The 2020 Major League Baseball Draft took place on Wednesday and Thursday of last week. Normally the draft is 40 rounds, and teams will sign 25-30 players that they selected, with the rest opting to head to college, or head back to college. This year, though, the draft was just five rounds. The Reds made six picks over that span, and we wrote about all of them on Friday here at Redleg Nation, and with a little more detail on each player, along with quotes from all of them over at RedsMinorLeagues.com. With a shortened draft, free agency following the draft is a bit more important than it usually is. The Reds, and most other teams will probably sign somewhere between 10-20 players that went undrafted. Currently we only know of two of them – Florida Atlantic infielder Francisco Urbaez and Princeton right-handed pitcher James Proctor.
Both are college seniors, which is likely all that you’re going to see get signed. Bonus limits on undrafted free agents are limited to just $20,000 or less. Anyone who has the option of going to school and testing the waters in a future draft is almost certainly going to take that option rather than sign for peanuts compared to what they could potentially get in any other year.
Francisco Urbaez hit .317 in his four seasons between Chipola Junior College (2017-2018) and Florida Atlantic (2019-2020) with more walks than strikeouts at both stops. He was a solid performer, who may have better on-field performance than his tools rate out. James Proctor threw 137.2 innings while at Princeton from 2017-2020 – all coming in 28 starts. His career was inconsistent, posting a 5.88 ERA with 87 walks and 133 strikeouts.
Johnny Vander Meer and the unbreakable record
Today is the anniversary of Johnny Vander Meer firing his second consecutive no-hitter. The first one came on June 11th, 1938. He followed that feat up by doing the same thing four days later on June 15th, 1938. It’s still the only time that a player has ever thrown back-to-back no-hitters.
On June 11th it was the left-handed Vander Meer taking on the Boston Bees. As many games were in 1938, the Reds hosted the Bees in an afternoon tilt that begna at 2:33pm ET at Crosley Field. All of 5,814 fans showed up on the Saturday afternoon to watch what would ultimately become a part of baseball lore. A walk to Gene Moore to begin the 4th inning ruined the chance at a perfect game for Vander Meer, but Johnny Cooney grounded into a double play to keep him at the minimum batters faced for the day. Another walk began the 5th inning, but the lefty picked off Tony Cuccinello to keep the minimum batters faced thing going. Well, for about two more pitches because he then walked Gil English to put that one behind him, too.
For manager Casey Stengel, he wasn’t entirely ready to cede that his team was going to be no-hit. The Bees manager pinch hit for all three batters in the top of the 9th inning, but Vander Meer induced two ground outs sandwiched around a strikeout of Harl Maggert to secure the first no-hitter by a left-handed pitcher in baseball in nearly seven seasons.
Four days later the Reds were on the road in Brooklyn to take on the Dodgers at Ebbets Field. History was being made that night, but it wasn’t the history that anyone expected. That game was the first game played in Ebbets Field that was a night game. And it wasn’t like night games we expect in June these days that begin at 7:05pm ET with the sun out before the final few innings require lights. Nope, this game didn’t begin until 9:20pm. And unlike the previous start by Vander Meer – the stadium was packed. 38,748 people showed up in Brooklyn that night to see baseball played under the lights.
What they saw was another kind of history, though one that was full of plenty of walks, as Johnny Vander Meer held the home town Dodgers hitless while walking eight batters and striking out seven. The final inning wasn’t easy for the Reds lefty. Vander Meer got a ground out to himself to lead off the inning, but he then walked the next three hitters to load the bases. Ernie Koy grounded into a forceout at home for the second out of the inning. Hall of Famer (as a manager) Leo Durocher was the final batter of the game, flying out to center field. While the Brooklyn hitters may have been blinded by the light, the Reds hitters weren’t, as they scored six runs on 11 hits on the night.
Only 34 other players have ever thrown multiple no-hitters. Nolan Ryan leads the way with SEVEN of them. Only Sandy Koufax has more than three, and he only has four of them. Only six players even have three – Larry Corcoran, who pitched in the 1800’s, Cy Young – who you have probably heard of, Bob Feller, and Justin Verlander.
With only six players in the history of the game ever throwing three no-hitters in their entire career, the odds that someone could do it three games in a row are astronomical. Johnny Vander Meer’s record seems just about as safe as any record in the game. It may be matched one day, though with where the game is going with lower pitch counts, shorter stints, even that seems unlikely.