagnon made four relief appearances in September and threw 7.1 innings, allowed eight hits, one unearned run, four walks and five strikeouts.
The Colorado Rockies 24-year-old infielder/outfielder made his major league debut on July 21 against the Arizona Diamondbacks. In his second plate appearance, Hampson hit an RBI-double for his first career major league hit.
He played a total of 24 games and slashed .275/.396/.400 in 48 plate appearances and defensively, he played eight games at shortstop, seven at second and two in the outfield. Since D.J. LeMahieu is a free agent, Hampson might be given an opportunity to become the Rockies starting second baseman for 2019.
Hampson was the only LBSU alum to play in the 2018 postseason.
This is THE former Dirtbag to keep an eye on in 2019.
Making his major league debut on July 24 as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning against the San Diego Padres, he singled to deep center for his first career major league hit for the Mets.
McNeil appeared in 63 games with the Mets and finished the season with a promising slash line of .329/.381/.471 with three home runs, 11 doubles, six triples, seven stolen bases and only 24 strikeouts and 14 walks in 248 plate appearances.
He had four hits in a game against the Atlanta Braves on Aug. 4. and did it again against the Giants on Aug. 21 and the Washington Nationals on Sept. 23. McNeil finished the season with 20 multi-hit games and had an 11-game hitting streak from Aug. 16 to Aug. 26.
Defensively, McNeil played 54 games at second base and four at third base. With the recent acquisition of second baseman Robinson Cano, it’s unclear where McNeil fits with the Mets.
However, if McNeil can sustain his performance, Mets manager Mickey Callaway will find a way to get his bat in the lineup.
The 34-year-old Toronto Blue Jays shortstop missed the entire 2018 season after undergoing surgery to both heels. He was recently released with $38 million left on his contract.
Since 2011 there have been more Dirtbags in the majors than any other college, according to the official Long Beach State Athletics website.
Except for Marjama who retired, the majority of the players on this list will likely see major league action next season. Carle, Duffy, Shaw, Longoria, Vargas and Hughes should all retain their place on a major league roster next season based on performance or financial commitments.
Gagnon, Hampson and McNeil will battle for a spot on the major league team during spring training, with the latter two having a real chance of making the Opening Day roster.
Regardless of what team you root for, if you’re a fan of Long Beach State, then there will be no shortage of opportunities to cheer on former Dirtbags that are in the MLB.