Three local minor league baseball players have started their sophomore season in the Minor Leagues — Claremore’s Matt Whatley and Bryce Howe, and Blake Battenfield of Verdigris.
Claremore’s Whatley has has played 19 games for the Down East Wood Ducks, an Advanced A team for the Texas Rangers who play in the Carolina League.
Whatley, a former catcher for the Claremore High School Zebras and the Johnny Bench Award winner at Oral Roberts University, was picked in the third round by the Rangers in 2017.
In his rookie year with his rookie ball team the Arizona League Rangers and the Class A short season team, the Spokane Indians of the Northwest League, Whatley hit .295 with a .376 on-base percentage.
So far this season with the Wood Ducks, Whatley is hitting .164. He has three doubles and a triple in 67 at-bats with six RBIs. He has thrown out seven of 12 attempting to steal.
He missed some time when he was put on the disabled list on April 5, but returned to the team on April 24.
Howe, Whatley’s high school and college teammate and an 18th-round pick by the Miami Marlins, is also in his second minor league baseball season.
The right-hander is playing with the Greensboro Grasshoppers, a Class A full-season team in the South Atlantic League, is 1-2 with a 5.40 earned-run average this season. He has seen action in 10 games. In 15 full innings, he has allowed nine earned runs on 23 hits with 15 strikeouts and eight walks.
Last season, his rookie year, he held a 1.37 ERA with 13 strikeouts and 11 walks with a 1-3 record.
A former Verdigris High School and Oklahoma State University pitcher, Battenfield spent his first season in 2017 with the rookie class Great Falls Voyagers of the Pioneer League.
Battenfield was 1-4 with a 4.88 ERA last year.
This year, he has flipped the script and is 4-1 with a 1.77 ERA with the Kannapolis Intimidators of the Class A South Atlantic League.
Kannapolis is in the same league as the Grasshoppers, which means Battenfield and Howe are playing against each other this summer.
The two teams just finished a three-game series with Kannapolis beating Greensboro two out of three. Battenfield’s team is leading the league’s Northern Division with a 29-15 record.
Battenfield was taken in the 17th round by the Chicago White Sox.