Jacob Nottingham, a four-year Varsity catcher-designated hitter, might’ve been in the rarest of positions for a Redlands High School athlete in 2013. The 6-foot-3, 200-pounder had apparent legitimate scholarship offers to play football at Arizona or Oklahoma.
What an opportunity!
Ranked No. 2 in Redlands’ citywide football – trailing that of highly successful city rival Redlands East Valley – consider that donning a Sooners’ uniform might’ve been right there with the Wildcats’ football supremacy over Nottingham’s Terriers.
REV had sent guys to football juggernauts like UCLA, Oregon, Utah and Washington, at least among the major universities. It might seem like Oklahoma football would’ve trumped all of that. Sooner football lore stands firmly ahead of the Bruins, Ducks, Utes and Huskies.
Nottingham, though, who played on a couple of the same Terrier baseball teams as my son, Chet, also loved catching. Batting. Ninety feet instead of 100 yards. He chose to chase the pro diamond dream over the college gridiron.
Redlands has produced other major leaguers. Included on that list is undrafted second baseman Julio Cruz (Mariners, White Sox, Dodgers), plus Seattle’s 1980 13th round pick southpaw pitcher Ed Vande Berg (Mariners, Dodgers, Indians and Rangers), not to mention Angels-Blue Jays catcher Dan Whitmer (a 1978 Angels’ draft pick), who worked Detroit’s bullpen when the Tigers won the 1984 World Series.
Who knows? If Nottingham had chosen football, he’d have likely been college teammates at some point with future Heisman Trophy winner Baker Mayfield.
But when the Houston Astros drafted him 167th overall in the sixth round in 2013, it didn’t take long for Nottingham to sign on June 14.
Even as a minor leaguer, Nottingham turned some heads. He was front and center in a couple of Money Ball transactions.
Money Ball definition: One of baseball’s newest and most notorious activities away from the diamond. It’s the art of dangling a major league product to a pennant-chasing franchise, but for the right cache of minor league prospects.
Nottingham was, apparently, just such a prospect.
NOTTINGHAM NETS KAZMIR FOR ASTROS
After a couple seasons in the Astros’ chain, Houston needed pitching at the major league level. They were in a heated pennant race. So they traded Nottingham to the Oakland A’s in exchange for southpaw pitcher Scott Kazmir, who was 108-96 with a 4.00 ERA over a dozen MLB seasons.
That July 23, 2015 move came when Houston’s Class A Lancaster team was hosting the Stockton Ports, the California League Class A affiliate of the A.s
All Nottingham had to do was switch locker rooms at the JetHawks’ stadium. Instead of heading to his Lancaster digs, he took the Stockton bus.
Traded for by A’s legendary Billy Bean, who authored Money Ball in the early 2000s, Nottingham was in a new stratosphere.
That wasn’t the end of his Beane’s transaction activity surrounding the Redlands prospect, either. Perhaps regarded as a future Oakland payoff at the MLB level, forget it. During the off-season between 2015 and 2016, Nottingham was shipped to the Milwaukee Brewers.
NOTTINGHAM NETS DAVIS FOR A’S
In return from the Brewers, Oakland received outfielder Khris Davis (145 home runs, .248 average over 5 MLB seasons), who would go on to smoke over 40 home runs in the next two seasons for the A’s.
That Nottingham could fetch such nice prizes seems amazing.
Money Ball was certainly hot & heavy surrounding the Redlands prospect.
On Nov. 20, Nottingham kept smoking it to the top. The Brewers purchased his minor league contract, thus placing him on the 40-man roster – the ultimate for any prospect. He was one of five catchers – by far, the youngest on Milwaukee’s roster.
Over a five-year span with a handful of teams ranging from Rookie Ball to Low Class A to High Class A to Class AA, Nottingham had blasted 43 home runs and hit .238 (.325 OBP) in 424 professional games.
Think about this: Nottingham was a 2015 Quad Cities River Bandits (Midwest League) teammate of Alex Bregman, who played a part in the 2017 Houston Astros’ World Series championship.
Another Quad Cities teammate, Derek Fisher, slugged five HRs for the 2017 Astros.
Pitchers Joe Musgrove (7-8, 4.77 ERA), Frances Martes (5-2, 5.80), David Paulino (2-0, 6.52) and Raymin Guduan (0-0, 7.56) also logged MLB time with the series champs … off that River Bandits’ squad.
Another hurler, Daniel Mengden was one of those shipped to Oakland from Houston in the July 2015 Nottingham-Kazmir deal. Mengden finished 2017 with the A’s – 3-2, 3.17 ERA – while looking squarely into Oakland’s 2018 future as a starting pitcher.
By the time Houston had slipped past the Dodgers in the World Series, Nottingham was on a Brewers’ team looking to climb into contention. Heading into spring training, he was on the Brewers’ 40-man roster, claiming the organization’s 17th best prospect.
Beane. Kazmir. Davis. Mengden. Money Ball. Nottingham. A Redlands Connection.