While the 2020 Clinton LumberKings season is on hold, we delve into the franchise’s deep history, building a 25-man roster of the best players to wear "LumberKings” across their chest since the franchise was renamed in 1994.
In this three-part series, we examine how the 25 best Clinton LumberKings players in history etched their name in Clinton professional baseball lore.
In part two of the All-Time LumberKings series, we take a look at the 12 best position players in the LumberKings' era, listing a starting lineup and a bench.
John Hicks started his professional career in Clinton in 2011 after being drafted by the Seattle Mariners in the 4th round out of the University of Virginia that June. Hicks played in 38 games for the LumberKings, batting .309 with nine doubles and two home runs while driving in 26 runs. The Goochland, Virginia native ascended the Mariners system quickly, reaching Double-A Jackson in his third season in 2013. Hicks burst on to the scene thanks to a strong showing in the Arizona Fall League in 2014, driving in 11 runs in 14 games.
It would take Hicks just one more season to make his Major League Baseball debut, appearing in a game for the Seattle Mariners against the Chicago White Sox on August 29, 2015. Hicks played in a total of 17 games in the final months of the 2015 season before being selected off waivers by the Minnesota Twins in December. Hicks would eventually land with the Detroit Tigers in late April after once again being claimed off waivers. In four seasons with the Tigers from 2016 to 2019, Hicks played in a total of 237 games, playing in a career-best 95 games during the 2019 season. At the start of spring training in 2020, Hicks was signed as a free agent by the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Mitch Moreland was a mid-round pick by Texas in 2007 when the Rangers took the first baseman out of Mississippi State in the 17th round. Moreland used a big second professional season in Clinton to assert himself into the prospect rankings. After batting .259 in 27 games for the Spokane Indians, the Texas Rangers Short-Season A affiliate, in 2007, the Amory, Mississippi native took the Midwest League by storm, hitting .324 in 122 games. Moreland's name is all over the LumberKings record book, finishing in the top ten in five offensive categories, ranking sixth in batting average, sixth in hits (151), fifth in doubles (37), third in RBIs (99) and second in franchise history in total bases (250). For his efforts, Moreland was a Midwest League mid-season and post-season all-star.
Moreland made his Major League Baseball debut with the Texas Rangers on July 29, 2010, in a game against the Oakland A's. Moreland played his first seven seasons, from 2010 to 2016, in Texas with the Rangers, winning a gold glove in his final year in Arlington. Following an award-winning 2016 season, Moreland signed with the Boston Red Sox as a free agent. Moreland drove in 79 runs in his first season with Boston in 2017, the second-most RBIs in a season in his career. Moreland was named an all-star for the first time in 2018, helping lead the Red Sox to the World Series title.
Juan Melo was a member of the 1995 Clinton LumberKings team that was in its first season as a San Diego Padres' affiliate. Melo was in his second professional season when he came to Clinton in 1995, playing in a total of 134 games, the third-most games played in Clinton professional baseball history and the most since 1987. Melo batted .282 with 46 RBIs for the LumberKings in 1995, finishing eighth in the Midwest League with 32 doubles.
The Bani, Dominican Republic native's path to the big leagues was a windy road that saw the second baseman involved in three trades before making his Major League Baseball debut in 2000. On July 8, 1999, Melo was shipped to the Toronto Blue Jays in exchange for minor league pitcher Isabel Giron. Following the conclusion of the 1999 season, Melo was dealt to the Cincinnati Reds for a player to be named later before being released by the Reds in December and signed by the New York Yankees 40 days later and then being traded by the Yankees to the San Francisco Giants for Wilson Delgado at the end of spring training prior to the 2000 season. Melo made his Major League Baseball debut on September 2, 2000, and played in 11 games with the Giants over the final month of the season.
Patrick Kivlehan spent half of his second professional season with the Clinton LumberKings in 2013 and batted .283 with three home runs and 31 RBIs before earning a mid-season promotion to High Desert. The Seattle Mariners' 4th round pick in 2012 out of Rutgers and was invited to participate in the Arizona Fall League after just his second professional season in 2013 where he earned the Dernell Stenson Sportsmanship Award. The Montvale, New York native was named a mid-season and post-season all-star with the Double-A Jackson Generals in 2014,
After spending the entire 2015 season in Triple-A Tacoma, Kivlehan got his chance with a new organization after being selected off waivers by the San Diego Padres. The third baseman made his Major League debut on August 20, 2016, with the San Diego Padres, going on to play five games with the Padres before joining the Cincinnati Reds for the final three games of the 2016 season. Kivelhan played in a career-high 115 games for the Reds the following season in 2017 before signing with the Arizona Diamondbacks prior to the 2018 season.
Ian Kinsler was known as a second baseman throughout his 14-year big league career, but before making the Major Leagues, Kinsler spent a bulk of his career in the minors over at the shortstop position, including the 2004 season with the Clinton LumberKings. Kinsler was the Texas Rangers 17th round pick in 2003 out of the University of Missouri and played in 60 games for the LumberKings in his second professional season in 2004. Kinsler batted a robust .402 with 11 home runs and 52 RBIs. In fact, Kinsler was so dominant in his two and a half month stint in Clinton that the Rangers decided to jump Kinsler to Double-A Frisco midway through the season. Entering the 2005 season, Kinsler was rated as the 98th best prospect in baseball by Baseball America.
It didn't take Kinsler long to reach the big leagues, making his Major League Baseball debut with the Texas Rangers on April 3, 2006, at the age of 23. Kinsler spent his first eight seasons in Arlington with the Texas Rangers from 2006 to 2013, appearing in three all-star games as a member of the Rangers and never batting below .250. Kinsler was involved in a blockbuster trade following the conclusion of the 2013 season, being sent to Detroit in exchange for Prince Fielder. The Oro Valley, Arizona native was an all-star in his first season in Detroit in 2014 and would play four seasons with the Tigers before being traded to the Angels in 2018. Kinsler has since played for the Boston Red Sox and San Diego Padres before retiring prior to the 2020 season. In his career, Kinsler played in 48 playoff games, winning a World Series title with the Boston Red Sox in 2018.
Armando Rios played in 119 games for the LumberKings during his first professional season in 1994, leading the team in batting average by hitting .295. In addition to leading the team in batting average, the non-drafted free agent also led the LumberKings in runs scored (67), hits (120), stolen bases (16), and RBIs (60).
Rios appeared in his first Major League Baseball game four years after playing in Clinton, debuting on September 1, 1998, with the San Francisco Giants against the Montreal Expos. The Carolina, Puerto Rico native, played parts of four seasons with the Giants from 1998 to 2001 before being traded to the Pittsburgh Pirates on deadline day. Following two seasons with the Pirates, Rios finished his big league career with the Chicago White Sox in 2003. Rios was inducted into the Caribbean Baseball Hall of Fame in 2020.
Brandon Watson was a member of the stacked 2001 Clinton LumberKings team which featured five future big-league players. Watson was in his third professional season when he came to Clinton and played in 117 games for the LumberKings. Despite 2001 being Watson's third season, the outfielder from Los Angeles, California was just 19 years of age after being drafted as a 17 year-old by the Montreal Expos in the 9th round of the 1999 MLB First-Year Player Draft. Watson led the LumberKings in three offensive categories, runs (74) hits (160), finishing just one hit behind the league leader, Adrian Gonzalez, and stolen bases (33) while batting .327, good for seventh best averaged in the league. W
Watson made his Major League Baseball debut on August 9, 2005, with the Washington Nationals and went on to play parts of three seasons in the big leagues from 2005 to 2007 with the Nationals and the Cincinnati Reds.
Jason Bay turned in the best single-season hitting performance in LumberKings franchise history in 2001, batting .362 in 87 games, a franchise record, becoming the first LumberKings franchise history to win the Midwest League batting title since 1972. Bay not only hit for average in his second professional season, but the Trail, British Columbia, Canada native also smacked 20 doubles, 13 home runs and drove in 61 runs. The Montreal Expos took Bay in the 22nd round of the 2000 MLB First-Year Player Draft out of Gonzaga University.
Much like Juan Melo, who appeared early on the LumberKings All-Time Position Players, Jason Bay moved around a lot before reaching the big leagues. Bay was traded by the Expos to the New York Mets in 2002 and then was traded again two months later to the San Diego Padres. Bay made his Major League Baseball debut with the Padres on May 23, 2003, hitting a home run against the Arizona Diamondbacks. Bay's stay in San Diego wouldn't last long as the Padres traded Bay to Pittsburgh in August of 2003. Bay still qualified as a rookie in 2004 and went on to win the Rookie of the Year by hitting .282 and hitting 26 home runs in 120 games. Bay's Major League career spanned 11 years and included three trips to the All-Star Game.
Manny Pina played in 86 games for the Clinton LumberKings in 2008, batting .228 with 13 doubles and 23 runs batted in. Pina was a big part of a LumberKings team that reached the playoffs in 2008. Pina was in his third professional season after spending the previous two seasons in the Gulf Coast League.
The Barquisimeto, Venezuela native reached the majors in 2011 with the Kansas City Royals, playing five total games from 2011 to 2012. Pina found a home with the Milwaukee Brewers, playing in 319 games from 2016 to 2019.
Nick Franklin holds the LumberKings franchise record for most home runs in a season, bashing 23 during the 2010 season. Franklin played in 129 games for the LumberKings, batting .281 and drove in 65 runs. Franklin was in second professional season after being taken 27th overall by the Mariners in 2009. The Altamonte Springs, Florida native was one of four LumberKings to play in the Midwest League All-Star Game that summer.
Franklin made his Major League Baseball debut in 2013 and went on to play six seasons in the big leagues with four different teams, last appearing with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2018. Franklin spent the 2019 season in Triple-A with the Los Angeles Angels and is currently a free agent.
Grady Sizemore was another member of a loaded Clinton outfield in 2001, playing in 123 games in his second professional season, batting .268 with 61 RBIs. Sizemore was the Montreal Expos 3rd round selection in 2000 and would spend just two and a half seasons in the Expos organization before being traded to the Cleveland Indians in 2002.
The Everett, Washington native made his major league baseball debut in 2004 and went on to play 10 seasons in the big league, spending eight of those seasons in Cleveland. Sizemore was an all-star in three consecutive seasons from 2006 to 2008.
James Jones put together an impressive second professional season in Clinton in 2010 finishing double figures in doubles (24), triples (10), and home runs (12) while driving in 65 runs while batting .269. Jones was the Rangers 4th round pick in 2009 out of Long Island University where he also starred on the mound, excelling as a two-way player.
The Brooklyn native made his Major League debut in 2014 and played two seasons with the Texas Rangers from 2014 to 2015. Jones spent the 2019 season with the Rangers Triple-A affiliate the Nashville Sounds.
Our next and final installment of the All-Time LumberKings Team will feature the 13 pitchers who round out the roster and an honorable mention.