Justin Pope

From BR Bullpen

Justin Lee Pope

BR minors page

Biographical Information[edit]

Justin Pope was selected by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1st Round (28th overall) of the 2001 amateur draft.

Amateur career[edit]

Pope had gone 10-3 with a 4.56 ERA as a college sophomore, allowing 117 hits in 101 innings but striking out 103 and walking only 26. Justin dazzled as a junior, going 15-1 with a 1.68 ERA, 158 K and 27 BB in 123 innings. He won the pitching Triple Crown in the Transamerica Conference, made the All-Conference team and was player of the year. Two sources selected him to their first team All-American squads. Justin was 4th in NCAA Division I in ERA, between Dewon Brazelton and Mark Prior, tied Prior for third in wins and was third in strikeouts, behind Prior and Kenny Baugh. At one point, he threw 38 consecutive scoreless innings, breaking Roger Clemens' record for NCAA Division I. He signed for $900,000, the lowest of any first-round pick in 2001.

Minor league career[edit]

He began his professional career with the short-season New Jersey Cardinals in 2001 with a 2-4 record and a 2.60 ERA in 15 games started. Baseball America rated him the #11 prospect in the New York-Penn League and #5 in the Cardinals system. Justin started 12 games for the Peoria Chiefs of the Single-A Midwest League in 2002. The righthander went 8-1 with a 1.38 ERA while opponents batted only .173 against him. Baseball America ranked him as the #18 prospect in the MWL; injuries limited his time and presumably lowered his rating considerably.

He struggled to begin the 2003 season while pitching for the Palm Beach Cardinals as he won 4, lost 11 and had an ERA of 4.92. He was traded by the Cardinals with LHP Ben Julianel to the New York Yankees for LHP Sterling Hitchcock on August 22nd and was credited with 2 wins in 2 relief appearances with the Tampa Yankees to close out the season.

Pope, who had been used as a starting pitcher for the majority of his career thus far, began a conversion to the bullpen in 2004. He started 19 of 31 games that season while splitting time with Tampa (4-4, 3.80) and the AA Trenton Thunder (5-3, 4.06). By 2005, his transition to closer was complete and he set the Thunder's franchise record with 29 saves and was selected to the Eastern League's mid-season All-Star team. His 54 "games finished" led the EL. He was 6-4 with a 2.81 ERA that year and walked 20 in 77 innings. He began the 2006 season again with the Thunder and notched 23 saves (going 2-2, 2.47). Justin also struggled in AAA with the Columbus Clippers with an ERA of 7.30 in 12 1/3 innings pitched in middle relief. By season's end, he was back in Trenton.

Coaching and Managing Career[edit]

Pope moved into the coaching ranks in 2010 with the Staten Island Yankees. He was then a coach with the Trenton Thunder in 2011. Pope went back to Staten Island in 2012-2013, this time as manager. He was then pitching coach of the Pulaski Yankees in 2015, Charleston RiverDogs in 2016-2018, and GCL Yankees East in 2019. Pope moved to the Miami Marlins' chain as a coach for the FCL Marlins in 2021-2022.

Sources include 2001-2006 Baseball Almanacs