In 2004 the Hickory Crawdads were the low-A ball club of the Pittsburgh Pirates, right in the middle of their ten year affiliation with the team. They were two years removed from a South Atlantic League championship and coming off an 82-54 season. The team was typical of the Pirates teams of the day, a little on the old side with no teenagers and just four twenty year olds, all of them pitchers. They were managed by former major leaguer Dave Clark who actually moved down a level in the system from the previous year. This article will see what became of that championship team six years later.
I’m going to go in alphabetical order through the whole team then sum it all up at the end. That would mean we start off with pitcher Jason Alcala who had been in the Bucs system for five seasons already and pitched mostly in high-A the previous two seasons. He pitched in just seven games for the team before moving back up to Lynchburg and then one final stop in Altoona. That was literally one final stop as the one appearance with Altoona was his only career game in AA and he was done with baseball following the season.
First Baseman Jon Benick was the star of the team hitting .328 with 32 homers and 104 RBI’s but he was a 24 year old college draftee in his fourth season already so he had little business being there but the stats are impressive none the less. He played briefly for Lynchburg the next year but struggled and finished off his career in Independent ball in 2006.
Anthony Bocchino was a 24 year old light hitting outfielder, in his third year in the system, and second stop at Hickory. He played in just 69 games hitting .252 with 4 homers which was three more than he hit the previous two seasons. He repeated in Hickory the next year ,showed power with ten homers in half a season, got promoted to Lynchburg, showed no power and was out of baseball following the season.
Adam Boeve was another 24 year old but he was in his first full season in 2004 and he hit well, with a .290 average, 28 homers and 92 RBI’s. The next season he hit well in Lynchburg then went to Altoona and hit there as well putting him on the prospect map despite his advanced age. In 2006 he reached AAA and started showing some good base stealing skills to go along with his hitting. He looked like he would at least get a look in the majors at some point but two years later he still had not reached the show and after six seasons, all in the Bucs system, he was out of pro ball. Adam retired with an .848 OPS.
Finally we get to a success story and someone who wasn’t 24 already. Matt Capps was a 7th round pick out of high school in 2002 and made the opening day roster with a spot in the rotation. When I said success story, I meant his major league career, not his season at Hickory because he got bombed there. He was the teams worst pitcher who threw more than just a handful of games. He was sent back to short-season Williamsport when their season opened and he didn’t fare much better there. Probably to the surprise of many, he came back as a reliever and shot right through the system all the way to the majors where he has stuck to this day, currently pitching for the Twins who acquired him from the Nationals this past trading deadline.
Travis Chapman was a 5th round pick in 2001 but by 2003 was nothing more than a light hitting reserve catcher. In 2004 he started at Lynchburg but finished back in Hickory playing just 31 games. In 2005 he was signed by the A’s who sent him to low-A ball where he hit just .111 in 45 games. In 2007 he appeared briefly in Independent ball, ending his career.
Mike Cockrell was a light hitting infielder who broke out in 2004 with 10 homers, even earning a promotion up to AA for a short time. He skipped all around the system in his five years, apparently taking the organizational player tag from the start despite being just 19 when he joined the Bucs farm system in 2001. In 2005 he started at Hickory again, played a little at Lynchburg and then was released. Like a few others on the team, he finished up in Independent ball, his last season coming in 2006.
Mike Collum was another light hitting middle infielder who joined the organization as a teenager in 2001. He was repeating low-A in 2004 and he hit .245 in 59 games, playing all four infield positions but mostly 3B. That was his last year in pro ball.
Chris Demaria was a 17th round pick in 2002 who spent his first two seasons in Williamsport. He pitched out of the bullpen for Hickory and had an impressive 102 K’s in just 79 IP. He was drafted in the minor league portion of the rule V draft the next year and made the majors briefly in both 2005 and 2006 with very little success. He lasted long enough to earn a major league pension but he was done with pro ball following that season.
Tom Gorzelanny was a 2nd round draft pick in 2003 and started the year with Hickory but didn’t last long enough to enjoy the title. He had a 7-2 record and a 2.23 ERA in 15 starts before being moved up to Lynchburg. He started the next year in AA and finished in the majors. He had a real good 2007 season in the majors going 14-10 and looked like a future piece of the rotation, but has gone just 20-21 with an ERA near 5.00 since then and was traded to the Cubs mid-season 2009.
Javier Guzman was the teams 22 year old shortstop in 2004. A 3rd year player in the system, he hit .306 in 124 games with 31 stolen bases. In 2005 he moved up to Lynchburg and then to Altoona which he repeated in 2006 and 2007. He spent the next two season with the Braves in AA and this past minor league season got his first shot (12 games) at AAA in the Marlins system.
Justin Harris was a 23 year old in his 2nd year as an organizational player in 2004, hitting .255 for the Crawdads while playing both infield and outfield. He played two years with Lynchburg, hitting a high of .300 in 2005 before retiring.
Jeremy Harts was in his 7th season in the organization in 2004. He was a 3rd round pick in 1998 who started as an outfielder but moved to pitcher in 2003. He didn’t fare too well at either position hitting just .244 with a high K rate and as a pitcher he had a 6.88 ERA in 68 games finishing his career in 2005 with Altoona. He had a 4.95 ERA in 16 games with Hickory in 2004.
Chris Hernandez was a 23 year old closer for Hickory in 2004. A 2nd year player, he excelled at the role posting 24 saves and a 1.93 ERA. He closed again in Lynchburg the next year,then moved to a bullpen role with Altoona for all of 2006 and part of 2007. He topped out at AAA, struggling there in 2007/08 and hasn’t pitched in the minors since then.
Brian Holliday was a 20 year old starter for Hickory, pitched okay for his age but had a losing record on a very good team. He was a 3rd year LHP drafted in the 12th round in 2002 who went on to Lynchburg for the whole 2005 season. He appeared briefly for Hickory again in 2006, topped out with 3 games in AA for Altoona in 2008 and has pitched for an Independent team the last two seasons.
Blair Johnson was the 2nd round pick in 2002 who became a familiar site to fans in Hickory,making four stops with the team. He struggled in 2004 with the Crawdads and was sent down to Williamsport when their season started. His career finished just like Holliday, topping out with Altoona in 2008 and he pitched in Independent ball in 2009. Injuries kept setting him back as he appeared in just 92 games over his seven seasons in the organization.
Bobby Kingsbury was a 2002 8th round pick repeating the level in 2004. He was a 23 year old outfielder who didn’t hit for average but showed some pop with 19 homers. He was allowed to leave the team mid-season just for the summer Olympics to play for Greece. He played for Lynchburg in 2005, missed 2006 and reappeared with Hickory and Lynchburg in 2007 finishing his career.
Alexander Lissir was a 21 year old reliever making his 3rd stop in Hickory in 2004. He had been with the Pirates since 2001, putting up good numbers in rookie ball as an 18 year old, but never came close to matching them again. He posted a 5.09 ERA in 36 games in 2004 and ended his career in 2005 making just 1 relief appearance giving up 4 runs in one inning for Hickory.
Justin Lord was a 24 year old pitcher who lasted just 2 games during one week in July with the team. He pitched previously in the Royals system starting back in 2001. He finished 2004 in Lynchburg, didn’t pitch in 2005, then joined the St. Paul Saints for 3 seasons last pitching pro ball in 2008.
Dave Lundquist was a ringer for the 2004 Hickory team. He was at Altoona to start the year but had three stops in the majors already and was 31 years old at the time. He pitched great in his month with the Crawdads posting an 0.93 ERA in 10 games. That was his last season in the pros. He pitched 37 games for the Padres and White Sox posting a 7.92 career ERA.
Paul Maholm pitched for the 2004 Crawdads although it was only because he suffered a serious facial injury from a line drive that hit him while with Lynchburg in May. He was with the team in August and pitched poorly, later saying he was suffering from double vision but wanted to prove he could pitch. He’s pitched in the majors since 2005 and has 47 career major league wins, most among any pitcher on that 2004 Crawdads staff.
Mike McCuistion was a 22 year old catcher for Hickory that year. He was a 7th round draft pick in 2001 but had not hit much up to that point. He had a decent 2004 season starting a little more than half the games, hit better in 2005 with Lynchburg (.293, 8 homers) but was returned to Hickory for 2006 where he finished his career.
Matt Meath was a 24 year old outfielder who played 10 games with Hickory in August. He was an organizational player, jumping all around the system making five stops in Lynchburg, three in Hickory and two each in Altoona and Williamsport during his seven seasons with the Bucs. He finished his career in 2007 playing just 296 total games.
Nyjer Morgan was a 33rd round draft pick in 2002 and 2004 was his first year in full season ball. He hit .255 with a team leading 55 stolen bases. He worked his way slowly through the system making the majors in September of 2007 and staying there for good in mid-August 2008. He was traded to the Nationals in 2009 and is their current CF. In six minor league seasons with the Bucs he hit .293 with 234 steals.
Leo Nunez was a starting pitcher for Hickory in 2004 going 10-4 with a 3.12 ERA. He was in his fourth season in the organization, making his third stop at Hickory but was just 20 years old. He was traded that offseason to the Royals for Benito Santiago and played parts of four years between the minors and majors before finally sticking in 2009 with the Marlins where he has been there closer for the past two seasons.
Eddie Olszta lasted just a week with Hickory in late April-early May 2004, playing three games as a catcher and six games total. He played two years in the Mariners system and one in Indy ball before joining the Bucs. A 25 year old at the time, he finished the 2004 season in AAA and played there briefly in 2005 as well in what would be his last pro experience.
Brad Rea was a big DH/1B from Pittsburgh who signed with the Bucs in 2003 after one season in Indy ball. The 24 year old didn’t hit for power but he put up a .293 average in 109 games. He played the next two seasons for Lynchburg before finishing his career in 2007 in Indy ball.
Milver Reyes has been in the Pirates organization since 1999 although he is currently a free agent, he may still sign with a team as a coach/emergency catcher. He was the backup for Hickory the first half of 2004 getting in just 26 games. He has played at every level of the system making as many as four stops with two different affiliates yet in ten years has played in just 380 games.
Kurt Shafer was an 8th round pick in 2000 that got to know the folks in Hickory well, making four stops there. He played six seasons in the Pirate system, and was out of baseball at age 23 in 2005. He had a 25-17 career record and a 3.80 ERA in 108 games, 34 as a starter.
Josh Sharpless was a reliever for Hickory in 2004 going 6-2 with a 3.03 ERA in 44 games. A local kid, he was a 24th round pick in 2003 who would make it to the majors with the Bucs in 2006 with decent results despite a high walk total. He appeared briefly for them as well in 2007 with poor results and was released before the 2008 season. He signed with the Giants although only pitched in AA before being released. He last appeared in Indy ball in 2009 with more poor results.
Josh Shortslef was a 22 year old LHP drafted in the 6th round in 2000. He was making his second stint at Hickory and went 11-5 with a 4.34 ERA in 30 games, 18 as a starter. He put up similar numbers the next year for Lynchburg. He then spent three years in Altoona, two as a starter and the last as a reliever. He last pitched for the Phillies in AA in 2009. In 10 minor league seasons he had a 57-44 4.21 record.
Sean Smith was just 21 in 2004 but in his 5th season in the system. A light hitting outfielder, he lasted 2 months with the Crawdads that year hitting .274 in 38 games. That was his last season with the Pirates as he joined the White Sox system for 3 years, topping out at AA before moving out to two years of Indy ball. He signed with the Nationals organization this past year but did not play for any team.
Craig Stansberry was the regular 2B for the Crawdads, a 5th round pick in 2003. He played 106 games hitting .286 with 9 homers and 20 steals. He moved up two levels the next year, hitting 21 homers combined between the two stops. In 2006 he reached AAA, struggled and he was put on waivers. He was picked up by the Padres who called him up to the majors for three cups of coffee in 2007-09. He played this past season in AAA for the Padres and is a current free agent.
Wardell Starling was a 4th round pick in 2002 making his full season debut as a 21 year old in 2004. He posted a 11-8 record and a 4.11 ERA in 26 starts. He struggled in 2005 at Lynchburg but pitched well there in 2006 leading to a promotion half season to Altoona where he also succeeded. It looked like he could be a potential major leaguer but the next year at Altoona he got hit hard which led to the Pirates trying him as an outfielder which ended right before the 2009 season. He appeared briefly for an Independent team later that year as a P/1B and he struggled hitting just .167 in limited action.
Finally, Yoann Torrealba was a 22 year old 3rd year pitcher. He pitched out of the pen and as a starter for Hickory that year and put up an 8-8 4.80 record. He had looked real good the previous two years in short-season ball going 8-2 with a sub 2.00 ERA. He showed improvement in 2005 repeating at Hickory and earned a mid-season promotion. In 2006 he spent the year at Lynchburg pitching decent in what would be his last pro season.
Of the 35 players who made an appearance for that championship team, these are the major leaguers and current Pirates.
Current Major Leaguers: Maholm (Pirates), Capps, Gorzelanny, Morgan, Nunez
Former Major Leaguers: Demaria, Sharpless (Pirates), Stansberry and Lundquist who was a former major leaguer at the time.
Still in the System: Maholm and possibly Milver Reyes.