Last August we took a detailed look at 2011 major leaguers from New England. We New Englanders undoubtedly enjoy watching our own homegrown players succeed -- as long as it’s not in Yankees pinstripes. So I came up with a list of 21 New England-born players who appeared in the majors in 2011. But several of those players didn’t have any real connection to New England other than being born here (having moved elsewhere early in their lives). Also, the nature of the list required a handful of other New Englanders, who just happened to have been born elsewhere, to be excluded.
So I’ll take a slightly different slant this year – here’s a list of 23 players who went to high school in New England and have appeared in the major leagues in 2012 (sorted by career WAR – Wins Above Replacement).
1. Carlos Pena, 1B, Tampa Bay
Haverhill High School, 1995 (Haverhill, Mass.)
Pena moved to Massachusetts from the Dominican Republic at the age of 12, and spent the next six years living in Haverhill. The 34-year-old also has a few other New England ties, being a Northeastern University alumnus and having played for both Boston and Pawtucket in 2006. Pena has 267 career home runs and a .480 career slugging percentage.
2. Carl Pavano, RHP, Minnesota
Southington High School, 1994 (Southington, Conn.)
Born in New Britain, Pavano was an all-world pitcher growing up in Connecticut, winning the state’s American Legion championship in 1993 and high school championship in 1994, and taking home countless awards in the process. He was drafted by the Red Sox in the 13th round of the 1994 draft, and in November 1997 he was traded to Montreal, together with right-hander Tony Armas, for Pedro Martinez. While he’s no Pedro, Pavano has gone on to have a solid major league career in six different organizations, posting a 108-107 win-loss record and a 4.39 ERA.
3. Chris Capuano, LHP, Los Angeles (NL)
Cathedral High School, 1996 (Springfield, Mass.)
A Springfield native and a noted scholar-athlete, Capuano was the valedictorian of his high school before heading off to pitch for Duke University. Now in his eighth year in the majors, Capuano has posted an 8-2 record with 2.71 ERA for the Dodgers in 2012. He was a National League All-Star in 2006, and also pitched for Team USA in the 2001 World Cup.
4. Chris Iannetta, C, Los Angeles (AL)
Saint Raphael Academy, 2001 (Pawtucket, R.I.)
Now in his seventh major league season, the 29-year-old backstop has 66 career home runs and a .784 career OPS. He’s also a solid defender behind the plate. Iannetta platooned as the starting catcher for Team USA in the 2009 World Baseball Classic, together with Atlanta catcher Brian McCann. He still calls Providence his home during the offseason.
5. Dan Wheeler, RHP, Cleveland
Pilgrim High School, 1995 (Warwick, R.I.)
Similar to Iannetta, Wheeler was born in Providence. In 13 major league seasons, Wheeler has compiled 25 wins and 43 saves, while posting a career 3.98 ERA. After spending the 2011 season with Boston, Wheeler signed a minor league deal with Cleveland this past offseason. He spent five weeks with the Indians but was optioned to Triple-A on May 13 after a rough outing against the Red Sox.
6. Ryan Hanigan, C, Cincinnati
Andover High School, 1999 (Andover, Mass.)
In addition to playing for Andover High, Hanigan also played American Legion Baseball for American Legion Post 8 in Andover, played for Lowell in the New England Collegiate Baseball League, and played for Orleans in the Cape Cod League. He has spent the past six seasons as a platoon catcher for the Reds, where he has hit .278 with 17 home runs.
7. Brian Wilson, RHP, San Francisco
Londonderry High School, 2000 (Londonderry, N.H.)
Wilson came up through the Londonderry High School ranks as a quirky teenager, leaving many of his coaches and teammates unsurprised that he has turned out to be one of the most interesting and unique personalities in the major leagues. Baseball-wise, Wilson was on the mound and took home the save when San Francisco won the World Series in 2010, leading to even more fame for the black-bearded closer. A three-time All-Star, Wilson has 171 career saves. He’s out for the season after April 2012 Tommy John surgery.
8. Rajai Davis, OF, Toronto
New London High School, 1999 (New London, Conn.)
Davis was a Little League phenom and a multisport athlete growing up in New London. After he spent two years at UConn-Avery Point, the Pirates took a flier on him in the 38th round of the 2001 draft. Including Pittsburgh, the speedy center fielder has already been through four organizations at this point, compiling a career .272 AVG/.319 OBP/.381 SLG line with 193 stolen bases.
9. Chris Denorfia, OF, San Diego
Choate Rosemary Hall, 1998 (Wallingford, Conn.)
Born in Bristol, Denorfia also graduated from Wheaton College (Norton, Mass.) in 2002. A utility outfielder for the Padres, Denorfia’s value comes in his versatility, hustle and solid fundamentals. Over his seven-year career with Oakland, Cincinnati and San Diego, Denorfia has posted a career .277/.343/.405 line.
10. John McDonald, IF, Arizona
East Lyme High School, 1992 (East Lyme, Conn.)
“Johnny Mac” was a member of one of Providence College’s last teams before its baseball program was discontinued in 1999. A valuable utility player, McDonald is capable of playing shortstop, second base, third base and left field. He has a career line of .240/.276/.333 between stops in Cleveland, Detroit, Toronto and Arizona.
11. Craig Breslow, LHP, Arizona
Trumbull High School, 1998 (Trumbull, Conn.)
Widely considered the most intelligent player in major league baseball, Breslow graduated from Yale with a B.A. in molecular physics and biochemistry. Primarily utilized as a middle reliever throughout his career, Breslow is currently 1-0 with a 3.03 ERA for the Diamondbacks. He’s been with seven different organizations in his professional career, including a stint in 2006-07 where he spent time with Boston and Pawtucket. He boasts a career 3.06 ERA and 1.24 WHIP.
12. Rich Hill, LHP, Boston
Milton High School, 1999 (Milton, Mass.)
Like many New Englanders his age, Hill grew up rooting for the likes of Wade Boggs and Mo Vaughn in the '80s and '90s. A fourth-round pick in 2002, he pitched in 78 major league games with the Cubs and Orioles before catching on with Boston in 2010. He has pitched impressively for Boston when healthy; unfortunately he’s spent a significant portion of his tenure with the club on the disabled list. The Boston-born pitcher still has a large family presence in Milton.
13. Steve Cishek, RHP, Miami
Falmouth High School, 2004 (Falmouth, Mass.)
Cishek, a second-year reliever with the Marlins, is 4-0 with a 2.45 ERA this season, striking out 29 batters in 29.1 innings. A fifth-round pick in the 2007 draft, Cishek made his major league debut on Sept. 27, 2010, appearing in three games with the Marlins before the end of the 2010 season. He got the call to the major leagues while driving from Jacksonville -- where his minor league season had just ended -- back to his hometown of Falmouth. He made it to Savannah, Ga., but after the call he made a U-turn to head down to Miami to join the Marlins.
14. Tim Collins, LHP, Kansas City
Worcester Technical High School, 2007 (Worcester, Mass.)
Former Toronto general manager (and Massachusetts native) J.P. Ricciardi signed Collins as an undrafted free agent in late July 2007, after Collins’ mid-90s fastball caught Ricciardi’s eye during an American Legion game. As a 5-foot-7 undrafted free agent who’s just 22 years old, Collins’ rise to the majors has been quite improbable. He was traded to Atlanta in a multiplayer deal on July 14, 2010, and then sent to Kansas City on July 31, 2010, in another multiplayer deal. In 99 career games with the Royals, Collins has posted a 3.20 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP. Raised as a Red Sox fan, Collins made his Fenway Park debut on July 25, 2011.
15. Bryan LaHair, 1B/OF, Chicago (NL)
Holy Name Central High School, 2000 (Worcester, Mass.)
Born in Worcester, LaHair also played with the Keene Swamp Bats during college. An unheralded 39th-round pick by Seattle in 2002, he tore up the minors for four seasons but tinkered at Triple-A from 2007 to 2009. After the Cubs signed him to a minor league deal in 2010, he mashed with Triple-A Iowa in 2011, hitting .331/.405/.664 with 38 home runs. He’s now proving himself in the major leagues, hitting .290 with 13 home runs for Chicago. However, LaHair is in the process of being moved to right field to make way for top Cubs prospect Anthony Rizzo (a former Red Sox prospect).
16. Brandon Gomes, RHP, Tampa Bay
Durfee High School, 2002 (Fall River, Mass.)
Gomes made his major league debut for the Rays on May 3, 2011. He presently boasts a 5.87 ERA in seven appearances out of the Tampa Bay bullpen. He was acquired from San Diego in December 2010 with three other players in exchange for shortstop Jason Bartlett. Gomes still calls Fall River his hometown, and achieved a lifelong dream when he came to Fenway Park as a big leaguer for the first time on Aug. 16, 2011. He left 20 tickets for friends and family.
17. A.J. Pollock, OF, Arizona
RHAM High School, 2006 (Hebron, Conn.)
Born in Connecticut, Pollock led his high school team to a state championship in 2004. He was a first-round pick out of Notre Dame in 2009, and went on to hit .305 in three seasons in the minors. Pollock made his major league debut with the Diamondbacks on April 18, 2012. He’s spent the 2012 season going back and forth between the majors and Triple-A Reno.
18. Andrew Carignan, RHP, Oakland
Norwich Free Academy, 2004 (Norwich, Conn.)
Carignan was a four-year letter winner at Norwich Free Academy, ultimately winning a state title in 2003 and the Gatorade and Connecticut Coaches Association state player of the year honors in 2004. Oakland drafted him out of North Carolina in the fifth round of the 2007 draft. A September call-up in 2011, Carignan appeared in 11 games for the Athletics this season before going down with an elbow injury that required Tommy John surgery on June 19.
19. Ryan Flaherty, UT, Baltimore
Deering High School, 2005 (Portland, Maine)
A native Mainer, Flaherty won the state’s Mr. Baseball award and the Gatorade High School Player of the Year award in 2005. After three seasons at Vanderbilt, he was selected by the Cubs in the first round of the 2008 draft. The Orioles then picked Flaherty in the Rule 5 draft from Chicago in December 2011. He made his major league debut on April 7, 2012, and is presently hitting .178 in a reserve utility role for Baltimore.
20. Evan Scribner, RHP, Oakland
Shepaug Valley High School, 2003 (Washington, Conn.)
Among his other New England ties, Scribner graduated from Central Connecticut State in 2007. He has pitched in 12 major league games with San Diego and Oakland, posting a 5.40 ERA for his career. Like Gomes, Scribner got to fulfill one of his childhood dreams when he pitched at Fenway Park for the first time as a pro on June 20, 2011. Presently pitching in Triple-A Sacramento, he’s likely to see more major league time with Oakland at some point in 2012.
21. Scott Barnes, LHP, Cleveland
Cathedral High School, 2005 (Springfield, Mass.)
A native of Chicopee, Mass., Barnes posted eye-popping numbers during his senior year at Cathedral, going 9-0 with a 0.13 ERA and 120 strikeouts, while also hitting .588 with six home runs. He played his college ball at St. John’s and was picked up by the Giants in the eighth round in 2008. In July 2009, San Francisco traded Barnes to Cleveland for Ryan Garko. Barnes made his major league debut on May 30, 2012, but was optioned to Triple-A Columbus on June 15.
22. Charlie Furbush, LHP, Seattle
South Portland High School, 2004 (Portland, Maine)
Another native Mainer, Furbush also attended St. Joseph’s College of Maine before transferring to college baseball powerhouse Louisiana State in 2007. Following an impressive season with LSU, he was drafted in the fourth round by Detroit. He got his first call to the big leagues on May 21, 2011, and posted a 3.62 ERA in 17 games with the Tigers. He was sent to Seattle at the trade deadline in a six-player deal that included former Red Sox farmhand David Pauley. Furbush is now working out of the Mariners’ bullpen, posting an impressive 2.30 ERA and 0.62 WHIP over 25 games this season.
23. Charlie Morton, RHP, Pittsburgh
Barlow High School, 2002 (Redding, Conn.)
Atlanta drafted Barlow right out of high school in 2002, and the Braves traded him to Pittsburgh in June 2009 with two other players in exchange for Nate McLouth. In 89 career major league appearances, 88 of which were starts, Morton is 23-45 with a 5.06 ERA. Like a few other pitchers on this list, Morton saw his 2012 season end early due to an elbow injury. He had Tommy John surgery on June 14, 2012.