Whatever Happened to Randy Washington?


Buried somewhere deep within the lore of minor-league-careers-that-never-blossomed is Randy Washington, a short, stocky first basemen drafted by the Cleveland Indians in the fourth round of the 1981 June Amateur Draft.  Washington, who’s listed as 5-foot-10 and a svelte 190 pounds, looks noticeably rounder in his 1988 Colorado Springs Sky Sox CMC trading card – number 22.  At first glance he appears to be a younger, thicker version of former catcher Tony Pena.

Randy Lynn Washington is different from most minor league flameouts: he performed at every level, except for one season, 1986, and did so against much older competition, often by two or three years.

Washington began his career similarly to any 17-year-old just drafted out of high school in 1981: in the New York-Pennsylvania League, low-A, short-season ball, the first minor league stop for any Cleveland draftee.  In 66 games, he would lead the Batavia Trojans in homeruns, 11, batting average, .327, on-base percentage, .398, and slugging percentage, .593.  In a league where the average age was almost 21, Washington’s totals ranked sixth, sixth, eighteenth, and fourth; his OPS (on-base plus slugging), .991, also ranked as fourth best too.

Perhaps being cautious – or somewhat unconvinced – the organization had Washington begin the next season, 1982, back in Batavia.  His numbers declined a bit – .289/.352/.476 – but the then 18-year-old was still almost three years below the league average, and his OPS still ranked thirty-third among the 100 qualifying hitters.  Cleveland would eventually promote him to Waterloo of the Midwest League, which, truthfully, equated to nothing more than getting his feet wet for the next season.  Eighteen games is a fairly small sample size, 54 plate appearances, but he did post another strong strikeout-to-walk rate, 12/11.   Overall, between low-A and A, Washington hit .271/.349/.436.  Not great, but certainly strong enough numbers for someone who, truthfully, could still be considered high school aged.

1983: Washington’s first – and only – full season in A-ball.  The Midwest League’s roots extend all the way to 1956 when it hosted teams from Clinton, Decatur, Dubuque, and, yes, even Kokomo.  Back then, of course, it was a Class D league, the first of its seven years before transitioning to A-ball.

In 1983, the average age for a hitter was 21.5-years-old, which, again, was almost three years older than Randy Washington, who happened to sparkle against his elder competition.  In 127 games, he hit .291/.385/.501 with 24 doubles, 3 triples, 19 homers, and 9 stolen bases, just for good measure of course.  His .886 OPS that season ranked seventh, four spots higher than a 21-year-old Wally Joyner, 11 notches higher than Chris Sabo (who was also 21), and about 50 spots ahead of two other future All-Stars, Shawon Dunston and Devon White, both of whom were a year old than Randy Washington.

Washington was promoted the next season, the first of two years in Double-A, the first with Buffalo, the second in Waterbury, both, though, were in the Cleveland organization.  During those two years, 1984 and 1985, the Tribe’s youthful first base prospect continued were he left off in Waterloo: in 999 plate appearances, he hit .296/.401/.430, and his 14 homers in 1985 was good for fifth highest; the four sluggers to better his total – Cory Snyder, Orestes Destrade, Russ Morman, and Ken Williams – all made it to the big leagues, as did every other 21-year-old who topped six homers that season – except, of course, Randy Washington.

The 1986 was unlike any he had ever experienced in professional baseball and, probably, his entire amateur baseball career:  Randy Washington failed to produce, hitting a meager .211/.325/.340; his eight homeruns would also mark a career low as well.

There’s an underlying theme among baseball analytics: what context are the numbers in?  Is a player playing in a hitter’s park or a pitcher’s park or neither?  What’s the level of competition?  Baseball analysis is about looking for reasons to buy-low or sell-high on players.  And this season, 1986, was just a buy-low year for Washington.

Yes, his numbers declined, as did his power, but as a 22-year-old in Triple-A for the first time, Randy Washington posted a near one-to-one strikeout-to-walk ratio, 55-48.  And that was in a league where all but two pitching staffs – the Tidewater Tides and Pawtucket Red Sox – had an average age higher than 26; and Tidewater just barely missed the mark (25.7).  Quite simply, Washington was overmatched, but he was able to maintain solid – no, stupendous – pitch recognition skills.

Washington would rebound the next season – 1987 – and have, well, another Washington-type season: .290/.375/.491 with 12 doubles and 15 homeruns.  Despite playing in only 100 games, barely 70% of the league’s total, he ranked twenty-third in homeruns and thirty-fourth in walks (39 BB).

He would decline the next season, his third in AAA.  In 94 games, he hit .285/.361/.426 and his six homeruns would be the lowest of his career.  Actually, 1988 marked the last season in professional baseball for Randy Lynn Washington and semi-thorough internet searches come up with zilch, nothing; his sabrpedia.org page is blank.  Randy Washington never made it to the big leagues, despite hitting .284/.378/.452 throughout his minor league career – all of which was against far older competition.

There’s no reason why he never made.  Maybe his 194 total games over two seasons had something to do with?  Was it injury?  Perhaps.  But maybe it was something else.

It’s not a far reach to say that Randy Washington was among the better young sluggers in the minors during his career.  But for whatever reason, his baseball life ceases to exist past 1988, and, you want to something, that’s a shame, a big shame.


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