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Mike Hessman sets International League home run record

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Mike Hessman
Mike Hessman
Mark Cunningham, Getty Images

Earlier this week, third baseman/first baseman Mike Hessman of the Triple-A Toledo Mudhens hit his 15th home run of the season, setting a new International League record with 259 home runs.

Yes, everyone immediately brings up the Crash Davis/Bull Durham comparisons. And, well, it does fit. Hessman has been playing Triple-A baseball since 2002, almost all of it in the International League. He played one season in the Pacific Coast League, hitting .231/.301/.512 with 31 homers for Oklahoma City in 2012, but otherwise he's spent his time in the relatively pitcher-friendly environment of the IL, with a brief journey to Japan and a few big league cups of coffee.

Hessman is the epitome of the low-batting-average slugger, hitting .233 in his overall career and .241 in Triple-A. He'll draw some walks but his career OBP of .315 (.327 in Triple-A) isn't hot and means all of his value is tied up in his power. In 109 major league games scattered over five seasons, Hessman hit .188/.272/.422 with 14 homers, 21 walks, and 79 strikeouts in 223 at-bats. In 162-game notation, that's 21 homers, 31 walks, and 117 strikeouts.

His actual major league performance is very close to how his numbers project out in an MLE. I suspect he could have gotten his batting average slightly over .200 with more consistent playing time. although the OBP would still be low. However, the power would have been fun to see and some players (with better timing and luck) have made careers with fewer skills. As John McGeehan at Bless You Boys points out, Hessman is actually a very good athlete. He doesn't steal bases, but he's quite mobile for his size and throws well, still rating as a solid defensive third baseman even at age 36.

Hessman was originally a 15th round pick by the Braves as a high schooler back in 1996. Although the big break in the Show never came, he has a lot to be proud of: 404 minor league home runs, another 14 in the majors, and a place in the record books.