MLB has Georgia on its mind

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Ever since Ty Cobb strapped on the spikes and stepped into the batter’s box, the state of Georgia has produced some of Major League Baseball’s best talent. Players such as Wally Joyner, Ray Knight, Jackie Robinson, Rondell White and Kevin Brown were all born in Georgia and many current Major League players once suited up for GHSA action.




When the Montreal Expos selected Michael Barrett out of Pace Academy with the No. 28 pick in the first round of the 1995 draft, the National League East Division power was selecting one of the most decorated players to come from the Peach State in years. As a shortstop for the Knights, Barrett led Pace to three straight GHSA Class A titles before winning the 1995 Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year Award. He was shifted from shortstop to catcher in an attempt to help him reach the parent club quicker, and on Sept. 19, 1998, Barrett drilled a home run in his first game. The Atlanta native played for four teams during his career and won the 2005 Silver Slugger award as the National League’s best-hitting catcher. He also played for Team USA in the 2006 World Baseball Classic.


While Barrett won three rings during his time at Pace Academy, he had a decision to make after high school: Clemson or the MLB? Barrett ultimately chose the allure of Major League Baseball, and Clemson would again feel the sting several years later when another Peach State product chose the route of professional baseball over ACC life.


Parkview’s Jeff Francoeur led the Panthers to back-to-back Class AAAAA titles in 2001 and 2002, as well as three football state championships. Before being selected No. 23 overall by the Atlanta Braves, Francoeur impressed scouts with his .433 average, 55 home runs and 164 RBIs. His high school home run clips on YouTube are the stuff of legends and those around the Parkview program still get chills talking about the 2002 Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year. Francoeur debuted with the Atlanta Braves in 2005 and homered in his first game. He was also a stud in the field, capturing the 2007 Rawlings Gold Glove award. Since leaving Atlanta in a trade, Francoeur has played for the Mets, Rangers and Royals.


Many around the state of Georgia recognize the name Gordon Beckham as the player who led the University of Georgia to within just a few innings of a College World Series title, but Westminster Wildcats fans know Beckham as a two-sport star who held several football records and who is now in the school’s hall of fame. Beckham started on the Westminster varsity at shortstop as a freshman and eventually earned All-State honors. He also won SEC Player of the Year honors at UGA in 2008 after twice leading the Bulldogs to the College World Series. His 53 career home runs are the most in Bulldogs’ history. He made his Major League debut with the Chicago White Sox less than one year after he was taken No. 8 overall in the 2008 draft. Beckham was named the 2009 American League Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News and the MLBPA.




Buster Posey never led Lee County to a GHSA state title, but he has seemingly won everything under the sun since. Posey was a pitcher and shortstop for Lee County, setting the school record for batting average (.544) as a junior. Over his final two seasons, Posey was 22-1 with a 1.06 ERA his senior season to go with 108 strikeouts. He also clubbed 14 home runs and drove in 40 RBIs his senior year.


Posey’s huge 2005 was rewarded with the Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year award as well as the Louisville Slugger State Player of the Year award and EA Sports and Baseball America All-American recognition. While at Florida State, Posey picked up the Johnny Bench Award, the Collegiate Baseball Player of the Year award, the Dick Howser Trophy and the 2008 Golden Spike Award. The Giants took Posey with the No. 5 pick in the 2008 draft, and Posey would win the 2010 Rookie of the Year award, the 2012 NL MVP, the 2012 NL Hank Aaron Award, the 2012 Silver Slugger and the 2012 NL Comeback Player of the Year Award. He has also won a pair of World Series titles with the Giants.


Corey Patterson is a name that folks may recognize from his time with the Cubs, Orioles, Reds, Nationals and Brewers, but the Harrison star led the Hoyas to the 1998 Class AAAA state title with a dominating senior year. Patterson was impressive with a .528 average to go with 22 home runs, 61 RBIs, 38 stolen bases and 81 runs in 38 games. The Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year was also named to the Baseball America and USA Today first-team All-America teams. Patterson also took home the USA Baseball Amateur Player of the Year and Baseball Coaches Association co-national high school player of the year awards. The Cubs were impressed enough to select him No. 3 overall in the 1998 draft. He also won a World Series ring with the Cardinals in 2011.

Dexter Fowler may be one of few Georgia baseball standouts to boast a GHSA state championship and an Olympic medal on their resumes. Fowler helped Milton to the 2004 Class AAAAA state title, and in the same year, was named Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year. Fowler then turned down both Miami and Harvard after the Colorado Rockies selected him in the 2004 draft. After spending time in the minor leagues, Fowler was selected to the 2008 U.S. Olympic team that earned a bronze medal in Beijing. He made his debut with the Rockies later that season.


Other names that have experienced success on the GHSA diamonds as well as the MLB diamonds include Adam Wainwright (Glynn Academy), Macay McBride (Screven County) and the Sprayberry tandem of Marlon Byrd and Kris Benson.


Benson was named Gatorade Player of the Year in 1993 as Sprayberry reached the GHSA championship series. He attended Clemson University from 1993-1996, and led the Tigers to the 1996 College World Series. He picked up multiple amateur awards that season as well as a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympic Games before being selected No. 1 overall in the 1996 draft. Byrd, meanwhile, would help Sprayberry win the 1995 Class AAAA title before heading off to Georgia Tech.




One final name that will soon hit it big is the Mets’ Zack Wheeler, who attended East Paulding. Many baseball experts consider Wheeler to be the best pitching prospect in the minor leagues after being selected No. 6 overall in the 2009 draft by the San Francisco Giants. Wheeler was 95-36 in four years for East Paulding, including going 17-3 in his final two seasons. Wheeler struck out 127 batters his junior year while pitching 64.1 innings, only to better than with 151 strikeouts in 77.2 innings his senior season. His 9-0 record and 0.54 ERA for East Paulding his senior season helped him earn the Georgia Gatorade Player of the Year award. He has twice been a participant in the All-Star Futures Game and could make his Major League debut later this year.

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