Eight former Bruins played Major League Baseball in 2021, continuing the long history of UCLA alumni on the grandest stage of the sport.
From the rookies who made their debuts in 2021 to the veterans with multi-million dollar deals, the players who represent UCLA baseball at the top level combined for a few productive seasons. Westwood continues to provide a link from Jackie Robinson Stadium to the World Series.
With the regular season just finishing and playoff baseball getting underway, here is where the alumni played and how all of their seasons went down.
Players listed in order of when they were drafted, starting with the most recent picks.
SP Griffin Canning, Los Angeles Angels
Drafted: 2nd round, No. 47 overall (2017)
Compared to Canning’s previous two years in the major leagues with the Angels, his 2021 season was less than ideal. The Angels struggled to meet expectations, missing the playoffs by a healthy margin, and Canning took a step back as well. The right-hander was sent to Triple-A on July 3 after struggling on the mound. A week later, he was sent to the injured list, where he sat for the rest of the season starting rehab on a stress fracture in his lower back. Canning pitched in 14 games with 13 starts, putting up a 5-4 record, 5.60 ERA, 62 strikeouts and 28 walks in 62.2 innings. Depending on how rehab goes, Canning will likely slot right back into the Angels’ 2022 starting rotation.
SP Cody Poteet, Miami Marlins
Drafted: 4th round, No. 116 overall (2015)
2021 will be a year to remember for Poteet. Making his MLB debut with the Marlins on May 12, Poteet picked up the win through his 5.0 innings of work. His season came to an abrupt end in June, however, when the right-hander had a sprained right knee. This injury moved him to the IL, and then to the 60-day IL after inflammation occurred while rehabbing the injury. Poteet’s rookie campaign ended with seven starts on the mound. The right-hander had a 2-3 record, 4.99 ERA, 32 strikeouts and 16 walks in 30.2 innings. Poteet will have an opportunity at spring training to crack the Marlins’ 2022 Opening Day roster.
SP James Kaprielian, Oakland Athletics
Drafted, 1st round, No. 16 overall (2015)
After spending time with multiple organizations, Kaprielian made his MLB debut with Oakland during the 2020 season. Although the Athletics were unable to make the postseason, Kaprielian became a mainstay within the pitching staff. Appearing in 24 games and 21 starts, the right-hander had a 4.07 ERA, 8-5 record, 123 strikeouts and 41 walks all within 119.1 innings. If the AL Rookie of the Year crowd was not as jam packed, Kaprielian could receive some votes. In 2022, Kaprielian should be the No. 3 or No. 4 starter within the Athletics’ rotation.
SP/RP Adam Plutko, Baltimore Orioles
Drafted: 11th round, No. 321 overall (2013)
Spending the previous seven years of his professional baseball career in the Indians’ organization, Plutko was traded to the Orioles in late March. The move started a new path for the former UCLA Friday starter. Though previously competing on the mound as a starter, the right-hander moved to a long relief role with the Orioles. Compared to his other seasons in the majors, 2021 was his least successful. In 38 games and one start, Plutko had a 6.71 ERA, struck out 44 batters and walked 27 within 56.1 innings. 2022 will likely see Plutko stay within the Orioles organization, but it is possible Plutko may try to guarantee himself a starting opportunity elsewhere.
IF Pat Valaika, Baltimore Orioles
Drafted: 9th round, No. 259 overall (2013)
Valaika has spent parts of the past five seasons at the big league level, moving between both Triple-A and the MLB. Joining the Orioles in 2020 after his previous seasons with the Rockies, Valaika has built a utility infield role for himself. In 90 games for the Orioles in 2021, Valaika hit for a .201 batting average, with five home runs, eight doubles and 25 RBIs. The Orioles struggled as a team, guaranteeing themselves the No. 1 pick in the 2022 draft. The struggles will likely bring Valaika back as a bench bat for next season.
SP Trevor Bauer, Los Angeles Dodgers
Drafted: 1st round, No. 3 overall (2011)
Trevor Bauer signed a three-year, $102 million deal in the offseason with the Dodgers. After playing half the regular season and posting an 8-5 record with a 2.59 ERA, 1.003 WHIP and 11.5 K/9, the UCLA alumnus was placed on administrative leave for an ongoing investigation of sexual assault.
SP Gerrit Cole, New York Yankees
Drafted: 1st round, No. 1 overall (2011)
UCLA’s first ever No. 1 overall selection signed the most expensive contract for a pitcher in Major League Baseball history in the 2020 offseason, with his 9-year, $324 million deal bringing him to the Yankees. In his first full-season in the Bronx, Cole pitched like the ace the Yankees are paying him to be. In 30 starts, the right-hander had a 16-8 record with a 3.42 ERA, 243 strikeouts and 41 walks, all within 181.1 innings pitched. Cole will be a top candidate for the American League Cy Young award, but faces steep competition from Robbie Ray and José Berríos of the Toronto Blue Jays. Cole will take the mound to face the Boston Red Sox in the AL Wild Card Game on Tuesday night as the Yankees try to advance in the postseason.
SS Brandon Crawford, San Francisco Giants
Drafted: 4th round, No. 117 overall (2008)
The oldest UCLA alumnus in the MLB at 34-years old, Crawford is had his best season in the Major Leagues in 2021. Never hitting above .275 in his major league career, the Giants’ third-longest reigning player had a career resurgence in a season in which San Francisco posted a franchise-record 107 wins. Crawford played in 138 games, hitting for a .298 batting average, 24 home runs and 90 RBIs, all three of which were career-highs for the left-handed hitter. Signing a two-year, $32 million contract extension in August, the former Bruin will spend more time in the bay instead of hitting free agency this winter. Crawford and the Giants will host the winner of the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers, who play in the National League Wild Card Game on Wednesday, in the National League Division Series starting Friday.