Baseball is back. Rather, baseball will be back on July 1st when MLB training camps begin in home markets as the MLB Players Association and the league came to an agreement after nearly three months of frustrating negotiations. The 2020 season will run through September 27, consist of 60-games under unique protocol, and include six former Ole Miss Rebels.
While changes to the schedule and play structure are one thing, the most glaring matter lies with roster management, positive COVID-19 tests and how to handle injuries without a minor league season. To address this concern, there will be a COVID-19 injured list with no minimum or maximum length of time spent on it, while standard injured list stints will be for 10 days and the typical 60-day stint will instead be for 45 days. In addition, teams will have a ‘taxi squad’ roster with up to 60 players available to play in major league games, which were released yesterday.
Aaron Barrett — RHP — Washington Nationals
Aaron Barrett is one of the greatest success stories to come from Ole Miss in recent years. In high school and while at Wabash Valley Junior College, he was drafted in the 2006, 2008 and 2009 MLB Drafts but committed to play for Mike Bianco and the Rebels. He had a solid career in Oxford and was selected in the 10th round of the 2010 Draft by the Nationals, where he has been chosen to the 60-man roster, now ten years later.
Barrett worked his way through the minors and spent two quality years as a reliever in the big leagues in 2014 and 2015. Tommy John set him back a year or two entering the 2016 season, but he fought his way back. While rehabbing from the surgery, he fractured the humorous bone in his throwing arm. Those who saw the incident likened the sound of the bone break to a gunshot. One teammate vomited in the dugout, and his manager locked the only video of the injury on a hard drive so no one could watch it. He was never supposed to pitch again, but he fought his way back.
- Tommy John Surgery in 2015— ESPN (@espn) September 4, 2019
- Left ankle surgery in 2015
- Elbow surgery in 2016
Now, pitcher Aaron Barrett is heading back to the Nationals for the first time in over 4 years (via @HbgSenators) pic.twitter.com/AvZNa5bE3a
Four years, two surgeries, two plates and sixteen screws later, Barrett stepped back on the mound in Washington on September 7, 2019. In his first appearance back at the highest level, he pitched a scoreless inning and struck out Ronald Acuña Jr. It was a comeback story for the ages that brought those watching, and Barrett, to tears.
Aaron Barrett hasn’t pitched in MLB since 2015.— MLB (@MLB) September 8, 2019
After multiple arm injuries, the righty tossed a scoreless inning is his first outing back in The Show.
We are crying too. #BiggerThanBaseball pic.twitter.com/73bJfBkdvm
Less than two full months later, he was a World Series champion.
Aaron Barrett doesn’t want goggles. After a 4 year comeback to the Nats, he wants to “feel the burn.” pic.twitter.com/NIRPQLzphe— Rudy Gersten (@DCBarno) September 25, 2019
The resilient 32-year-old will be invited to join the Nationals to begin the 2020 season and will likely be called upon to bring an additional arm to the bullpen at some point during the 60-game season.
Bobby Wahl — RHP — Milwaukee Brewers
Though his time in the MLB has been hurt by injuries, seven-year veteran Bobby Wahl has an opportunity to reach his potential after being selected to the team’s 2020 roster in his second year with the Brewers. The league is allowing each team to select up to 60 players, but Milwaukee has chosen just 45, making Wahl’s addition even more significant.
Selected in the 39th round out of high school, the 6-foot-2 right hander chose to enroll at Ole Miss where he was lights out. He suffered from tendinitis in his elbow as a freshman and pitched in relief as a result, but finished the season as a closer and was named a Cape Cod League All Star in the summer of 2011.
He moved back to a starter role as a sophomore and recorded a disappointing 7-6 record, but fired on all cylinders as a junior. Wahl went 10-0 at the top of the rotation and recorded a 2.03 earned run average in 2013. He was named a second team All-American by collegiate baseball and was projected to go in the first round.
Instead, the Virginia native was drafted by the Athletics in the fifth round, but signed for $500,000, nearly double the typical bonus for his draft position. Wahl worked his way up to AAA and began 2017 with the Nashville Sounds, where he earned three saves and posted a 1.93 ERA with 14 strikeouts in 9 1⁄3 innings pitched. He was called up in May of that year and made his debut in relief against the Twins.
Unfortunately, Wahl has dealt with injuries from the minute he got to the big leagues. He suffered from a nerve condition in his neck with Oakland in 2017, saw the IL because of a hamstring issue with the Mets in 2018 and tore his anterior cruciate ligament during spring training with the Brewers in 2019.
No matter what he faces, he battles back, and the Brewers see his potential when healthy.
Wahl throws hard and works harder. He will get another shot to show his stuff in 2020.
Mike Mayers — RHP — Los Angeles Angels
In Anaheim, 28-year-old relief pitcher Mike Mayers will suit up in his first season with the Halos, after spending his first six seasons in the league with the Saint Louis Cardinals.
Mayers, who grew into a folk legend with the same name pronunciation as the masked killer in the Halloween movie series, pitched at Ole Miss from 2011-2013. As the Saturday starter in his sophomore and junior seasons, he led the Rebels to a regional championship berth in 2012 and pitched a gem against fellow big leaguer Ross Stripling to knock off Texas A&M. He had a 2.83 ERA over 92 1⁄3 innings pitched with 73 strikeouts as a junior in 2013, and chose to forgo his fourth year of eligibility after being drafted in the third round by the Cardinals.
Mayers’ professional career has been up-and-down and hindered by injuries. The Grove City, Oh. native made his MLB debut in 2016 and spent the next three seasons between the AAA Memphis Redbirds, the injured list and the Saint Louis roster. He was claimed off of waivers by the Angels in November and will be an active option for the team in 2020.
Tyler Keenan — 3B — Seattle Mariners
1,163 miles to the north, Tyler Keenan will be in the 60-man mix for the Mariners.
The Krakken, who was drafted No. 107 overall in the MLB Draft less than a month ago, agreed to a $500,000 signing bonus on Friday and will have the ability to make his major league debut if called upon in 2020. Over the course of his three years at Ole Miss, the 6-foot-4, 240-pound slugger turned heads with his consistent bat and big daddy hacks. Before the 2020 season was shut down early due to COVID-19, he pummeled seven home runs in 17 games, which had him on pace for 28 dingers.
While his third base positioning may not stick on the next level, Keenan saw pitches like a beach ball during his three college seasons and will look to translate his hitting to the Bigs.
Jacob Waguespack — RHP — Toronto Blue Jays
Staying in the American League, the norther neighboring Blue Jays have included rising Rebel Jacob Waguespack on its 60-man roster.
The 6-foot-6, 235-pound righty has pitched in relief and as a starter for Toronto after being called up in May of 2019. Waguespack chose to attend Ole Miss after being drafted in the 37th round out of high school and made 25 relief appearances with a 3.33 ERA and 34 strikeouts in 46 innings pitched as a junior. In his major league debut, Waguespack allowed two earned runs but fanned seven hitters.
He earned his first MLB win two months later and began his career 4-1 with a 3.63 ERA and 40 Ks. Waguespack was a strikeout monster in the minor leagues and was added to the Blue Jays’ 40-man roster after the 2018 season. If his 2019 performance was any indication of his ceiling, Toronto has found a diamond in the ruff.
Jacob Waguespack reminding the Blue Jays what good pitching looks like, striking out Orioles' Stewart, Mancini, Ruiz, Davis and Smith Jr ⚾️— Pam Tatroff (@PamTatroff) September 26, 2019
6.0 IP, 0 ER, 5 K, 2 BB pic.twitter.com/R6FUHTUiLv
It is to be determined whether the 26-year-old will receive a rotation spot for the 2020 short season, but his spring training performance before the shutdown will certainly help his cause. Over 4.1 innings, Waguespack did not allow a run and struck out six.
Ryan Rolison — LHP — Colorado Rockies
Throwing from the other side of the mound, lefty Ryan Rolison is the sixth and final Rebel included on an MLB roster for 2020, joining the Rockies “Summer Camp” player pool.
Rolo, as he came to be known in Oxford, was drafted No. 22 overall two years ago by Colorado after dominating the bump as Ole Miss’ Friday night starter in 2018.
He earned Freshman All-American by Collegiate Baseball and an All-SEC Freshman nods by working his way from the bullpen to a weekend rotation spot and allowing the third-fewest runs (23) among stat-eligible (1.0 inning/game) SEC pitchers in his first season. As a sophomore, the 6-foot-3 Tennessean became just the third player in Ole Miss history with 10-plus wins and 100-plus strikeouts, played a clutch role in the 2018 team’s SEC Tournament championship and struck out a career-high 13 batters in the NCAA Oxford Regional opener against Saint Louis.
TAKE. A. SEAT.— SEC Network (@SECNetwork) May 27, 2018
Ryan Rolison throwing straight pic.twitter.com/CY2qitB8ey
When the Rockies drafted him in 2018, they knew it would take some time for Rolison to develop into a serious major league threat, but believed he will be worth the wait. Over 22 starts with Colorado’s Advanced A California League affiliate in 2019, Rolison went 6-7 with a 4.87 ERA and struck out 118 batters over 116 1⁄3 innings.
Absolutely LOVE this sequence by #Rockies LHP prospect Ryan Rolison— Cory ⚾️tt (@cory5ott) April 19, 2020
I am very high on Rolison for many reasons -- Being able to locate three pitch types in almost any count always catches my eye
1. CH down and in
2. FF up and away
3. Backdoor CB #FantasyBaseball pic.twitter.com/H393eJWe9U
He occasionally leaves pitches over the plate that contribute to his higher earned run averages, but Rolison’s ability to paint the corners or blow a fastball past the bat has the potential to grow into a tenured MLB career with time. It is doubtful that his first opportunity will come this year, but being selected to the 60-man roster is the first step.
How the 2020 MLB season will go is something that can only be determined as it plays out. Will they begin the year as planned? Will they play all 60 games? We don’t know.
No matter what happens, these six MLB Rebs are ready for their shot.