The Other Corey

For most of us, and me at least, it is difficult to even imagine what it would be like to have to sit out a year or more with an injury or surgery. It must have been agonizing for Corey Seager, a 24-year-old on the cusp of stardom. Dodger fans all regrettably know about Seager’s year away from the field. Although it no doubt is small comfort, Seager had and has lots of TJ company. In fact, down on the farm there was another Corey going through the same travails as the Dodgers young shortstop, at the same time, and within six months of each other in age. Many of us were not aware of Corey Merrill’s battle with an arm injury.

 

Right-hander Merrill had been selected by the Dodgers in the 37th round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of Tulane University. He has yet to throw a pitch as a professional after undergoing TJ surgery in March of 2018. The late selection would suggest the Dodgers were fully aware his arm issues that had crept onto the scene during the 2016 season.

 

Merrill was born in Lutcher, Louisiana and played his high school ball with the Lutcher High School Bulldogs. One alumnus of Lutcher that some will remember is former major league catcher Lenny Webster.

 

The 6’3”/210-pound right-hander committed to play baseball at Tulane although he was offered scholarships from three other universities:  Southeastern Louisiana, University of Louisiana-Monroe, and Southern Miss. He chose Tulane as he was more than a bit impressed with the campus and baseball coaching staff on his visit there.

 

Merrill played four years with the Green Wave, three of them as a starter. Overall, he posted a 3.23 ERA with 244 strikeouts in 294 innings pitched along with 135 walks. His freshman and sophomore years went as planned, especially his sophomore year in which he posted a 2.12 ERA good for third in the American Athletic Conference in 2015 and was a prime candidate for the league’s pitcher of the year as 2016 started.

 

He started the 2016 season as the opening day starter and expected Friday nights starter. He held the opposition scoreless in two of his first three starts but experienced some discomfort in his arm after beating Furman on March 11. Initially thought to be a short term issue, the condition worsened and on March 18 he was shut down for over a month. Diagnosed as a forearm muscle strain and/or a dead arm Merrill was anxious to put it behind him and get back to helping the team.

 

    “At first, I didn’t really know exactly what the injury was,” he said. “We ended up finding out

        it was a muscle in my forearm, and it was just uncomfortable to pitch with. The big thing

        now is trying to keep that focus. I think I’m right on the edge of being fully back. It’s all

        going to come back with experience.”

 

Anxious to get back on the field, Merrill went to pitching coach David Pierce indicating he was ready to return to full time duty. Pierce was delighted to have him back but had a new plan for the young right-hander. He slotted him in as a relief pitcher and more importantly as a much needed closer. Since the Tulane starting corps was pitching well and a closer for the team was missing, Merrill assumed that role.

 

The plan worked perhaps better than expected. In his relief role, combined with his first few starts, Merrill compiled a 2.05 ERA along with a 1.14 WHIP. He picked up three saves in 10 relief appearances while striking out 63 over 52.2 innings and walking 19.

 

Perhaps it was the time off, the fact he wasn’t pitching in pain or simply that in short bursts his stuff played better, that his coach reported the movement on his pitches had never looked livelier. In a two inning stint against New Orleans he struck out five of the seven batters he faced.

 

“Our guys didn’t have a chance,” Privateers coach Blake Dean said. “He had some really good

      stuff right there.”

  

     “His stuff is so different than what you see out of a traditional type closer,” Pierce said. “He

       Just   doesn’t throw anything straight. His fastball is either a cutter or a slider, and he really

      commanded the curveball against UNO.”

 

On his part, although starting had been his role in the past and most likely his personal goal for the future, Merrill just wanted to get back into the action in whatever role he could play.

 

   “Whether it’s starting or relief I don’t care,” he said. “I just want to help the team whatever kind

        of way, whenever possible. This is definitely the most talented team I’ve played with at Tulane.

      We’ve   got a really chance to make a run at it. I’m looking forward to it.”

 

Enter 2107 and Corey Merrill has his fourth coach in four years. David Pierce had headed off to Texas and Travis Jewett had taken his place at Tulane. One of his first determinations was to return Merrill to a starting role for the upcoming season.

 

“It was a bump in the road,” Merrill said. “The injury set me back, and the starting pitching was

      rolling for us. I met with Pierce in his office, and we decided together why ruin something that

      was going well [Tulane starters]. But obviously I’m looking forward to getting back into that

      starting role.”

 

For whatever reason, perhaps his arm was not yet right for full time starting and Merrill did not have a year in 2017 that would catch the eye of scouts. He posted a 5.06 ERA over 14 starts and 85 innings pitched while striking out 67 and walking 46. Yet he was selected by the Dodgers in the 19th round.

 

He reported to the Dodgers rookie camp and he was in essence shut down hoping he just needed a rest after 200 college innings and that surgery could be avoided. It seems that rarely works and he did have TJ surgery last March.

 

He should return to action at some point in 2019 and certainly initially in short inning appearances. He is now 24 and relief would certainly be his best and perhaps only shot to climb in the Dodgers farm system. Perhaps with further development he can return to using his repertoire in short bursts as he did in dominant appearances with Tulane in 2016. Being successful with the Loons in 2019 would be a least performance goal and ultimately hitting Rancho Cucamonga by season’s end.

This article has 48 Comments

  1. Corey Merrill is the kind of young man that you have to root for. The obstacles to get to the professional level are tall and many, and Corey has faced his fair share thus far in his young life. At 24 and starting later than most, his battle will be uphill. So…Corey Merrill here’s to you and have a career.

    1. Here’s (part of) the beauty of baseball: Some of the guys who are #1 draft picks and you think will make it big (Luke Hochevar, Dave Roberts, Mark Appel, Bryan Bullington, Danny Goodwin, Shawn Abner, Brien Taylor, Steve Chilcott, David Clyde, et al), just don’t and then a guy makes it to the HOF who was drafted in the 62nd round (1,390th player). Mike Piazza was the lowest drafted player EVER to make it to the HOF.

      Using that line of thinking, Corey Merrill should be a lick for the HOF as he was taken in ONLY the 37th round! Go Corey!

  2. Thanks D.C. for the article. I love these personal stories about our farm kids. I love the postings from Mark, AC and DC. The drive these kids have to achieve their goal is amazing. Also, the Dodgers are very good at picking up players that nobody wants. Beuhler is another example. Much higher in the draft, but still took a chance. I remember there was a lot of bitching about the Dodgers drafting a player who needed TJ surgery.

    1. There are quite a few. Caleb Ferguson was another and a 38th round selection. Next Wednesday another TJ recipient from the 2017 draft. Any guesses who that might be? I am not referring to Morgan Cooper. Like Corey, Morgan is a bit old (24) to be starting his professional career although he is a much higher profile player selected in the second round.
      .
      Idahoal – did you get my reply to your question regarding Ted Equals? Unfortunately I don’t remember Ted but he was a teammate with a few I do remember – Len Gabrielson, Tom Satriano, Ralph Vold, Roger Tomlinson. I looked back at the 1958 Eskimo roster and those are the only ones still in my memory bank. Gabrielson and Satriano made it to MLB. Vold was a native Edmontonian. Not sure why I remember Roger.

  3. Just catching up with Pale King from yesterday… Just had a nephew graduate from there last year… Damn good school…Work hard and have fun… Looking forward to seeing you in S.I in the near future!!!
    And by all means ignore the following:
    “The smartest kids take finance in college. The dumbest ones become journalists.”
    P.S. Great to hear from my man from across the pond Watford… But Manny, really??
    Let Verdugo start and God willing we find another ROY…

    1. The Pale King may not be who he says. He has had 5 or 6 other monikers… I am not sure what his gig is, but when he says he is new to the board, that is not true. Some starnge things…

  4. Anyone else think that Lance Lynn getting a 3 year $30M deal and Matt Harvey $11M plus incentives 1 year deal were overpays? Alex Wood, Hill and Maeda have some trade value with so many teams looking for starting pitching. Stripling and Maeda are the only starters who have fared well in the bullpen and have nice contracts. Do they keep 8 starters (counting Urias)? If there was ever a team that could use a 6 man rotation it’s the Dodgers, they were constantly giving starters ‘an extra day’ all last season. I think the team should move Wood or Hill, could bring back at least a catcher (Cervelli?) or another bullpen arm.

    1. That would be nice but they either blow past the CBT or have to move a LOT of salary. I like Pollock but he’s a constant injury risk. Miami wants the moon for JTR and the Harper camp comes with high money expectations. I think I would have better luck betting a 10 team money line parley-nice payoff but almost no chance to hit.

    1. Inside that link, Olney stated: “It’s also been speculated—notably by ESPN.com’s Buster Olney—that the Dodgers will only spring for Harper if they can clear payroll first. Perhaps by trading Matt Kemp (who’s owed $18.3 million by the Dodgers in 2019), Rich Hill ($18.7 million), Yasiel Puig (projected at $11.3 million), Alex Wood (projected at $9 million) and/or Joc Pederson (projected at $4.3 million).”
      .
      Joc’s $4.3 isn’t that much more than Kike’ and CT3 at $3.2M each. Cingrani at $2.65M and Fields at $2.8M are similarly candidates for salary dumps. Myself, I wouldn’t include anybody earning less than $6M as players that could be traded just to clear payroll space.
      .
      I would not want to give Harper more than 5 years at $37M each with opt out after 3.
      .

      1. If you were to sign Harper first every potential trade partner would know that they have the Dodgers over the barrel when it comes to dealing away players in order to rid themselves of payroll.

      2. I’m starting to think they may go over the CBT for 1 year but not over the threshold where they lose picks and international slot money. That may be a good strategy as evidenced by what the Red Sox did this past season.

    2. You all know that I can’t afford to lose brain cells and when I read that, I was instantly dumber. That is a really slanted and disjointed view. Sign Bryce Harper and damn the torpedos – full speed ahead?

  5. How about this:
    1. Pollock – LF (R)
    2. Seager SS (L)
    3. Turner 3B (R)
    4. Bellinger 1B (L)
    5. Realmuto C (R)
    6. Verdugo RF (L)
    7. Muncy/Hernandez 2B (L/R)
    8. Taylor CF (R)

    I’d take that anyday over Harper. JT has maybe THIS YEAR left as a TOP PLAYER. Pollock has maybe 2-3 good years. With Realmuto, they can win NOW! They have enough pitching. Two more power RH Bats and it’s OVER!

    All they have to do is trade Hill, Maeda. Wood (Pick ONE), Kemp, Pederson and Puig. It’s simple (NOT).

      1. I wouldn’t be hitting Muncy 7th either. One thing I do like about that lineup is no slugs on the basepaths. That is a deep, dangerous lineup and an upgrade defensively.

    1. Does the fact that Pollak crushes the Dodgers mean he doesn’t hit as well against the rest of the league? To me he was a bigger thorn in the Dodgers side the last two years than Goldy but the guy is always hurts. Personally, I don’t want to see Kike and Taylor both in the lineup anymore.

      1. Honestly, the guy has had one good season and the last two were worse than Puig’s. He looks like a stud against the Dodgers every year though.

        1. Keep him on the bench. Keeps him off another team where he can beat the Dodgers and keeps him from sucking on the Dodgers.

      2. Yesterday is History

        What RVS does to Kike and CT3 is a Mystery…

        And I love a good mystery!

        Sometimes you have to forget the History.

    2. Mark you outdid yourself with this lineup love it print the World Series rings and wait for the parade to start.

    1. Two of the better deals this off season were under the radar 2B, signing 2 year deals. The Cubs signing Descalso and the Pads signing Kinsler. Descalso is more of a utility guy but he is going to play 2B while Russell is serving his suspension. Both very “cheap” considering.

    1. Kluber has been my #1 wish list player since it was first announced that the Tribe was looking to move him (or Bauer or Carrasco at the time).

      1. I just don’t see how they make it fit unless they give them a TOP prospect (Gonsolin) , Kemp, Wood, Puig and $15 million dollars. That would increase Cleveland’s payroll by about $6 million and keep the Dodgers status quo.

        1. I am not saying it would be easy, or even possible. The Indians are asking for Nick Senzel and Taylor Trammel from the Reds. The Reds are not budging, but that would be a haul.
          .
          I would just feel better with Kluber/Kershaw/Buehler as Co – Co – Co Aces.

      2. Not quite like Sale was or Cole but pitchers like Kluber don’t come along very often. The combination of innings he will eat, wipeout stuff and affordable contract for 3 more years is perfect for their window. Do what you have to do prospect wise, even Verdugo plus 2 from pitching depth or 5 lower level guys like went for Manny. Or add a vet like Wood or whatever combination the Indians want. I’d rather have him and JTR than Pollock and JTR and the money and contract length will be about the same. Of course Pollock only costs a draft pick no players.

  6. Ken Rosenthal says the Dodgers are in on Harper but only on a short term deal with a high AAV and opt outs. Before anyone can really evaluate this, we need to know what is high AAV. $30MM? $35MM? Also what is short term? 5 years? 6 years?
    .
    I just do not see the Dodgers doing anything until they can shed some payroll. Friedman is not going to give Wood and Puig away. I do not know if there is a team that is willing to take Kemp at even 50%. There are not that many AL contenders that need and can afford Kemp even if at 50 cents on the dollar. I think the Dodgers are stuck with him. With Puig and Wood, Andrew needs to make a determination as to whether what he gets in return is of more value than what either can give the team in 2019. I would only consider trading Hill if the Dodgers can get Kluber. If not, why trade your #3 SP for payroll shedding. There is value to shedding payroll, but only if you use the savings elsewhere.
    .
    The Dodgers are too LHH dominant right now, and of the four top ML ready offensive players, 3 are LHH (Verdugo, Rios, and Beaty), while the 4th is a switch hitting catcher, Ruiz. The next one in line is also LHH, Gavin Lux. The top CF candidate is LHH, Jeren Kendall. Of course there is the Texas League Strike Out King, DJ Peters, who is RHH. Plus their top #4/#5 OF is also LH, Andrew Toles.
    .
    The only two RHH OF free agents are AJ Pollock and Adam Jones. There is no reason to even consider Jones. Puig is a far better option than Jones, as both are probably one year players. I would consider Pollock but only if Verdugo was needed for Kluber. Other wise I want the 6 years of control over Verdugo with the next three pre-arbitration.
    .
    There are too many puzzle pieces missing for Andrew to finish the Hot Stove League sooner rather than later. What comes first? The trade of FA signing, or shedding payroll? I do feel confident that Andrew plays this game as well if not better than anyone.

  7. We can speculate till the cows come home and have a great time doing it. I am willing to put the teams fate on Andrew. I am excited to see the finished product. There are so many possibilities. I am waiting to be pleasantly surprised or BLOWN AWAY.

    I wish each of you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

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