Marmion baseball coach Dave Rakow spouts Alex Troop’s 2014 statistics by memory these days.
Recite “5-0 with a 0.13 ERA and 103 strikeouts in 53 innings” often enough and it gets to be clockwork, not unlike the way Troop retired hitters in a shutdown senior season.
Still, Rakow finds the most important number surrounding the recently graduated left-hander from Batavia appears not on a stat sheet, but a birth certificate. Troop, the Kane County Chronicle Baseball Player of the Year, won’t turn 18 until July 19.
“He doesn’t even shave yet. He’s young for his class. Once he matures and fills out, his velocity is only going to go up,” Rakow said. “He’s one of those guys who the sky is the ceiling. He might be throwing upper-90s when it’s all said and done.”
Troop’s fastball velocity hovered around 86 to 87 mph in 2014, a touch better than last season and the season before that.
His success hinged in part on his primary pitch, to be sure, although an improved change-up and curveball made Troop elite.
Troop’s nine starts included a combined no-hitter against Wheaton Academy and a one-hitter against Aurora Christian in which he fanned 16 Eagles after allowing a leadoff double. He strived to mix it up each time, mostly because he now could.
“In the past, I haven’t had the velocity that I’ve had now, so I’ve always tried to work really hard on my breaking balls and really developed them over time,” Troop said. “Now that the velocity has been added on, I have those to back me up as well, which really helps me out. I feel I can throw any pitch at any time for strikes.”
That confidence accompanies Troop in the field and at the plate, as Rakow called him “our best center fielder, our best first baseman and our best pitcher.” Troop also batted .333 (25 for 75) with 13 extra-base hits and 24 RBIs, easily giving him the biggest on-field influence on the Cadets’ fourth Suburban Christian Conference championship in five seasons.
As he prepares for a collegiate career at Michigan State – despite scores of scouts following him this spring, he was not selected in this month’s Major League Player First-Year Player Draft – Troop figures his hitting days could be over.
If that’s the case, he’ll cling to his summer at-bats with Lemont-based Team DeMarini even tighter. He is filling the same pitcher-center fielder-first baseman role in travel ball, and is set to compete in a tournament in Florida this week after spending last week in Cincinnati.
“It’s going to be rough one day when I’m just going to be a pitcher, so I like to hit as much as I can and stay in the game and just be involved as much as possible,” Troop said.
Offseason workouts with R.C. Lichtenstein – pitching coach of the Tampa Bay Rays’ Double-A affiliate in Montgomery, Alabama – kept Troop sharp over the winter. He alternated pitching and hitting sessions with Lichtenstein, who spends his offseasons in the suburbs, until spring training opened in February.
Meanwhile, Troop followed Rakow’s offseason team weight training program and added intensity to his own workouts. In the two winters before his senior year, Troop put on about 25 pounds of muscle. He will enter college at about 6-foot-5 and 195 pounds.
“It was just fun watching him the whole season,” said Cadets right-hander Jake Esp, a junior from Sugar Grove. “I’ve got to try to be better than him next year.”
Troop knows he’ll keep a pulse on the Cadets then. The program is deeply linked, something Troop relearned in the winter when a fellow former Marmion ace from Batavia, Miami Marlins prospect Matt Milroy, hung around ahead of spring training.
Milroy, whose brother, Tim, assisted Rakow this season, spoke with Troop about his experience in the minors and his time at Illinois, Michigan State’s Big Ten Conference rival.
Milroy held Marmion’s previous ERA and strikeout records before Troop broke them. The Boston Red Sox drafted him out of high school, but he did not sign.
As Troop sees it, going undrafted only affords him the opportunity to improve. And time to buy that figurative razor and shaving cream.
“The fact that I am so young and everyone’s taking a chance on what I could be in four years instead of what I am right now, I guess I like that,” Troop said. “It’s good to hear. Just see how things develop.”