Friday, January 1, 2010
Group of 79 project - Greg Brock
Without a doubt, the greatest major league baseball player to come out of the University of Wyoming is Greg Brock. This isn't too surprising. The school doesn't even have a baseball team anymore, they didn't induct Brock into their Hall of Fame until 2002 (and inducted Bill Ewing, who reached AA before a shoulder injury ended his career, before Brock), and the main rivals are Art Howe and Jeff Huson.
I always liked Brock. He split his career pretty much evenly with the Dodgers, where he was given the gigantic shoes of Steve Garvey to fill, and the Brewers, where he was to fill the possibly larger, but not as flashy, shoes of Cecil Cooper.
One has to wonder how Brock would have progressed through the minors in this day and age. His very brief minor league career was played in stadiums and leagues that inflated batting numbers and he was old for his leagues so when he reached the majors, his performance seemed pretty disappointing. What he did, though, was pretty awesome.
He made his professional debut at Lethbridge of the Pioneer League. He hit .356/.472/.640, was second in the league in RBI, third in 2B and HR, was named to the All-Star team at first base and led Lethbridge to the league championship. 1.112 OPS in your first year as a professional? Nice.
In 1980 he was promoted to Lodi of the California League. He led the league in homers, was third in RBI and hit .299/.391/.567. He claimed another home run title in 1981 at San Antonio, slugging 32 homers with 106 RBI (third in the league) and putting up slash numbers of .295/.352/.549. In hindsight, this was the first real test of Brock. He was a reasonable age for the league and for the first time as a pro, his strikeouts exceeded his walks. He still looked like a strong prospect by this point.
His final full season in the minors came at AAA Albuquerque in 1982. If you hit 44 home runs and knocked in 138 runs in 1982, you were something special. Brock didn't even lead the league. Ron Kittle (who might possibly be a part of this group (keep your eyes out to find out)) belted 50 home runs and drove in 144 to top Brock in both categories. He also had a higher average than Brock (.345). Brock's .310/.432/.663 (he led the league in walks and intentional walks) made Brock an All-Star and Albuquerque gave Brock his second championship in four years of being a pro.
When Brock reached the majors, though, he was never able to hit for average. His first year after being traded to the Brewers he hit .299. Otherwise, he never hit much better than .250, ending his career at .248. He continued to draw walks and showed a good eye at the plate, especially for someone with power. His walk/strikeout ratio was close to 1-1. He just was never able to really reach expectations whether they were based on his minor league performance or the players he was trying to replace.
He still had a nice career and is one of those guys I look back upon fondly and am glad made this list.