Joining the seven Major League players from Alabama that played this past season, there are 12 former Tide players that played minor league baseball, and three former players playing independent (non-affiliated) ball. I will do a thumbnail sketch of how their seasons went, and what their chances are of going forward.
First up is right-hander pitcher Spencer Turnbull, who played for the Tide in 2012, 2013, and 2014, before being a second-round pick by the Detroit Tigers. The Madison, Mississippi native has battle injuries over his minor league career, but recovered to reach AA this year, as well as pitching in the prestigious Arizona Fall League. The hard-throwing redhead spent most of the season in Lakeview (Advanced A), but also earned a promotion to Erie (AA) toward the end of the season. At Lakeview, Turnbull fashioned a 7-3 record with a 3.05 ERA over 15 starts, going 82.2 innings, allowing only 68 hits with 25 walks and 64 strikeouts. Combined his numbers were 7-6 with a 3.70 ERA in 112 innings, with 98 hits allowed and 102 strikeouts against 35 walks.
Left-handed relief pitcher Thomas Burrows was chosen in the fourth round by Seattle after his junior year at Alabama (2016). The Tide's all-time leader in saves was traded to the Atlanta Braves organization in the winter of 2016 and spent the season in Rome, Georgia (Full season A) Burrows was used in an unfamiliar set-up role for the majority of the season, but did have enough opportunities to notch three saves. In 38 games, the Florence native had a 3-5 record with a 2.16 ERA in 66.2 innings pitched, allowing only 48 hits with 25 walks, 92 strikeouts, a 1.10 WHIP and only one home run allowed all season.
Hard-throwing right hander Matt Foster served as Burrows set up man in his only season in Tuscaloosa (2016), and was selected in the 20th round by the Chicago White Sox. After an amazing start to his career in 2016 (29.2 IP, 12 hits, seven walks, 41 strikeouts, a 0.61 ERA and a 0.64 WHIP), Foster got off to a late start after dealing with a medical issue to start the season, however when he did see action, he picked up right where he left off in 2016. In two levels the Valley, Alabama native pitched 27.2 innings, allowed 16 hits, walked only five and struck out 33 with a 1.30 ERA and a 0.76 WHIP. Foster was also selected to play in the Arizona Fall League with several up and coming prospects.
Taylor Guilbeau is a 6'4" left handed pitcher that came to the Tide from Zachary, LA in 2012, and was a four year member of the team. A 10th round selection of the Washington Nationals, Guilbeau has bounced between the bullpen and the starting rotation in his three minor league seasons. In 2017 he was with the Potomac Nationals in the Advanced A Carolina League. In 23 games, 15 starts, Guilbeau pitched 99.1 innings with a 4-5 record and a 5.89 ERA, striking out 78 and allowing 128 hits.
Geoffrey Bramblet, a right-handed pitcher, played for the Tide in 2014, 2015, and 2016. He was taken in the 30th round by the Kansas City Royals, and signed after his junior season. Bramblett pitched in two levels in 2017, ending the year with the Idaho Falls Chuka in the Pioneer League. In 22 games, six starts, the Hoover native posted a 7-4 record with a 6.02 ERA in 80.2 innings pitched, allowing 105 hits with 30 walks and 60 strikeouts.
Justin Kamplain was a mainstay in the Tide rotation in 2012, 2013, and 2014 before being selected in the 18th round by the New York Yankees. The lefty has bounced around in the Yankee organization, spending multiple years with the Staten Island team (Short Season), which is primarily used for first year players. In 2017 the Jasper native pitched in 18 games (1 start) with a 3-1 record and a 1.41 ERA in 32 innings, allowing only 18 hits and nine walks with 33 strikeouts and a 0.84 WHIP.
Will Carter only spent one year in Tuscaloosa, 2015, after a junior college career, and was selected by the New York Yankees in the 14th round. The Gray, Tennessee native pitched for the Trenton Thunder in the Eastern League (AA), in 2017. The righty battled injuries through out the summer, but pitched in 15 games (six starts), throwing 47 innings with a 3-1 record and a 3.26 ERA.
Catcher Wade Wass spent the season in Mobile with the California Angels AA affiliate the Mobile Bay Bears. The sturdy back stop had his season cut short by injury in late July, but is recovered and spent the fall in Arizona in the Fall League. Wass spent 2013 and 2014 in Tuscaloosa, and signed with the Angels as a free agent in June after tearing up the Cape Cod League. Before going on the disabled list Wass slammed 11 home runs with a .257 batting average.
Infielder Mikey White played at Bama in 2013, 2014 and 2015, before being a second round pick of the Oakland Athletics. After playing exclusively at shortstop for the Tide, the Spain Park graduate has assumed a utility role for the A's, playing all four positions in the infield. White really picked up his power numbers this past summer while playing in the Advanced A California League. In 440 at bats the slugger hit 17 home runs, slugged 27 doubles and four triples, while driving in 73 runs with a .261 batting average.
Kyle Overstreet was a gold glove-winning second baseman while in Tuscaloosa in 2013, 2014, and 2015. After being selected by the San Diego Padres in the 14th round, the Boaz native was converted to catcher. Overstreet had his most productive season to date in 2017, hitting .322 for a combination for Full A Fort Wayne, and the Advanced A team in Lake Elsinore. With 245 at bats, Overstreet had six home runs, 19 doubles and 35 runs driven in.
Casey Hughston spent the 2014 and 2015 seasons in Tuscaloosa and as a draft eligible sophomore was chosen in the third round by the Pittsburgh Pirates. Hughston spent most of the season with Bradeton in the Sally League (Class A-Full) and also was promoted to AA Altoona in time for the playoffs. The Mobile native played left field and right field for the Tide, but has been moved to center field in the professional ranks. In 400 at bats the lefty swinger hit .247 with eight home runs, 16 doubles, nine triples, 41 runs driven in and 15 stolen bases. Hughston led the Sally League in triples.
Catcher Will Haynie played for the Tide in 2014, 2015, and 2016 and signed with the Colorado Rockies after being picked in the 16th round after his junior season. 2017 was an injury filled season for the big backstop and he was only able to get 58 at bats, and hit .172 with one home run over that short sample size.
Catcher Ben Moore was released by the Boston Red Sox after spring training and ended up signing and playing Independent ball, of which statistics are hard to come by. Left handed pitcher Colton Freeman was released by the Chicago Cubs, and signed for Independent ball, but was also released during the summer. Catcher Tanner DeVinney went un drafted after the 2017 season for the Tide, and signed on with an Independent team also.
Of the players currently in the minor leagues, Turnbull, Foster, Burrows, and Wass probably are the closest to joining the 70 former Tide players that have reached the Major Leagues. Their positions, and their success so far would be the main reasons they would make it. Pitchers, which the first three are, and catchers, which Wass is, typically have the "easiest" patch to the show. (There is nothing easy about this process, however.) White, Hughston, Carter and Overstreet, in that order, would be the next wave with a chance to advance. This coming season will be key for all, as they are all reaching that 24-26 age range where it becomes paramount to continue to advance, although you do hear of MiLB "lifers" that stick with it for eight to 10 years, before finally making it.
Minor league baseball is a grind, with low pay, (like $1,100 a month in-season only), long bus rides, and little in the way of amenities that MLB players enjoy. Many times the players live six to eight in crowded conditions on blow up mattress and little spending money. Major league players receive $150 a day on road trips for meal money, while minor league players receive $25 a day.
You have to admire these players that are working away, trying to realize their lifetime dreams, with no guarantees of anything. They truly do it "for the love of the game", and for the lucky few that make it, they will have put in blood, sweat, and tears. Good luck to all!
Bama Baseball Fever, Catch it