Eric Stults has pitched his way right onto the DL (thanks for making me look bad, Eric) with a severe case of “he sucked, but let’s go with.. *throws dart at board*… thumb“. In his place, right-handed reliever Travis Schlichting gets the call from AA Chattanooga.
He’s not someone I know a whole lot about, so I started doing some research and… well, look, I know Wikipedia is hardly a paragon of truth in journalism, but still, when you look up biographical information on a pitcher, you don’t expect to see this picture (at right) on his page. I suppose that’s sort of like seeing James Loney as a top high school pitcher on his own page.
Anyway, that’s not an incorrect picture, it’s just old – Schlichting was drafted by Tampa Bay in the 4th round of the 2003 draft and never really hit in about 900 low minors at-bats between 2003-05. In 2006, he was traded to the Angels for catcher Josh Paul, and did so well as a 21-year-old in A ball that they flat-out cut him.
Here’s the interesting part, though. He decided to reinvent himself as a pitcher, and went off to the independent leagues to do so. So just two years ago, he was pitching for a Kansas City T-Bones team populated by an entire roster of guys no one has ever heard of, other than perhaps failed Orioles prospect and real-life Crash Davis, Calvin Pickering. That league (2007 Northern League) featured such well-known outfits as the Joliet Jackhammers, Gary Southshore Railcats, Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks, and the Edmonton Cracker-Cats (go Cracker-Cats!!). Here’s the real kicker: Schlichting was terrible. Sure, it was his first year as a pitcher, so fine. But a 5.29 ERA and a 1.980 WHIP (and allowing 12.7 hits/9) in the indy leagues hardly puts a guy on the fast past to major league stardom.
Somehow – and believe me, I would love to know how this happened, so please email me or comment if you know – that got him an invite to Dodgers camp last year and a spot on the AA Jacksonville Suns, where he was actually decent, putting up a 3.77 ERA in 59.2 innings, and cutting that WHIP down to 1.274. Kept in AA as the affiliation switched to Chattanooga this year, he’s been phenomenal, allowing just one earned run in 13.2 innings thus far. As far as what he throws, his skill-set, etc, just check out the prospect profile over at FNCN, because I’m not coming up with anything to add to that.
I know this, though: a story like “terrible third baseman to lousy independent league pitcher to the bigs in less than three years” is enough to get my attention.