Wichitans Watkins, Banwart Join Wingnuts
WICHITA, Kans. - Two accomplished players with ties to the Wichita area will be suiting up for the hometown team in 2018, as the Wichita Wingnuts announced Friday that infielder Logan Watkins and right-handed pitcher Travis Banwart have signed for the upcoming season.
Watkins is a former Major Leaguer who spent parts of two seasons with the Chicago Cubs. Over nine professional seasons, the 28-year old is a career .268 hitter with 32 home runs and 138 stolen bases. A multi-sport star at nearby Goddard High School, Watkins was committed to Wichita State before being selected by the Cubs in the 21st round of the 2008 MLB Draft. Watkins elected to sign, beginning his professional career that season with Chicago's Arizona League rookie affiliate.
The left-handed hitter started his ascent through the Cubs minor league system, hitting .325 as a rookie and then .326 the following year at Low-A Boise. Watkins earned promotions each year from 2010-2013, continuing to post solid numbers while displaying impressive defensive versatility. Watkins has played at least 100 innings at every defensive position but catcher, though the native Wichitan has primarily handled second base throughout his career.
In 2013, Watkins earned his shot at the Major League level, making his Cubs debut on August 4 against the Los Angeles Dodgers. Over 58 total games with the Cubs, including another stint in 2014, Watkins hit .233 with a home run and six RBI. The lone home run of his big league career came on August 30, 2014, against St. Louis Cardinals right-hander Justin Masterson.
An Achilles injury robbed Watkins of his 2015 season, and he would spend all of 2016 with Triple-A Iowa. He was picked up by the Detroit Tigers prior to the 2017 season, and split last year between Double-A Erie and Triple-A Toledo.
Banwart followed a similar script as Watkins, also dominating at Goddard before committing to Wichita State. The righty chose to play to collegiately under legendary head coach Gene Stephenson, embarking on an outstanding three-year career for the Shockers from 2005-2007. Banwart finished his Wichita State tenure 27-10 with a 2.92 ERA, earning Freshman All-American and All-Missouri Valley honors before being selected by the Oakland Athletics in the fourth round of the 2007 draft.
Banwart spent seven seasons in the Athletics organization, quickly reaching Triple-A Sacramento in 2009 and then spending three full seasons at that level from 2011-2013. The 32-year old established himself as a durable and dependable arm, making 18 or more starts in every season except his rookie campaign. Along the way, Banwart won at least nine games in five consecutive seasons, and was teammates with current Wingnuts pitching coach Anthony Capra at several stops in the Athletics system.
Oakland released Banwart following the 2013 season, but the Cleveland Indians signed the righty and sent him to Triple-A Columbus. After starting the year 5-2 with a 3.12 ERA, Banwart elected to sign with SK Wyverns of the Korean Baseball Organization. The former Shocker posted his best season in 2014, going a combined 14-3 with a 3.12 ERA over 27 starts. Banwart played in Korea for two more seasons, then returned stateside in 2017 with the Indians once again. Splitting time between Columbus and Double-A Akron, he finished the year 3-5 with a 5.54 ERA. For his career, Banwart owns an 85-65 record and 4.32 ERA, with 1022 strikeouts to just 441 walks.
The signings of Watkins and Banwart bring the number of Wingnuts players under contract for the 2018 season up to 25. American Association clubs may carry up to 28 players during spring training, which opens on May 6.
The 11th season of Wingnuts baseball and the club's pursuit of an eighth consecutive division title kicks off with a three-game home series against the Kansas City T-Bones, beginning on Friday, May 18. For information on season tickets, group outings, and party packages, call the Wingnuts main office at (316) 264-NUTS, or visit the Wingnuts official website at www.wichitawingnuts.com.
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