A new code of arms
The signings just keep coming in. You almost need a scorecard to keep up this week. But two more big additions, and this time two newcomers to the league, as the Revs have added LHPs Jake Stevens and James Houser. Both could end up being starters, at least at one point or another, but either way at first glance, it sure seems like these two could be big contributors this season.
One of the most fun things about the Atlantic League is some of the background stories and career paths that guys bring with them, and Stevens and Houser are no different. From a human interest standpoint, they’ll have two of the more interesting stories to follow this season.
Both have their similarities, of course, beginning with their dexterity. Both were also high draft picks out of high school in Florida, and both had immediate success as starters early in their professional careers.
From there, the two took different paths, and very interesting paths to say the least.
Stevens found himself feeling stuck in High-A in 2007 with only one appearance at the Triple-A level under his belt, no longer having fun with the game the way he felt he should be, and actually retired from baseball and sat out all of 2008. But working in the real world wasn’t for him just yet and the itch to play returned. He signed with York and the Revs announced him as one of their signees before the 2009 season, but just hours later the Orioles called and scooped him up – he had been on their radar after attending a tryout.
Stevens moved to a relief role in 2009 and enjoyed a solid season at Frederick, and then signed with the Giants for 2010 where he was an Eastern League All-Star in 2010, primarily pitching in relief again with Richmond.
Last season Stevens landed in the Twins organization where he split time at Double-A and Triple-A, but in spring training he was being considered a sleeper candidate to turn some heads and perhaps become part of their plans. They really liked his stuff, and he’s still only now 27.
Enohel Polanco saw him pitching in the Dominican Republic this winter which led to his contact with the Revs for this season. After considering the Mexican League, he chose York instead which was good news for the Revs.
With Houser, the circumstances were a bit more serious. Ascending Tampa Bay’s top prospect charts after several impressive minor league seasons as a youngster, Houser made it as far as Triple-A in 2009 in their organization, and signed with Florida in 2010 where he had a really nice season at Triple-A New Orleans, leading to his making his lone big league appearance in June of that year against the Orioles at Camden Yards. In fact he struck out Adam Jones for his lone major league strikeout to date in that appearance.
But a promising career got interrupted last season when a heart condition forced him to sit out the entire year. Doctors have since cleared him to throw and do everything baseball-related, and Etch’s plan is to use him as a long guy out of the bullpen, building him up to potentially start. And hopefully it could be the beginning of a great comeback story that starts for him here in York.
For more on today’s signings, here’s the full press release:
The two-time defending Atlantic League champion York Revolution continue to load up for the 2012 season, announcing the signings of pitchers Jake Stevens and James Houser. The signings give the Revs 17 players under contract with a little more than three weeks remaining before spring training opens.
Stevens, 27, enters his ninth pro season in 2012. The lefty was originally a third-round draft choice of the Atlanta Braves out of high school in Cape Coral, FL in 2003 and posted sub-3.00 ERAs in each of his first two professional seasons, including a stellar 2.27 mark in 2004, the third-lowest in the South Atlantic League. Stevens was a ten-game winner at Myrtle Beach in 2005 while on his way up the Braves’ ladder, which eventually took him to Triple-A Richmond in 2007.
Stevens’ name appeared in a Revolution press release during the spring of 2009 after he signed a contract to pitch in York following a year-long retirement from baseball, but the Baltimore Orioles came calling just days after he had signed with York, and Stevens spent the 2009 season in Frederick, pitching as a full-time reliever for the first time in his pro career.
In 2010, the southpaw had a fantastic season at Double-A Richmond in the San Francisco Giants organization, putting up a 2.80 ERA in 46 appearances including three starts, and earning a trip to the Eastern League All-Star Game in the process.
Stevens spent last season in the Minnesota Twins organization, splitting time between Double-A New Britain and Triple-A Rochester. He enters 2012 with 43 victories and a 4.23 ERA for his professional career in 249 appearances, 89 as a starter.
Houser’s career began in similar fashion to Stevens’ as a high-round draft pick out of high school in Sarasota, FL, signing with the Tampa Bay Rays as their second-round selection in 2003. Named Florida’s “Mr. Baseball” after an All-American senior season at Sarasota High, the 6’5 southpaw went on to post a combined 3.67 ERA through his first six minor league seasons, winning a career-high and California League-best 12 games for Visalia in 2006 and climbing as high as fourth on the Rays’ top prospect chart according to Baseball America along the way. Houser reached Triple-A Durham with the Rays in 2009 before signing with the Florida Marlins prior to the 2010 season. After excelling at Triple-A New Orleans where he held a 3.67 ERA, Houser made his major league debut for the Marlins on June 24, 2010 in a game at Camden Yards against the Baltimore Orioles.
Houser is 36-33 with a 3.97 ERA in his minor league career in 153 appearances (127 starts), allowing only 619 hits in 676 career innings.
Of the 17 players now under contract for the upcoming season, 11 are pitchers, including six left-handers.