J.D. Martinez and the three Sharks who went from Nova Southeastern to MLB Opening Day rosters
Nova Southeastern has become quite the DII baseball factory. Winners of the 2016 national championship, the Sharks are the only program in DII to have four alum represented on 2018 Opening Day rosters.
It all started with the 2009 class. J.D. Martinez, Michael Fiers and Miles Mikolas led the Sharks to a 37-19 record before all going in the same MLB Draft that summer.
"I believe that 2009 season was that moment in time that the NSU baseball program was put on the national scene," then-head coach and current Athletic Director Michael Mominey told NCAA.com. "Our real focus was building a championship program with local kids starting with Broward, Palm Beach and Dade counties. All four of these guys came from highly-regarded high school programs in South Florida, so this was definitely an affirmation of what we have set out to accomplish when we got here. It was a great benchmark for things to come in the future. It changed recruiting, the perception of the program and garnering national attention."
Mikey and Mateo suiting up for the big league club today at Marlins Park! pic.twitter.com/YVEQq4HjdJ— NSU Baseball (@NSU_Baseball) March 27, 2018
Since that 2009 class, the Sharks have been more widely known in the minor leagues. But that original wave of prospects has become household names. One is a reigning World Series champion, and another was the most sought-after free agent this past winter. Here are the four Sharks who are ready for 2018 MLB Opening Day.
J.D. Martinez, Boston Red Sox
Martinez has had a busy few months. The right-handed slugger was dealt from the Detroit Tigers to the Arizona Diamondbacks at the trade deadline last season. After a solid postseason in which he hit .364 with a home run, Martinez hit the free agent market and was signed by the Boston Red Sox to a mega-deal in February.
J.D. Martinez just hit a home run off Rick Porcello pic.twitter.com/xmKHoG4ipd— Rob Bradford (@bradfo) March 6, 2018
Not bad for a former 20th-rounder.
The 2009 Sharks had both Fiers and Mikolas on the bump, but it was Martinez who turned heads at the plate. He put together an All-American season in his final year, slashing .428/.530/.770 with 15 doubles and 15 home runs. His 32 home runs were a program record when he graduated (it was broken last year by Brandon Gomez). The Astros took a chance that his play would translate to the pro level and it did. Martinez was the first Shark to ever reach pros, and he hit the ground running hitting .274 with six home runs in his 2011 53-game debut.
Mominey's scouting report: "One of the best pure hitters I have ever been around or coached. He worked hard to turn himself into a great hitter. Yes, there was some natural ability there with power to the opposite field as you see today, but JD really learned who he was as a hitter throughout his time here at NSU. It’s funny to hear the Manny Ramirez comparisons recently. I honestly had made those comparisons when JD was playing for us here."
Mike Fiers, Detroit Tigers
Unlike his teammate who spent his career with the Sharks, Fiers transferred in to have one of the best seasons in DII baseball that year. The righty dominated the Sunshine State Conference going 10-3 with a 2.65 ERA. His 145 strikeouts led all of DII and is still the Nova Southeastern single-season record nearly a decade later.
He went two rounds after his teammate, taken by the Milwaukee Brewers in the 22nd round. Fiers, too, reached the bigs at the end of the 2011 season and has been a big-league fixture ever since. Though he wasn't on the Houston Astros 2017 World Series roster, he did make 28 starts during the season and earned himself a shiny ring. He signed with Detroit this offseason, and as long as his back holds up, he is expected to be at the back of the rotation for the new-look Tigers, even if an early season DL stint may be looming.
Mominey's scouting report: "Absolutely the best competitor that I have ever been around. He got better each time he pitched and learned from each outing his senior year. His baseball IQ is off the charts and he had one goal in mind – play professionally and have a chance to play Major League baseball."
Carlos Asuaje, San Diego Padres
Asuaje is the lone Shark not a member of the 2009 squad, playing under current head coach Greg Brown on the 2011 team. His career was no less impressive than the trailblazers that came before him.
He began his Shark's career as the Sunshine State Conference's freshman of the year and followed it up with an SSC co-player of the year campaign. Asuaje put it all together in his final season hitting .320 while leading the team in doubles (13) and on-base percentage (.441). His 32 stolen bases were tops in the SSC his final season.
Asuaje was drafted by the Boston Red Sox in the 11th round of the MLB Draft. He was traded to San Diego as a key piece in the Craig Kimbrel deal. Asuaje made his big league debut in 2016 but really showed what he could do last season with more playing time. Now 26 years old, Asuaje should be a regular for the Padres in the infield.
Brown's scouting report: "Carlos was a tireless worker at the craft of hitting. His development over the three years at NSU was a result of great hand-eye coordination, a great understanding of his body and how he moves, and his understanding that in order to be an elite hitter he had to develop his ability to hit balls the other way hard. By entrusting us with his development, he was able to achieve and exceed our expectations for him."
Miles Mikolas, St. Louis Cardinals
Mikolas was the highest drafted Shark of the bunch, selected by the San Diego Padres in the seventh round in 2009. He has been well-traveled since making his big league debut in 2012, and not only was he traded twice but he spent the past three seasons in Japan. After going 31-13 with a 2.18 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, and just 69 walks in 424.2 innings for the Yomiuri Giants, Mikolas is back stateside and in the St. Louis Cardinals rotation.
The 29-year-old righty capped off his stellar Sharks career with a 2.06 ERA and a 10-to-1 strikeout-to-walk ratio. The Padres took notice and grabbed him early. Now, he finally seems to be in the best position of his career in the rotation for a team that seems to get the most out of its pitching.
Mominey's scouting report: "[He showed] remarkable growth as an athlete and pitcher in three years’ time. He came into the program as somewhat of a “project” given his size and abilities as a freshman, but as a junior became one of the most dominant pitchers in program history. Physically dominant, great teammate, fun and a free spirit."