Four former Emeralds made their very first appearances in the Majors during the 2019 season: OF Eloy Jimenez (2015 | Chicago White Sox), RHP Adbert Alzolay (2015 | Chicago Cubs), RHP Dylan Cease (2016 | Chicago White Sox), and INF Nico Hoerner (2018| Chicago Cubs).
Eloy Jimenez | OF
Year(s) with Emeralds: 2015 | Current MLB Team: Chicago White Sox
One of the most highly touted prospects to come through Eugene in recent years, Jimenez was a part of a heavy-hitting Emeralds outfield that also included Ian Happ and Donnie Dewees. Jimenez was the cornerstone prospect of a blockbuster deadline deal in 2017 that saw him and fellow former Emerald Dylan Cease, among others, sent across to the Chicago White Sox in exchange for Jose Quintana. Jimenez made his MLB debut on Opening Day as the third ranked prospect in all of baseball per MLB Pipeline, and although he's battled injuries throughout 2019, the 22-year-old has batted. 261 with 28 home runs and 70 RBI through 114 games for the White Sox this season.
Adbert Alzolay | RHP
Year(s) with Emeralds: 2015 | Current MLB Team: Chicago Cubs
Alzolay, the fifth ranked prospect in the Cubs system per MLB.com, is one of the most electric and intriguing top prospects in all of baseball. The young Venezuelan spent the entire 2015 season in Eugene where he posted a 6-2 record with a 2.04 ERA and a 49/15 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 53.0 innings of work. Since, Alzolay steadily climbed the ranks before making his MLB debut on June 20 vs. the New York Mets where he tossed 4.0 innings with five strikeouts while allowing just one hit, one (earned) run and two walks. After a minor injury scare during early-August, Alzolay was optioned back to Iowa (AAA) where he finished the regular season before being optioned to South Bend (A-Full) to help the Cubs with their playoff run.
Dylan Cease | RHP
Year(s) with Emeralds: 2016 | Current MLB Team: Chicago White Sox
Cease, a member of the 2016 NWL title-winning team, was a part of the blockbuster deal that saw him and fellow former Emerald Eloy Jimenez, among others, sent across town to the White Sox in exchange for RHP Jose Quintana. A former sixth round pick out of high school, Cease posted a 2-0 record with a 2.22 ERA and an eye-popping 66 strikeouts in just 44.2 innings of work while with the Ems during the 2016 season. The right-hander made his MLB debut on July 3 against the Detroit Tigers, firing 5.0 innings with four hits, three (earned) runs, four walks and six strikeouts.
Nico Hoerner | INF
Year(s) with Emeralds: 2018 | Current MLB Team: Chicago Cubs
Hoerner, who only just made his MLB debut last week, has enjoyed a meteoric rise through the Minor League ranks after being drafted last year. A first round selection out of Stanford, Hoerner played just seven games with the Emeralds during the 2018 season before quickly being promoted to the South Bend Cubs (A-Full) where he finished the season. Hoerner started 2019 with the Tennessee Smokies (AA) and posted a .284/.344/.399 slash line in 70 games before getting the call up to join the Cubs on September 9. In nine games since his arrival in the Windy City, Hoerner is batting .351 with 2 HR and 11 RBI. .
Former Ems Excel While Rising Through The Ranks
Outside of the four players listed above, a number of former Ems continued to make noise while making their respective climbs through the Minor Leagues.
Brailyn Marquez | LHP
Year(s) with Emeralds: 2018 | 2019 MiLB Team(s): South Bend Cubs (A-Full), Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A-High)
The fourth ranked prospect in the Cubs system per MLB.com, Marquez turned heads all season long en route to being named the Chicago Cubs Minor League Player of the Year per Baseball America. The young left-hander from the Dominican Republic started the season in South Bend where he went 5-4 with a 3.61 ERA in 17 games before being promoted to Myrtle Beach where he excelled even more, going 4-1 in 5 starts with a 1.71 ERA. Between the two teams, Marquez combined to go 9-5 with a 3.13 ERA and 128 strikeouts in just 103.2 innings of work during the 2019 season.
Miguel Amaya | C
Year(s) with Emeralds: 2017 | 2019 MiLB Team(s): Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A-High)
Ranked as the #87 overall prospect in all of baseball per MLB.com, Amaya has long been lauded for his defensive and receiving skills, but 2019 saw him start to put it together offensively, too. The 20-year-old Panamanian catcher spent the entire season in Myrtle Beach where he posted a .235/.351/.402 slash line with 11 home runs and a career-high 57 RBI.
Cory Abbott | RHP
Year(s) with Emeralds: 2017 | 2019 MiLB Team(s): Tennessee Smokies (AA)
Named as the Chicago Cubs Minor League Pitcher of the Year, Abbott exceled in his second professional season after being drafted out of Loyola Marymount in the 2nd round of the 2017 MLB Draft. Abbott made his pro debut in Eugene in 2017, posting a 3.86 ERA with 18 strikeouts in 14.0 innings pitched. After splitting time between South Bend (A-Full) and Myrtle Beach (A-High) in 2018, Abbott spent the entirety of the 2019 season at AA with Tennessee where he went 8-6 with a 3.01 ERA and 166 strikeouts and 146.2 innings pitched. The right-hander dominated down the stretch of the season, posting a 1.17 ERA and a 68/19 strikeout-to-walk ratio over his final nine starts.
Riley Thompson | RHP
Year(s) with Emeralds: 2018 | 2019 MiLB Team(s): South Bend Cubs (A-Full)
A member of last season's worst-to-first Emeralds team, Thompson was the workhorse of the South Bend rotation this season, going 8-6 with a 3.06 ERA in 21 starts (94.0 IP). The former 11th rounder out of Louisville saved his best start for last, firing 5.0 no-hit innings while striking out a career-high 10 batters in Game Three of the Midwest League Championship Series, a game that saw South Bend win, 5-0, to clinch the NWL title.
Colin Rea | RHP
Year(s) with Emeralds: 2011 | 2019 MiLB Team(s): Iowa Cubs (AAA)
In what was a banner year for Ems alums, no story stands out more than that of Colin Rea. A 12th round pick by the San Diego Padres in the 2011 MLB Draft, Rea spent the entire 2011 season with the Ems where he went 3-4 with a 2.21 ERA in 15 starts.
From there, the Iowa native steadily rose through the Padres system before making his MLB debut in 2015 and making San Diego's Opening Day roster in 2016. Later that season, though, Rea was forced to undergo Tommy John surgery and subsequently missed all of the 2017 season. He returned to pitch at the AA and AAA in 2018, but the Padres opted to release Rea following the conclusion of the season.
With his options seemingly running out, the Chicago Cubs came to the rescue and signed Rea as a minor league free agent, and after attending spring training, the right-hander was assigned to the AAA Iowa Cubs.
What seemed like a longshot gamble at the time has since paid major dividends. Rea led the Pacific Coast League in wins (14) and ERA (3.74) in 2019 while being named the PCL Pitcher of the Year and helping lead Iowa to its first division title since 2008.
Vimael Machin | 2B
Year(s) with Emeralds: 2015, 2016 | 2019 MiLB Team(s): Tennessee Smokies (AA), Iowa Cubs (AAA)
A 10th round pick out of Virginia Commonwealth in the 2015 draft, Machin has enjoyed a slow but steady rise through the Cubs system with the 2019 season serving as perhaps his best yet. Having spent the year almost exclusively at the AA level with the Tennessee Smokies, Machin finished 2019 at-or-near the top of the league leader boards in multiple offensive categories. Machin ended the year leading the Southern League in on-base percentage (.386), T-1st in walks (63), T-3rd in hits (124) and 6th in batting average (.294).
On August 30, Machin showed off his immense versatility with one of the most unique performances of the season. Typically an infielder by trade, Machin started the game against the Mobile BayBears at catcher, his very first professional inning at the position. Over the ensuing seven innings, Machin was shifted all over the infield and outfield until he finished the game having played all eight positions in the field.
Jack Patterson | LHP
Year(s) with Emeralds: 2018 | 2019 MiLB Team(s): South Bend Cubs (A-Full), Myrtle Beach Pelicans (A-High), Tennessee Smokies (AA)
Twice named the Chicago Cubs Minor League Player of the Month this past season, Patterson continued to defy the odds during 2019. A 32nd round pick out of Bryant University just last year, Patterson has already far exceeded expectation, becoming one of just two players (Nico Hoerner - 1st rounder) from Chicago's 2018 draft class to have already reached the AA level as a regular.
The left-hander started the season in South Bend where he dominated hitters coming out of the bullpen, compiling a 5-1 record with a 2.34 ERA and 47 strikeouts in 42.1 innings. From there, Patterson was promoted to Myrtle Beach where he transitioned to a starting role. In five starts with the Pelicans, Patterson did not surrender a single earned run, firing a total of 23.2 scoreless innings with 24 strikeouts in the process. Patterson received his second promotion of the season on August 6 when he was called up to Tennessee and he continued to find success, going 1-0 with a 2.63 ERA in 3 starts with the Smokies. All told, Patterson posted an 8-1 record with a 1.69 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 79.2 innings of work during the 2019 regular season.
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This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.