After giving the series a break on Easter Sunday, we continue our trip backwards through time in Philadelphia Phillies history from 1971-2019. Today we move on to the position player who was not previously covered in the series and who features that combination of having little impact on the 2015 Phillies ball club and who is unlikely to have an impactful big-league career.
Darnell Sweeney was born and raised in Florida and was selected by the Los Angeles Dodgers in the 13th round of the 2012 MLB Amateur Draft out of the University of Central Florida.
Rising through the Dodgers minor league system over the next few years, Sweeney had a big 2013 in which he produced 61 extra-base hits, drove in 77 runs, and stole 48 bases. At Double-A in 2014 he hit .288 with 53 extra-base hits, 88 runs scored, and 15 steals.
At age 24, Sweeney continued to produce at Triple-A in the 2015 season, hitting .271 with 53 extra-base hits and 32 stolen bases. Having made himself an interesting prospect, Sweeney would then become the key piece in a trade that continued the Phillies process of turning the page from their glory years.
On August 19, 2015, nine months after dealing away Jimmy Rollins and three weeks after trading Cole Hamels, the Phillies traded Chase Utley to Los Angeles. In exchange, the Phillies received Sweeney and prospect pitcher Jon Richy.
Sweeney was immediately brought to the big-leagues by the Phillies and would remain with the club for the final six weeks of the 2015 season. He appeared in 37 games, making 21 starts, and slashed .176/.286/.353 with eight extra-base hits, nine runs, and 11 RBIs over 98 plate appearances. Sweeney saw most of his action in left field and at second base, but was also used in center and right fields and even played a game at third base.
In his first day with the team on August 20, 2015, manager Pete Mackanin sent him up to pinch-hit for pitcher Cesar Jimenez in the top of the 5th inning with the Phillies trailing the Miami Marlins by 8-1 at Marlins Park. He popped up to second base against Miami reliever Brad Hand.
Two days later on August 22, 2015, Sweeney registered his first hit in Major League Baseball, and it was a big one. With the Phillies trailing the Marlins 2-0, Mackanin sent Sweeney up to pinch-hit for pitcher Aaron Harang with two outs and nobody on in the top of the 8th inning. Sweeney drove the first pitch from Justin Nicolino out to deep left-center field, putting the Phillies on the board. They would tie it up two batters later and go on to a 4-2 victory.
Sweeney would open 2016 back with Triple-A Lehigh Valley and didn’t perform well, hitting just .233 with 28 extra-base hits and a dozen steals. He never was called back to Philadelphia.
After that 2016 season, Sweeney was traded back to the Dodgers along with Darin Ruf in exchange for veteran infielder Howie Kendrick. Los Angeles would sell his contract to the Cincinnati Reds the following May and he spent the entire 2017 season at the Triple-A level in both organizations.
The Reds released him towards the end of spring training in 2018 and he signed with the Toronto Blue Jays. The Jays called him up twice in the 2018 season, including his last big-league start on August 1.
Sweeney was again a free agent after 2018 was over. After opening the 2019 season with Kansas City in Independent ball he signed with the Pittsburgh Pirates in June 2019, finishing the year split between Double-A and Triple-A in the Bucs organization.
At the end of January 2020, Sweeney signed on again with the Kansas City T-Bones in Independent ball and was headed towards starting the year with them, hoping for another big-league opportunity at some point, when the coronavirus pandemic shut baseball down. Now age 29, his chances of ever becoming an impactful pro are slim at best.