Up and Down Ride for Esplin Thus Far
LOWELL -- Tyler Esplin just turned 19 years old last month and he’s already in the homestretch of his second year of professional baseball.
The Boston Red Sox saw enough from the 6-foot-4, 225-pound outfielder to select him out of the famed IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., in the seventh round of the 2017 MLB Draft. Sure, he was only 17, but his great size, raw power and strong arm -- he touched the low-90s with his fastball as a high school pitcher -- made him a worthy selection. He also earned a $250,000 signing bonus.
Esplin has spent this summer with the Lowell Spinners, a significant jump after spending last summer playing rookie ball in the Gulf Coast League. Typical of a young player still trying to find his way on a consistent basis in pro ball, he’s had his share of ups and downs.
“Overall, I’d say it’s going pretty well. We got a great group of guys here,” said Esplin.
Lowell continued a suspended game against the Vermont Lake Monsters on Thursday night at LeLacheur Park and followed that with a seven-inning game.
Vermont won the opener, 7-3, after play picked up with the Lake Monsters leading 4-1 with two outs in the top of the fourth inning. The game was suspended on Aug. 7 due to rain.
Game 2 was still being played as of presstime.
Esplin started Game 1 in right field and Game 2 in left field.
After an 0-for-4 showing at the plate in Game 1, his average dropped to .205. But he did have three home runs, five doubles, four triples and 20 RBI through 43 games.
Esplin says, mentally, his transition to pro ball has been as smooth as can be expected.
New challenges and unfamiliar territory don’t spook him, a mindset aided by the fact that he left his hometown of Lake Bluff, Ill., north of Chicago, to head down to IMG Academy for the final two years of his high school career.
After a long discussion with his parents, they all felt it was the best move to prepare him for his future.
“Starting earlier and going to IMG really helped me,” Esplin said. “Baseball was a major priority down there and it got me accustomed to a college or pro lifestyle.
“It worked out for me. Just being there and being on the field every day, and playing against the best competition in the country. It was a big adjustment, just me being a 15 or 16-year-old kid and going to live on my own for the first time. But I was surrounded by a great group of guys and had a great roommate down there -- he got drafted this year by the (Arizona) Diamondbacks.”
Esplin, who is quick to admit he grew up a Chicago Cubs fan, is clearly enjoying the ride so far. In between games Thursday night, he signed autographs and took photos with some fans while most of his teammates had retreated back to the clubhouse.
He’s relishing the chance to play every day and hit in the middle of the lineup for a Spinners team that entered Thursday just 2.5 games out of first place in the New York-Penn League’s Stedler Division and one game out of the wild card spot with 11 days left in the regular season.
“It’s awesome. This is the first time that I’ve been able to compete for a championship,” Esplin said. “I think everyone in there has the same goal. We want to get better every day, and we also want to win this thing.”
Follow Matt Langone on Twitter @MattLangone