by Steve Ewen
Special to the Langley Advance
Tyler O’Neill and Stubby Clapp are back on the same side.
O’Neill, a muscle-bound outfield prospect formerly with the Langley Blaze, had his rights traded on Friday by the Seattle Mariners to the St. Louis Cardinals in exchange for lefthanded pitcher Marco Gonzales.
O’Neill, 22, packed up his gear and headed out Saturday to catch up with the Cardinals’triple-A Pacific Coast League affiliate, the Memphis Redbirds, who are managed by Clapp.
O’Neill was a starting outfielder and Clapp, a native of Windsor, Ont., was a coach with the Canadian team that won the 2015 Pan Am Games gold medal in Toronto.
O’Neill had been with Seattle’s triple-A team – the Tacoma Rainiers, also of the PCL – this season.
“I love the guy as a coach/manager and as a person,” the five-foot-11, 210-pound O’Neill said Saturday morning through a Twitter direct message when asked about Clapp, 44.
“I’m very excited to be playing for him.”
O’Neill admitted to being “definitely surprised,” by the trade.
A 2013 third-round draft pick, the former Langley Blaze star was pegged as Seattle’s No. 2 prospect to start the campaign by mlb.com and Baseball America after nearly winning the double-A Southern League triple crown in 2016. He hit .293, with 24 home runs and 102 RBIs, for the Jackson Generals in 130 games.
O’Neill blasted a monster homer off Los Angeles Dodgers ace Clayton Kershaw in spring training and there was some buzz early on about him being a possible midseason call-up by the Mariners.
He started this season with Tacoma slowly, batting .174 with three homers and eight RBIs in 23 April games.
He had come on of late though, hitting .326 with 13 homers and 30 RBI in his final 24 games with the Rainiers.
O’Neill has now been slotted as the No. 4 prospect with St. Louis by mlb.com, behind right-hander Alex Reyes, catcher Carson Kelly and righty Luke Weaver. The Cardinals might have even more outfield depth than the Mariners, but Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak was quoted in the St. Louis Dispatch Saturday as saying “we do think this offensive profile is unique. Middle-of-the-order potential.”
O’Neill explained: “I couldn’t be more grateful to be moved to such a high class and respected organization.”
Seattle was openly looking for pitching help.
Gonzales, 25, was slotted as Seattle’s No. 7 prospect by mlb.com. A 2013 first-round draft by the Cardinals out of Gonzaga University, he was 6-4, with a 2.90 earned run average, in 11 starts with Memphis.
– Steve Ewens is a writer for the Vancouver Sun