UConn in the MLB: How did former Huskies do in the 2020 season?

Houston Astros’ George Springer, left, has some words with plate umpire Manny Gonzalez after a call strike in the fourth inning of an American League wild-card series baseball game against the Minnesota Twins, Wednesday, Sept. 30, 2020, in Minneapolis. Photo by Jim Mone/AP Photo.

Four former UConn baseball stars spent time playing at the highest level this year during the MLB’s shortened 60-game season. Let’s see how they fared. 

Houston Astros outfielder George Springer is the most famous UConn baseball alum in the majors today. He became a household name after his spectacular performance in the 2017 World Series, for which he was named the series MVP. He is the highest drafted player ever out of UConn, as he was selected 11th overall in the 2011 MLB Draft after three standout seasons in Storrs. 

The New Britain native made three consecutive All-Star teams heading into this year, and he probably played well enough this year to warrant a fourth selection if one was held. In 51 games, Springer hit .265 with 14 home runs, 32 RBIs, 37 runs scored and an .899 OPS. He led the Astros in home runs, runs scored and OPS. 

Despite a disappointing season by their recent standards at 29-31, the Astros still managed to make the expanded 16-team playoffs. That means Springer has a chance to play in his favorite time of year again: October, where he’s had so much success in the past. 

The other former Husky who is playing postseason baseball is Toronto Blue Jays pitcher Anthony Kay. After a three-year career at UConn during which he was named the conference pitcher of the year, he was drafted 31st overall in the 2016 MLB Draft by the New York Mets. 

While still in the minors, Kay was traded to the Blue Jays as part of the return for Marcus Stroman. The lefty made his debut in September of 2019. In his first “full” season in the majors this year, Kay appeared in 13 games out of Toronto’s bullpen. He had a record of 2-0 with a 5.14 ERA, a 1.71 WHIP and a 4.95 FIP, none of which are particularly good numbers. He struck out 22 batters in 21 innings but also walked 14, leading to some of his struggles.  

Still, he showed enough promise to make the Blue Jays’ postseason roster and will look to help them chase their first World Series appearance since 1993. 

Boston Red Sox pitcher Matt Barnes did not have a great season compared to his previous few, but he was still one of the most reliable arms the Red Sox had in a season where their pitching was far and away the worst in the league. In 24 games, Barnes went 1-3 with a 4.30 ERA, a 1.39 WHIP and a 4.84 FIP. He recorded 31 strikeouts and 14 walks in his 23 innings pitched. He became the Red Sox closer halfway through the season and finished with a career high nine saves. 

Another Connecticut native from Danbury, Barnes pitched three seasons at UConn during the same time Springer was on the team. He was also drafted in the first round in 2011, eight picks after Springer at 19th overall. 

Last but not least is Arizona Diamondbacks shortstop Nick Ahmed, who was another teammate of Springer and Barnes for three seasons at UConn. He was drafted in the second round of the 2011 MLB Draft by the Atlanta Braves. While in the minors, he was traded to the Diamondbacks, and since breaking into the majors in 2014, he has cemented himself as one of the top defensive shortstops in baseball. 

Ahmed has won two consecutive Gold Gloves and is in the running for a third this season. But he also had a solid offensive season, hitting a career high .266 in 57 games. He hit five home runs, drove in 29 RBIs and had an OPS of .729. Like the Red Sox, the Diamondbacks struggled mightily this season, but Ahmed was one of the most consistent players. 

Other former Huskies who have appeared in the majors in the past but not this year include Scott Oberg and John Andreoli. Oberg has had a good career as a relief pitcher for the Colorado Rockies, but this season, he was forced to sit out due to blood clots in his arm. He recently underwent surgery to treat that and looks to make a comeback in 2021.  

Andreoli played briefly in the majors in 2018 with the Seattle Mariners and the Baltimore Orioles as an outfielder. This season, he initially made the Red Sox 60-player pool but was released on Aug. 7. He will likely look to take a minor-league deal in 2021 and make another push for the majors. 

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