It’s got to be tough to be a minor league ballplayer. You’re nominally the property of the team that chose you for six years. There’s no guarantee of a major league future, or of being injury free, or that you won’t be a throw in on a deal for the big club that sends you somewhere like Bakersfield.
Yep, the life of a minor leaguer can be a bit like a pawn. Take the case of right handed pitcher, A.J. Schugel. That’s Anthony Jeffry Schugel, age 26, son of longtime Angels scout Jeff Schugel. Schugel has an interesting story. According to a 2013 article by Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com, Schugel didn’t pitch in high school or junior college. He was an infielder who stepped up to the mound in rookie ball in 2010.
Drafted by the Angels, he started and relieved, and then was included as the player to be named later in the trade of Mark Trumbo to Arizona in 2014.
Schugel spent 2015 in AAA Reno, but was added to the 40-man roster in 2015. Called up to the bigs for five games, the righty pitched nine innings, allowed 17 hits, 5 walks, 2 dingers and five earned runs (13 unearned.) Unimpressed, the Diamondbacks cut him loose to free a spot on their 40 man roster for Mr. Greinke.
Though the M’s haven’t made many major league deals the last couple of months, I’ve been impressed with the degree of minor league churn Dipoto has engaged in. Schugel joined the Mariners coterie of bullpen hopes and dreams, while the M’s added to the mix with Ryan Cook. But trading with the Dodgers for right-handed immortal Joe Wieland was evidently Schugel’s undoing, because on January 12th, the M’s designated him for assignment.
Less than a week later, Schugel was snapped up by the Pirates. His sojourn in the steel city ended when the Bucs signed Schugel’s mirror image, lefty Jesse Biddle, from the Phillies system.
Today A.J. Schugel is unemployed. But it’s hard to see that he stays that way. He’s only 26. Every major league team needs players like him who has the potential of getting outs at the major league level if they are pressed by injury or ineffectiveness in their minor or major league bullpens.
Though Schugel has not been signed by his fourth team since December 8th, it is almost a certainty he’ll be spending March in Arizona or Florida (or both the way things have been going.) But it must be a difficult road to plan for life in one place or another when in fact it is a place that is entirely different.