Ferguson: The art of making pitchers out of position players

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Scott Ferguson
11/25/2013 11:04:30 AM
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What do Dave Stieb, Tim Wakefield, and Sergio Santos have in common? All three started out as position players, and made the conversion to pitchers.

A couple of more players trying to make the switch came to light over the weekend. Both have Blue Jays connections, one direct and one in a more roundabout way.

Justin Jackson was drafted as a shortstop by the Blue Jays in 2007. He was a decent fielder with a strong arm who just never came around as a hitter. Over the course of this past year, the Blue Jays convinced him to give pitching a try.

Jackson worked 49.2 innings between Lansing in low "A" ball and Dunedin of the Florida State League in high "A" ball. Jackson put together a decent ERA of 3.26 over the two stops.

The Jays decided not to put Jackson on the 40-man roster, so he will be available for the Rule 5 Draft next month in Orlando. The organization is gambling that no team will take a chance on claiming a newly minted pitcher with so little experience.

The other pitcher-to-be is the younger son of former Blue Jays right fielder Jesse Barfield. Jeremy Barfield is a 25-year-old 6'5" outfielder in the Oakland A's chain. Back in July, the A's approached Jeremy about making the switch. He has the arm strength of his father and is a left hander to boot.

The A's figure it's worth a shot, especially in light of the success they've had with lefty reliever Sean Doolittle. The 27-year-old was drafted in 2007 by the A's to be a 1B/OF. However, he had been a standout pitcher through high school and college. During instructional league in 2007, the A's converted Doolittle back into a pitcher.

In two seasons in the A's bullpen, the hard throwing 6'3" southpaw has pitched so well, Oakland is at least considering making him their closer for 2014.

We mentioned Jeremy Barfield. Well, Jesse's older son Josh is still playing as well. Once considered a top prospect with San Diego and Cleveland, the 31-year-old finished up last season with the Long Island Ducks of the independent Atlantic League.


Rumours and Deals

The Jeff Samardzjia to the Blue Jays rumours picked up a little steam over the weekend. Bruce Levine of ESPN Chicago claimed that Alex Anthopoulos was putting together a list of prospects to make an offer for the 28-year-old right-hander. The number mentioned for Samardzjia was three to four prospects and you would have to think a couple of those would need to be Major League ready.

Samardzjia has struck out 394 batters over the past two seasons, but at age 28 has never won in double digits with a career record of 29-35 and a 4.19 ERA.

He still might be their best option considering the money and length of contract that the likes of Ervin Santana, Matt Garza and Ubaldo Jiminez should be able to command as free agents.

Another pitching option came off the board on Sunday. Veteran right-hander Dan Haren, who really wanted to pitch on the West Coast, agreed to a one-year, $10 million deal with the Dodgers.

Sean Doolittle (Photo: The Canadian Press)

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(Photo: The Canadian Press)
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