10 questions with former Kansas City Royals pitcher Trevor Oaks

KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 28: Trevor Oaks #34 of the Kansas City Royals throws out the first pitch of his MLB debut in the first inning during game one of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on April 28, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
KANSAS CITY, MO - APRIL 28: Trevor Oaks #34 of the Kansas City Royals throws out the first pitch of his MLB debut in the first inning during game one of a doubleheader against the Chicago White Sox at Kauffman Stadium on April 28, 2018 in Kansas City, Missouri. (Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images) /

Coming off of a collegiate season in which he went 10-0 with a 1.68 ERA and 107 strikeouts against just 31 walks and not allowing a single home run, right-handed pitcher Trevor Oaks‘ professional baseball career officially began in 2014 when he was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the seventh round of the draft that year.

In his first season as a pro baseball player, he split time between the Dodgers’ A and High-A minor league affiliates, ultimately going 8-5 with a 2.65 ERA across 125+ innings. 2016 saw much of the same successes; Oaks made it as high as the club’s Triple-A affiliate, combining to go 14-3 with a 2.74 ERA in 24 starts, striking out 108 and walking just 21.

2017 was yet another successful season for the then-24-year-old, as he spent the entirety of the season at the Dodgers’ Triple-A affiliate, making 18 starts and throwing 91 innings all while continuing to show an excellent ability to strike out batters while limiting the walk and long ball.

Trevor Oaks’ showing in 2017 earned him a spot on the Los Angeles Dodgers’ 40-man roster at the conclusion of the 2017 season, protecting him from the Rule 5 draft. In January of 2018, Oaks was a part of a three-team trade between the Dodgers, Chicago White Sox, and Kansas City Royals involving Scott Alexander, Joakim Soria, and Luis Avilan. Oaks suddenly found himself in a whole new organization, going from Los Angeles to Kansas City.

While the trade was surely a surprise for Trevor Oaks after such solid minor league results, it ultimately ended up working out for the best as he was recalled to the Royals’ big league roster in April of 2018. Oaks wound up appearing in four games for the Kansas City Royals (two starts) to less than favorable results — an 0-2 record with a 7.24 ERA and 21 hits allowed in just over 13 innings pitched. The high ERA is mostly a result of Oaks’ big league debut in which he allowed 12 hits and five earned runs in 5.0 innings. Trevor Oaks’ best Major League outing was on June 5, 2018, against the Angels, pitching three innings of two-hit, no run ball.

The Major League Baseball career for Riverside, Calif., native Trevor Oaks ended after those four outings in 2018 for the Royals. He put up much better numbers at the club’s Triple-A affiliate in 2018 and wound up missing all of 2019 after undergoing hip surgery. In November of 2019, Oaks was claimed off of waivers by the San Francisco Giants only to be designated for assignment in January of 2020 and later released in December of 2020 without making any professional appearances due to the COVID-related cancellation of the minor league season.

I recently had the chance to chat with former Kansas City Royals pitcher Trevor Oaks and pick his brain about his career experiences. Let’s dive in.

Q1: You began your professional career as a member of the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the 2017-18 offseason, you were traded to the Royals. What sort of emotions were you feeling when you got the call notifying you that you are now a member of another team? I’d imagine there was some excitement, but maybe a little bit of sadness as well now that you’re leaving the only organization you’ve ever known.

I remember being really surprised. I was sent to a Rookie Development Camp in Washington, D.C., by the Dodgers. It was a great honor to represent them and a lot of well known prospects attended. I remember sitting down to have dinner the first night, when all the sudden my phone rang and it was Farhan Zaidi. He told me I had just been traded in a three-team deal and that I would be headed to the Royals. It was kind of a blur after that moment, but the next day I had to show up and sit with all the Royals guys and meet new teammates. It was a very quick and sudden change, that’s for sure.

I had always heard guys talk about getting traded and it was usually a good thing, because that meant a team really wanted you. So that made me look at it from a positive perspective. I loved the Dodgers and all of the coaches/staff/players I met along the way. The most difficult part about the trade was going from an environment where you know everyone and have your track record/respect that you’ve earned along the way, to a brand new environment where everyone is new. No one knows who you are or what you’ve done. You have high expectations to help the club, and have to get comfortable quickly. Luckily, the Royals had such a great family culture, it was a great experience and I’m very grateful for how they welcomed me and treated me.

Q2: In 2017, you hit a home run in the minor leagues. Do you remember who you hit it off of? Do you happen to still have the ball?

That’s probably my favorite game I’ve ever had in the minor leagues. I remember it was Javy Guerra, 94 mph fastball inside. I stepped right into the bucket and got lucky enough to put it in play. My manager, Bill Hassleman, was giving me a hard time right before my at-bat and told the guys that I was going to strike out. If Drew Maggi got on base, I would get my at-bat. So thankfully he got on, and I got my chance. After I rounded first base, I looked straight into the dugout to make sure I saw Hass’ reaction. Of course, when I got back to the dugout, everyone was sitting on the bench giving me the big league treatment. I don’t think I ever got the ball back. One of the kids must have grabbed it.

Q3: Where were you and what were you doing when you received the phone call letting you know that you were being promoted to the big leagues?

I was in Colorado Springs and we had just gotten back to the hotel from a game. Our manager, Brian Poldberg, gave me a call and let me know I was headed to Kansas City for a doubleheader. I would be the 26th man and start the second game. I called my family right away and told them the news. I actually kind of got the call earlier on in the year. I was still at Spring Training and the season had just started. I think we opened up in Detroit and there was a high probability a game would get snowed out. I was told if it did, I would be flying out that night for the doubleheader the next day. Unfortunately, that never happened, so when I got the actual call, a lot of that shock and initial surprise wasn’t as strong.

Q4: You missed the 2019 season due to injury. Did the missed time have any sort of effect on your mental health? Or did you spend your time rehabbing and aiming to come back stronger than ever?

2019 was a tough year. I had a pretty serious hip surgery and it took me all season to heal up. I was pretty worried about my body and if I would ever fully heal. I think I got healthy enough to skate by, but I was never the same. Mentally I think I was in a good space and did everything I could in physical therapy to get right. But sometimes your body just doesn’t work the way you want it to. I have to give a lot of credit to the Royals’ training staff. They did a great job helping me recover and I’m very thankful for the time I spent in Arizona with them.

Q5: Who was your first MLB strikeout victim? Did you keep that ball?

I can’t remember who my first strikeout was in the Majors. I wasn’t a big strikeout pitcher, so I was more happy about the first pitch ground ball out against Yoan Moncada. The Royals kept the ball for me and put it in a nice shadow frame. I’m sure I’ll hang it up in my office someday.

Note: For those who are curious, Oaks’ first strikeout came a few batters later in the first inning against Nicky Delmonico.

Q6: Since your brief tenure as a member of the San Francisco Giants, you have not latched on with another club. Do you consider yourself to be officially retired from MLB? If yes, was this a decision that you were/are at peace with?

Yes, I do consider myself retired. I have to say, the 2020 COVID season at the alternate site was probably the most mentally challenging season I’ve ever been a part of in my life. I could go on and on about how frustrating it was, but I’ll spare you the details. After the season was over, it kind of took away the fun of the game for me. Plus, with the frustrations/difficulties I was having with my hip, I had to consider if the opportunities were worth it to me. I probably could have signed a minor league deal and gone to Double-A to work my way back to the big leagues. But I didn’t want to go through another COVID season with so many unknowns, especially about the vaccine and what players would be required to do in order to play. My wife and I talked about it a lot and she was very supportive of whatever I decided to do. I felt like it was time to hang it up and start focusing on a new career. I felt at peace with the decision and knew it was the best thing for me and my family. Baseball is a huge sacrifice, not only for you, but also for your family. And there’s a whole lot more to life than just baseball.

Q7: Who is the funniest teammate you have ever had?

Scott Barlow is by far the funniest teammate I’ve ever had.

Q8: If you had the opportunity to make at LEAST one change to modern-day Major League Baseball, what would you change about the game? Answer as if you’re given the final say.

The first thing I’d do is quit changing the balls. I’ve never seen such a drastic jump in home runs. I think it’s completely unfair to the minor league players and they need to stay consistent.

The second thing I would do is make a universal DH. I think that’s the best way to accomplish the league’s goal in generating more offensive numbers for the fans. It also creates a larger market for that type of hitter, from the players’ perspective, so it gives more opportunities for guys to find a role on a team.

Q9: What is your favorite non-baseball sport? Favorite team/player of said sport?

My favorite non-baseball sport is probably golf. I’m not very good, but its always something I’ve enjoyed with my friends. I love Tiger Woods and his impact on the game of golf. My second-favorite is probably football because I love joining a fantasy league with my buddies. My favorite player would probably be Cooper Kupp (of the Los Angeles Rams) because he was my best player by far this year.

Q10: You were selected as one of the writers that got a Hall of Fame vote this year. Who, if anyone, would you have voted in to Cooperstown if given the chance?

This is a very tough question! I would say Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Alex Rodriguez, and Curt Schilling. There’s a huge debate tied to this question. I just think it’s too muddy to make a definitive decision to leave out certain players.

Next. 10 questions with New York Yankees pitcher Matt Bowman. dark

Thank you so much to former Kansas City Royals pitcher Trevor Oaks for taking the time to chat with me. It was a pleasure. Trevor is part of the eighth installment of “10 Questions With” that I’ve started. With multiple former and current players in the queue, what kind of questions would you like to see asked to a current or former big leaguer?