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Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Rick Wilkins saw time in 11 major league seasons, but none like 1993 with Cubs

Cubs catcher Rick Wilkins looked to get a lot more playing time with the Cubs in 1993, upwards of 500 at bats, maybe, The Chicago Tribune wrote.

Wilkins' manager Jim Lefebvre welcomed it, The Tribune wrote.

"I hope so," Lefebvre told The Tribune. "He's a good hitter who's going to improve."

As it turned out, Wilkins didn't quite reach 500 at bats that year, but he did go out and exceed practically all other expectations.

Wilkins' 1993 season saw him go out and play in 136 games, hit .306 and slug 30 home runs. He became one of only six catchers at the time to hit over .300 and amass 30 home runs in a single season.

He went on to play in a total of 11 major league seasons, but he never came close to duplicating that campaign.

Wilkins' career began in 1986, taken by the Cubs in the 23rd round of the draft out of Furman University in South Carolina.

Wilkins started with the Cubs at short-season Geneva. He hit .251 in 75 games, with eight home runs. He moved to single-A Peoria for 1988, then single-A Winston-Salem for 1989. 

Wilkins made AA Charlotte for 1990, where he hit .227, with 17 home runs. He almost headed back to Charlotte for 1991, but Cubs AAA manager Jim Essian interceded and requested Wilkins at Iowa, The Des Moines Register wrote.

"Give me the kid," Essian said at spring training's end, The Des Moines Register wrote. "Let me teach him to be a catcher. Let him be my personal project."

By June, both Essian and Wilkins were in Chicago. Wilkins got into 86 games for the Cubs that year. He hit .222, with six home runs.

He then returned for 83 games in 1992 and hit another eight round-trippers. Then came his 1993 campaign and his unexpected .303 average and 30 home runs.

Coming out of that, Wilkins had high contract hopes. His agent Scott Boras looked for Mike Piazza money. Instead, for 1994, he was to be paid less than half of what he'd hoped for, The Tribune wrote. Wilkins described himself as devastated.

"All I wanted was what was fair according to the market," Wilkins told The Tribune then. "I'm not looking to set any salary record."

But Wilkins never put up the same numbers again. He got into 100 games for the Cubs in 1994 and hit .227, with seven home runs.

He saw 65 games in 1995, sent to the Astros mid-year. He then saw another 136 games in 1996, between Houston and San Francisco. He hit .243, with 14 home runs.

Wilkins then played with the Giants and Mariners for 1997, the Mariners and Mets in 1998, then the Dodgers, Cardinals and Padres. He saw 43 total appearances over his final four campaigns, ending with 12 played for the Padres in 2001.

He saw his final time in 2002 in independent ball, at Joliet.

He later worked as a youth instructor, opening Rick Wilkins' Academy of Baseball by 2010 in Jacksonville.

1990 Minor League Tally
Players/Coaches Featured:3,596
Made the Majors:1,246-34.7%-X
Never Made Majors:2,350-65.3%
5+ Seasons in the Majors:519-X
10+ Seasons in the Minors:305

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