A number of weeks ago, the Driveline Baseball program held a pro day for some of the guys training in the program to show their stuff to big league teams in the hopes of securing a chance to get back into affiliated baseball. As we discussed this morning, that included new Cubs signee Robert Robbins.
Easily the most interesting participant in that pro day was 37-year-old lefty Luke Hagerty, whose name undoubtedly sounded familiar to the prospect hipsters among you. Hagerty, of course, was a first round pick by the Cubs all the way back in 2002. Within two years, he was off the radar as a pitching prospect after Tommy John surgery, and two years after that, he was out of affiliated baseball after developing the yips.
Then – 15 years later – he popped back up on the radar this winter thanks to a high-velo performance at the pro day:
Day at Driveline pro day vol 2.@X2Athletics
Got upto 98.5mph on the scout gun
He said sorry after bouncing a 96.8mph heater. pic.twitter.com/sfdW6Wkvl5
— Eric Sim (@esim3400) January 13, 2019
The @DrivelineBB pro day featured 66 fastballs, across 9 pitchers, that registered at 95 mph or higher. Here’s some @TrackManBB metrics on the hardest pitch thrown, curtesy of Luke Hagerty (@X2Athletics) pic.twitter.com/NqQSp7VRZP
— Eric Jagers (@ericjagers) January 14, 2019
Hagerty, who turns 38 in April, hadn’t even pitched in independent ball in over a decade, but the dude took to Driveline, and started freaking cranking it. It became a really fun story for us to chat about last month. Plus, if a guy could actually command a pitch like that in a big league situation? He’d instantly become a contributor, regardless of his age or background.
At the time, here’s what I wrote about the Cubs hopefully taking a chance on Hagerty: “There might be absolutely nothing there at this point beyond a dude who can chuck it really, really hard. But given his extreme story, and the fact that he was originally a Cubs prospect … wouldn’t he be a great guy to bring into minor league camp? Give him a shot based on the velocity, but also allow his story to be told to your prospects. The Cubs reportedly did have rep(s) there at the Driveline Pro Day doing some scouting. You never know.”
And, what do you know? The Cubs did take a chance on Hagerty, whose comeback story is already one of my favorite things this year:
In 2002, Luke Hagerty was a first-round pick of the Cubs.
In 2007, the yips chased him out of organized baseball.
In 2019, he's throwing 99 mph.
Baseball has a history of amazing comebacks. At 37 years old, Luke Hagerty could be the best. Story at ESPN: https://t.co/Rn288Ln08R
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) February 1, 2019
After yipping out of baseball, and a break, Hagerty wound up running his own performance facility for young athletes, and it was only for that reason that he had to start throwing again so that he could run the business. In that process, he wound up working through the Driveline program, using himself as a test subject. And it work. Really, really well.
From the article, it sounds like everyone who sees Hagerty pitch now believes he’s got the stuff to make a real go of it, and he was the most impressive pitcher at Driveline’s pro day. The Cubs were in attendance, and they wanted him immediately. Cubs senior director of player personnel Kyle Evans told Hagerty this: “This is a really, really competitive team. The bar to clear to get into the major leagues with the Cubs is really high. But we wouldn’t be having this conversation if you didn’t have the stuff to clear that bar.”
What a great story this is for the organization, regardless of what happens. And Hagerty will get to share it with so many young arms throughout the system.
Also nice: throughout this process, Hagerty became extremely knowledgable about developing arms and optimizing performance. That will no doubt help him with his X2 athletic facility when his playing days are over (again), but it could also be a nice skill base to bring to bear with the Cubs, eh? Another good reason to sign him.
But what about those yips? It’s one thing to throw so well when training and working with young athletes. It’s quite another thing, mentally, to get back on that mound in a competitive game. To that end, Hagerty has worked with a brain researcher on that front. You can’t say he’s not really giving this comeback everything.
There’s so much more to enjoy in Hagerty’s story, and you really must read the ESPN piece when you have some time.
I can’t wait to follow Hagerty’s process in the coming weeks, and root for a 38-year-old pitching prospect to make his Major League debut.