More than a half-dozen professional baseball players with ties to St. Johns County finished the minor league baseball season this week. While no one from the county appeared in a major league game this summer, the local athletes ranged all the way from rookie leagues to Triple-A.
Here is a rundown of their seasons:
Ricky Karcher (Reds): 7 appearances, 4 starts, 0-3 record, 10.67 ERA, 14.1 innings, 14 strikeouts, 2.16 WHIP.
The 19-year-old former Ponte Vedra pitcher was drafted in the 13th round of the 2017 MLB Draft. He made his professional debut on June 29 in the Arizona Rookie League. He allowed four runs on three hits in 1 2/3 innings pitched. His final appearance of the summer was on Saturday when he started a game and did not allow a run or hit in one inning of work.
Patrick Leonard (Rays): 131 games, .268 average, .327 on-base percentage, 12 home runs, 69 runs, 70 RBIs, 131 strikeouts.
The International League All-Star third baseman was named the Durham Bulls’ Most Valuable Player after finishing third in the league with 130 hits. He led the team in RBIs and was second on the squad with 32 doubles. Leonard, who played at both Bartram Trail and Creekside, spent the entire season at Triple-A Durham and helped the Bulls claim the International League’s South Division title with an 86-56 record.
Connor Marabell (Indians): 113 games, .249 average, .306 on-base percentage, six home runs, 45 runs, 48 RBIs, 68 strikeouts.
The Bartram Trail graduate spent most of the year with the the advanced Class-A Lynchburg Hillcats. In May the outfielder spent a five-game stint at Triple-A Columbus, where he hit .467 with two doubles. In June, the Jacksonville University product spent 11 games with Double-A Akron before closing the season with the Hillcats.
Lynchburg produced the best record in the Carolina League this year, winning the first half by 14 games and the second half by 10. The Hillcats have a seven-game winning streak. Marabell hit .375 during Lynchburg’s late-season winning streak with five RBIs and three runs scored.
Avery Romero (Rockies): 50 games, .254 average, .323 on-base percentage, seven home runs, 34 runs, 27 RBIs, 24 strikeouts.
The Menendez product was released by the Marlins organization in March, but picked up by the Rockies in June. After six games at Class-A Boise, he was moved to advanced-A Lancaster in the California League. The move allowed him to live with his older brother, watch his nephew play baseball and fulfill a dream.
The 24-year-old platooned at second and third base, hit six home runs and scored 31 runs in 44 games with Lancaster. The JetHawks finished with the best record in the California League with a 79-61 mark. Lancaster faced the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes in the California League Division Series on Wednesday night.
“The one thing with Avery is the one thing he is doing is giving his best effort every time he is in the lineup,” JetHawks manager Fred Ocasio told The Record in July. “Whenever he gets the opportunity to play, to give us our best effort, that’s what we ask of all the players.”
Walker Sheller (Royals): 35 appearances, 6-2 record, four saves, 3.18 ERA, 62.1 innings, 66 strikeouts, 1.28 WHIP.
The 22-year-old Ponte Vedra graduate was promoted twice this season.
He made his debut at Double-A Northwest Arkansas on Aug. 28. He has made three appearances and pitched six scoreless innings for the Naturals. He picked up the save in Northwest Arkansas’ 2-0 win over Arkansas on Aug. 28. Sheller has four saves in five opportunities this summer.
In 14 games with Class-A Lexington, Sheller was 2-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 25.0 innings. He was 3 for 3 in save opportunities. In June, he was promoted to advanced Class-A Wilmington where the former Stetson pitcher posted a 4-1 record, 4.02 ERA and struck out 34 in 31.1 innings pitched.
Northwest Arkansas won the Texas League’s first half title. The Naturals hosted Tulsa in the Texas League Playoffs on Wednesday night.
Justin Smith (Braves): 33 games, .250 average, .320 on-base percentage, three home runs, nine runs, 11 RBIs, 47 strikeouts.
The former Bartram Trail outfielder was selected in the 20th round of this year’s draft. He was optioned to the Appalachian League. He made his professional debut on June 23 against Elizabethton and did not record a hit in two at-bats. His rookie season ended on Aug. 31 against Pulaski, where he finished 1 for 3 with a single.
Tim Tebow (Mets): 126 games, .226 average, .309 on-base percentage, eight home runs, 50 runs, 52 RBIs, 126 strikeouts.
The former Nease outfielder was promoted after hitting .220 in 64 games for Class-A Columbia. The former quarterback, who gave baseball a shot after more than a decade away from the game, spent 62 games at advanced Class-A Port St. Lucie of the Florida State League. After hitting memorable home runs in his debut on April 6 and a walk-off on July 14 his production tailed off in the final five weeks of the season. He hit .181 with five doubles, eight runs scored and eight RBIs after Aug. 1 as the St. Lucie Mets finished the second half of the season with a division-worst 30-40 record.
Kyle Bird (Rays): 54 appearances, 4-2 record, 2.89 ERA, 74.2 innings, 70 strikeouts, 1.27 WHIP.
The former Flagler College southpaw spent the majority of his summer at Double-A Montgomery. He closed the season allowing 15 hits, but only two earned runs in his final 10 appearances, which spanned 10 2/3 innings.
On June 22 he made one relief appearance for Triple-A Durham. He allowed a three-run home run in 3.1 innings of relief, while striking out two. Coincidentally, Leonard went 1 for 3 with an RBI in the game, which Durham lost 11-3 to Norfolk.
Bird and the Biscuits faced Chattanooga in the Southern League North Division Series on Wednesday night.
Mike O’Reilly (Cardinals): 24 appearances, 21 starts, 12-3 record, two shutouts, 2.34 ERA, 142.1 innings, 132 strikeouts, 0.94 WHIP.
The 23-year-old Flagler College graduate dominated Class-A Peoria, posting a 9-2 record with a 1.75 ERA in 12 starts. His performances allowed him to be named a Midwest League All-Star. His 28 2/3-inning scoreless streak was the longest by a Peoria pitcher in more than two decades.
“He is the same guy every time he goes out,” Peoria manager Chris Swauger told The Record in July. “That is his separation. He owns his stuff. He knows his stuff better than any pitcher I’ve seen. If you look at his velocity, and what he’s throwing, it doesn’t appear to be anything special. He is aware he has a high-spin fastball and a good breaking ball that he can throw down in the zone.”
At Palm Beach of the Florida State League he was 3-1 with a 3.29 ERA in nine starts. He posted 43 strikeouts in 54.2 innings and a 1.35 WHIP. Palm Beach beat Fort Myers 3-2 in the FSL South Division playoffs on Wednesday night to clinch a share of the league crown.