Melvin Upton Jr., the RiverDogs Player of the Year in 2003, is one of two former Charleston minor leaguers trying to get the Blue Jays back to the ALCS for a second straight year.
After some late Sunday pushes that fell short, the postseason is finally upon us with the first of two winner-take-all wild card games starting tonight. Even with the RiverDogs' parent club, the New York Yankees, coming up short in their pursuit of a second straight wild card berth, there are plenty of former RiverDogs who will be thrust into the spotlight as the MLB Playoffs begin with four Major Leaguers who once called Charleston home vying for a spot in the October Classic.
Keep an eye out for these former RiverDogs trying to make a name for themselves in the MLB Playoffs.
Abraham Almonte, OF, CLE
It was a long way to the Majors for the Dominican outfielder Almonte who started his career with the Yankees before bouncing around four different organizations and settling in with the Indians as a Major League regular. Mostly sharing starts with former South Carolina Gamecock Lonnie Chisenhall in right, Almonte has been one of the three key outfield platoons from Terry Francona's side on the Tribe's surprise run to the postseason. After winning the AL Central title for the first time since 2007, Almonte looks to be a key piece in bringing the previously starved city of Cleveland their second Major sports title this year and the first for the Tribe since 1948.
Almonte made the third minor league stop of his career in Charleston, combining for parts of two seasons with the RiverDogs from 2008-2009. After a slow start in '08 when the native of Santo Domingo hit just .228 as a 19-year-old with eight homers and 46 RBI in 115 games, Almonte thundered back in his second stint in the Lowcountry to post a .280/.333/.391 line with five homers in another 115 games in 2009. He also notched a league-best 26-game hitting streak, finished tied for second in the loop in triples (11) and fifth in steals (36), while ranking 11th in Charleston baseball history in career hits (224) and RBI (102) at the time of his promotion. Almonte would make his Major League debut with the Mariners in 2013 and spent time in the Majors with the Padres before settling in with the Tribe in 2015.
Zach McAllister, RHP, CLE
The former RiverDog now in his sixth season in the Bigs, all with Cleveland, will be a key cog in the bullpen for the Indians in October. The 28-year-old right-hander went 3-2 with 3.44 ERA in the regular season for while notching 54 strikeouts in 52.1 innings while walking 23.
The Peoria, IL native spent the 2008 season with the RiverDogs, making 10 starts and going 6-3 with a 2.45 ERA
Eduardo Nunez, IF, SF
After making his MLB debut with the Yankees, Nunez found a second wind in his career with the Twins after being designated for assignment by New York in 2014. The former RiverDog had an All-Star season for Minnesota in 2016, hitting .321/.347/.489 with 12 homers and 40 RBI in 78 games before the break and was acquired in a deadline deal by the Giants that sent Adalberto Mejia to Minnesota. The native of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic has kept pace at the plate with his new club posting a .288/.325/.432 with 16 home runs overall on the season and figures to be a regular face in the postseason for a Giants team trying to bring home their third World Series title in seven seasons.
Nunez spent parts of two seasons with the RiverDogs (2006-07), combining for a .232 average with 3 long balls and 68 driven home in 181 games with Charleston in his second and third years in the Yankees system. Nunez was one of a number of future Major Leaguers on a star-studded 2007 cast that featured the likes of David Robertson, Austin Jackson, Ivan Nova, Hector Noesi, and John Axford. Nunez made a brief return to Charleston in 2013 when he appeared in two rehab games alongside Alex Rodriguez in two of the more memorable games in the 20 year history of Joe Riley Park.
Melvin Upton Jr., OF, TOR
After beginning the season with a struggling Padres team, the RiverDogs Player of the Year in 2003 finds himself on a playoff team after being traded to the Blue Jays at the deadline. After appearing in just 87 games in 2015, the 31-year-old was having a bounce back season with the Padres before the trade, hitting .256/.304/.439 with 16 homers in 92 games. Upton has since cooled off with his move to the AL (.196-4-16 in 57 games), but has settled in as a regular in left field and could be a key piece for Toronto vying to make a World Series berth after an exit in the ALCS a year ago.
With the RiverDogs in '03, Upton had one of the more successful seasons in Charleston baseball history and did so in his first taste of pro ball. The first-round pick by the Rays the year prior hit .302/.394/.445 with seven homers, 46 RBI, and 38 stolen bases in his first 101 minor league games and would find himself in the Bigs a year later. The Norfolk, VA native was named the RiverDogs' "Top Dog" of the 2003 campaign as voted on by the fans and named the Most Outstanding Major League Prospect in the South Atlantic League.
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.