Thursday, January 04, 2018

RIVERA A FREE AGENT, BUT A HERO IN PUERTO RICO

This Week in Independent Baseball

Heroism in Puerto Rico--Veteran catcher Rene Rivera (Camden, Atlantic League) is a free agent this winter after splitting his ninth major league season between the Mets and Cubs, but he has been a giant figure in his homeland of Puerto Rico, where even the regular baseball season could not be salvaged after the devastating hurricane that still has many people without power.  He made good on a promise to spread goodwill by delivering $25,000 worth of toys collected in the U.S. to some 100 communities.  "It has been a week full of beautiful & humbling experiences", the 34-year-old tweeted, explaining "we were able to do 12 towns, 60 schools, 100 communities & over 25,000 kids." By the way, the Puerto Rican League is playing an abbreviated schedule this month without imports leading up to defending its Caribbean Series title the first week of February.

More Spring Training Invitations--The latest players with Indy time to receive non-roster invitations to major league camps are lefty Jarret Martin (Sussex County, Rockland and Ottawa, all in the Can-Am League, and York of the Atlantic League) with Oakland and first baseman Brandon Snyder (Southern Maryland, Atlantic) with Tampa Bay.

Byrdak Gets a Degree, Finally--Tim Byrdak pitched for five major league teams before retiring a few years ago, now the southpaw reliever has taken advantage of his educational fund to earn a degree from Robert Morris University.  "Twenty years in the making," the 44-year-old told the Daily Southtown newspaper.  "Now I have to find a job."  He has a plan:  "During the course of my career I had injuries here and there and rehab processes and that type of deal trying to survive.  I want to work with kids and teach them proper mechanics and teach them to the best of my ability to keep them off the operating table." His career was not too shabby, either.  Byrdak appeared in 479 major league games, winning 13 times and saving four other contests.


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Thursday, December 21, 2017

Rule-5 Draft, Spring Training invites highlight indy baseball week

This Week in Independent Baseball

Four Taken in Rule 5 Draft--Continuing to show their value to major league organizations, four players with Independent Baseball experience were selected by new teams in the Triple-A phase of the Rule 5 draft during the Winter Meetings in Orlando.  The first person to go was catcher Yermin Mercedes, who came out of the Pecos League (Douglas and White Sands) and who chosen away from Baltimore by the Chicago White Sox.  He was the No. 2 pick in the entire Triple-A portion.  Eight spots later the outfielder converted to pitching, Andrew Muren (Fargo, Sioux Falls and Gary, all in the American Association) went from San Francisco to Toronto.  Lefty Chris Nunn (Evansville, Frontier League) was chosen by Houston from the Chicago Cubs.  Another southpaw, Carlos Diaz (Gary) was a Round 2 choice from Miami to Oakland.

Major League Spring Training Invitations--Somewhere around 25 former Independent players will become non-roster invitees to major league camps, presuming the level of recent years holds.  Three pitchers were added in recent days joining Boston outfielder Jeremy Barfield (Sugar Land and Camden, Atlantic League).  They are RHP Austin Bibens-Dirkx of Texas (Lancaster, Atlantic League, and Victoria, Golden League); and the Tampa Bay pair of RHP Cody Hall (Lancaster) and LHP Vidal Nuno (Washington, Frontier League).

New to 40-Man Roster--The biggest addition to a major league camp probably is RHP Chris Martin of Texas (Grand Prairie, American Association), who returns to the majors after two outstanding seasons in Japan.  Martin got his professional start in Grand Prairie.


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Friday, December 08, 2017

HEADING TO THE WINTER MEETINGS

A few thoughts as I head for the Winter Meetings in Orlando where I will be located at Trade Show Booth 1817 with talented Kentucky artist Gary Cieradkowski.

DRAFT--It always is interesting to see which former Independent players get chosen during the Rule 5 draft, giving them a fresh start with a new major league organization.

ADLEMAN--The biggest news in the Indy world in recent days is that Cincinnati's Tim Adleman has received a $100,000 bonus and a contract worth slightly more than $1 million to pitch for the Samsung Lions in Korea.  This right-hander, who spent 2012 and 2013 in Independent leagues (Lincoln and El Paso in the American Association and New Jersey in the Can-Am League), led the parent Reds in both innings pitched (122.1) and strikeouts (108) last season.

WELCOME BACK CHRIS COSTE--One of the best names ever to wear an Independent uniform, catcher Chris Coste, is going to be Fargo's (American Association) hitting coach next season, returning to the RedHawks for whom he played for four years ('96-'99).  Coste's story celebrates perseverance in that he was in the minor leagues for 11 seasons before finally reaching the majors with Philadelphia at the age of 33 in 2006.

SPRING TRAINING INVITATIONS--The normal count of former Independent Baseball players in major league spring training camps runs about 50 these days.  The records maintained by IndyBaseballChatter.com currently show 26 such players on 40-man winter rosters, and the first non-roster invitation that we have seen belongs to former Atlantic League outfielder (Sugar Land and Camden) Jeremy Barfield, who was signed by Boston last summer.  The son of former major leaguer Jesse Barfield, who is 29, hit 27 homers at Sugar Land one year ago, and bettered that mark by one in 95 games in the Red Sox system.  He hit 27 at Double-A Portland and one at Triple-A Pawtucket. More invitations will trickle in in the weeks to come.



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Tuesday, September 26, 2017

WILKERSON'S PROMOTION TO BREWERS GIVES INDEPENDENT LEAGUES A RECORD-TYING 45TH PLAYER IN MAJORS THIS SEASON

Aaron Wilkerson's recent promotion to the postseason-hopeful Milwaukee Brewers should have brought a double dose of happiness the everyone in an Independent league.

First, it meant the non-major-league-affiliated leagues equaled the record set one year ago when 45 players who have worn one or more Indy league uniforms have been in the major leagues this season.
But Wilkerson started his professional career in an Indy league, a feat only shared by three active big-leaguers (James Paxton, Tanner Roark and Max Scherzer along with Stephen Drew and Daniel Nava, both currently on disabled lists).

Wilkerson has been touted as a potential major leaguer for some time now, but that was not the case back in 2011 when his career was stalled--threatened, one might say--when the Cumberland University product (Lebanon, TN) was sidelined to undergo the dreaded Tommy John surgery.  He did not pitch for nearly two years, with some of his time spent working in the grocery store.

The 28-year-old Wilkerson went undrafted, with the elbow injury playing an obvious role.  So he worked his way through three leagues in 2013 and Boston finally gave him an opportunity the next season out of the American Association (Grand Prairie, TX).  (He also worked in the United and Frontier Leagues.)

The Red Sox nurtured his development from the rookie New York-Penn League to its top farm club in Pawtucket, RI before reluctantly giving the 6-foot-3 hurler up midway in the 2016 season as part of a 2-for-1 swap that netted the Fenway Park residents needed experience in the form of veteran infielder Aaron Hill.

"It (reaching the majors) means the world," Wilkerson told MLB.com.  "It's almost surreal right now."

Wilkerson earned the trip to the majors by allowing only 117 hits in 142.1 innings and winning 11 of 15 decisions (3.16 ERA) this summer for Double-A Biloxi, MS, then throwing seven no-hit innings with 11 strikeouts for Triple-A Colorado Springs in a Pacific Coast League playoff game.

The right-hander has worked twice for manager Craig Counsell so far, a two-strikeout inning in relief and a start.  He has allowed four hits and three runs in 3.1 innings with more work possible yet this week.

Wilkerson is the 46th player to start in an Independent League and make it all the way to the majors, according to records maintained by IndyBaseballChatter.com.  Thirty-three of them are pitchers. 


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Friday, September 15, 2017

ANOTHER NEAR RECORD YEAR FOR INDEPENDENT LEAGUES

When a record 45 players who had been in Independent Baseball leagues made their way onto major league rosters last season one had to wonder how high this number might grow because of the continued purchasing from the non-affiliated leagues at a rapid pace.

The record has not been eclipsed as the end of the campaign nears, but when Philadelphia added veteran right-hander Henderson Alvarez to its major league roster the count for 2017 is within one of the high-water mark, based on records maintained by IndyBaseballChatter.

Another intriguing development has emerged this year.  No less than four players who have spent at least part of the current season in an Indy league have already been added to active major league duty.  It isn't the first time this has happened--think of the likes of pitcher Jose Lima, who rebounded back to the majors and dazzled as a starter for a time in 2003--but it has been somewhat of a rarity in recent years.

The Atlantic League can take credit for all four of this year's players, with three of them somewhat shockingly appearing with the same team, the Long Island Ducks.  In addition to Alvarez, the Ducks have produced outfielder Quintin Berry for the postseason-hopeful Milwaukee Brewers and right-hander Tim Melville was in the majors for a time.  Somerset, NJ, which long has been another favorite site where major league organizations find talent, had pitcher Tyler Cloyd go from their roster and shortly end up with the parent Seattle Mariners this season.

Of the 44 players with Independent experience who have been in the majors this season, 30 still are on active rosters with another four on the disabled list.  Seven others have returned to the minor leagues and three have been released.

Five pitchers got their initial major league experience this season with Austin Bibens-Dirkx (Lancaster, PA, Atlantic League, and Victoria, BC, Golden League) with Texas, John Brebbia (Sioux Falls, SD and Laredo, TX, in the American Association) with St. Louis,  Ariel Hernandez (Frontier League Greys) with Cincinnati, Edward Paredes (York, PA, Atlantic League) with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Nik Turley (Somerset) with Minnesota.  All five are still in the majors.


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