By Bob Wirz
Call it whatever you want. Threesome. Triumvirate. Triad.
Regardless of the choice, it is more than a little bit intriguing to notice that a trio–yes, that number–of former Gary SouthShore RailCats position players have gone on to the Boston Red Sox organization in recent times. All three are drawing some attention, too.
First to make news was shortstop Ryan Fitzgerald, who stepped off the Creighton University campus at the end of the ’16 season and although not drafted earned regular shortstop duty with Gary the next season. The 25-year-old became the Boston organization’s Minor League Defender of the Year this past summer as well as both the midseason and postseason all-star selection at shortstop in the High-A Carolina League.
It was the Hinsdale, IL native’s .960 fielding percentage–only 18 errors in 448 chances–that earned the most attention, but the left-handed hitter was so solid at the plate that he was used in a cleanup role part of the time. He finished at .271 for his 127 games at Salem, VA with a .345 on-base average, 25 doubles, three homers and 65 runs batted in. Fitzgerald was in the league’s top ten in hits (125) and at-bats (461) as well as in doubles and RBI.
The .271 batting average was his best in three years of professional play which started when he hit .239 in 84 games at Gary.
“I never really learned how to hit until after college,” Fitzgerald told MiLB.com in August. “I really had no idea how to go about it. Obviously, (I’m) still learning, but defense has always been first for me.
“I think consistency is key, obviously for any player, to prove that you can consistently show up every day and show the team that you know what you’re going to get every day. I think consistency throughout a long season helps advancing (toward the major leagues), going through the levels, because you prove that you can play in a 140, 162-game season.”
The next logical step in the Boston chain would be Double-A Portland, ME, where Fitzgerald could run into the other former Gary players.
Corcino Had Two Stints in the League
Puerto Rico native Edgar Corcino made his first appearance in the American Association when he was a 21-year-old (2013) but that already was his fifth professional season. He split his 33 games for El Paso between third base and the outfield.
Flash forward six more years to early last season when the switch-hitter returned to the league for five games for Gary (4-for-16, two RBI) before Boston became his third major league organization. Corcino made enough noise by hitting .315 with nine homers and 46 RBI while playing 68 games almost exclusively in the outfield as Ryan Fitzgerald’s Salem teammate that he earned honorable mention among Red Sox organizational all-stars.
That may be good enough to earn Corcino opportunities higher up in the organization.
Gary’s Colin Willis Stars in Australia
Outfielder Colin Willis, another Gary product signed recently by the Red Sox and scorching Australian League pitching at a .440 clip during the winter season, is already projected to start the new year in Double-A, SoxProspects.com reports.
The left-handed-hitting Willis came out of college (Purdue University North Central) and spent part of the ’16 season and all of the next three with the RailCats before Boston came calling. He is making the signing look good by hitting at a league-leading pace in Melbourne with 22 hits in 50 at-bats while getting on base at a blistering .525 clip. He has driven in 10 runs in his 21 games although he has only three extra-base hits (doubles).
Willis, 27, went .303/.405 in 285 games overall for Gary, including going .302/.429 last season.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at Amazon.com or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.