Tuesday, June 21, 2016


Brad Ziegler's numbers are getting insane with a 0.61 ERA in save situations this season and 43 consecutive saves overall, but I also tip my hat very high among the new products out of the Independent leagues to Washington's Tanner Roark (Southern Illinois, Frontier League) and Junior Guerra (Wichita, American Association) of Milwaukee.

Ziegler (Schaumburg, then in the Northern League) has been around for a while, in fact long enough that the Arizona side-armer's 564 career appearances are the most in the majors since 2008.

The Washington Post credits Roark's improved command of his two-seam fastball as the biggest reason the right-hander now owns one of the lowest earned run averages (3.14) on the potent Nationals' starting rotation and is now striking out nearly 8.1 hitters every nine innings.  He has a 6-4 record for 14 starts this season.

Guerra, the onetime catcher who really started getting pitching notice when he went 18-7 while working for Wichita in 2011 and 2013, had only three major league appearances--a non-descript four innings in relief for the Chicago White Sox last season--until the Brewers called him up from Triple-A Colorado Springs the first week of May.

The 31-year-old seems to have become a steady starter for Milwaukee with a 3-1 record and a 3.81 ERA for nine outings.  He has allowed only 46 hits in 54.1 innings and has 45 punchouts.

"He's certainly done his job," manager Craig Counsell told FoxSports.com.  "He's (gotten better as the game goes on) in a bunch of his starts.  He's getting to 90-100 pitches and still going strong, still going really good."

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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Braves' Cervenka Latest To Make Majors After Time In Independent League

Want to guess what Atlanta rookie Hunter Cervenka and Kansas City’s Chien-Ming Wang have in common, other than being pitchers?

Wang, the veteran on the comeback trail, and 26-year-old southpaw Cervenka are the first two players to be on an active major league roster this season for the first time after seeing some action in Independent Baseball.

What may be most impressive it that it was only last season when they were in the Atlantic League, Wang at Southern Maryland (Waldorf) and Cervenka with Sugar Land, TX. In all, four of last season’s Atlantic Leaguers have now gotten to the majors, including current Oakland starter Rich Hill (Long Island, NY) and last September’s Tim Stauffer (Sugar Land) with the New York Mets.

Cervenka, called up by the Braves Monday for his first trip to the majors, is the 212th player to be active on a major league roster after playing in an Indy league since the non-affiliated leagues first played 23 years ago. Forty-two of those players started their pro career in an Independent circuit including six who are active today.

Cervenka gives the Indy leagues 16 active major leaguers today, with three more on the disabled list of big-league teams. The list with the team and the Independent affiliations in parenthesis:

Pitchers (12 + 3 on DL)

  • Craig Breslow, Miami (New Jersey, Northeast League)
  • Hunter Cervenka, Atlanta (Sugar Land, Atlantic League)
  • Jon Edwards (DL), San Diego (San Angelo, North American League, and Alpine, Pecos League)
  • Rich Hill, Oakland (Long Island, Atlantic)
  • Luke Hochevar, Kansas City (Fort Worth, American Association)
  • Scott Kazmir, Los Angeles-NL (Sugar Land)
  • Logan Kensing, Detroit (Bridgeport, Atlantic)
  • Vidal Nuno, Seattle (Washington, Frontier League)
  • Tanner Roark, Washington (Southern Illinois, Frontier)
  • Tanner Scheppers (DL), Texas (St. Paul, American Association)
  • Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth)
  • Bo Schultz (DL), Toronto (Grand Prairie, American Association)
  • Chien-Ming Wang, Kansas City (Southern Maryland, Atlantic)
  • Tom Wilhelmsen, Texas (Tucson, Golden League)
  • Brad Ziegler, Arizona (Schaumburg, Northern League).

Position players (4)

  • Chris Colabello, Toronto (Worcester and Nashua, Can-Am League)
  • Stephen Drew, Washington (Camden, Atlantic)
  • Daniel Nava, Los Angeles-AL (Chico, Golden)
  • David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association and Rio Grande Valley, North American)

NOTE: A complete list of the 212 players who have been on a major league roster after playing Independent Baseball is available for private use for $19.95 from http://www.IndyBaseballChatter.com.

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Veteran lefty Wandy Rodriguez or power-pitching rookie James Hoyt?

That seems to be one of the remaining questions in the Houston Astros’ spring training camp less than one week before the major league season opens.

Hoyt has been exceptional for the second spring in a row for the Astros, but experience, especially from lefties, always seems to be a premium.

If the 29-year-old Hoyt does make it he will be among less than four dozen players since 1993 who started their professional journey in Independent leagues and without being drafted and reached The Show.

Eighteen strikeouts in only 9.2 innings this spring has been the eye-popping story for the right-hander, who fanned 66 Pacific Coast League hitters in 47 innings last year at Fresno. Hoyt has been touched for only four hits (has walked six) and has a 1.86 ERA in eight appearances.

He started his pro career in the defunct North American League at Yuma, AZ and Edinburg, TX in 2011-12, then went 2-0, 2.61 in 12 outings in the recognized American Association (Wichita, KS) before getting his first affiliated opportunity in the Atlanta farm system in ’13.


Rich Hill, a major league veteran who had to start rebuilding his reputation at Long Island, NY, of the Atlantic League late last season, went into spring training as the best new name to emerge after spending time in Independent Baseball, but the Oakland southpaw does not have that role entirely to himself.

Chien-Ming Wang (Southern Maryland, Atlantic) has been another feel-good comeback story during spring training and likely will start the season with the World Series champion Kansas City Royals.

Still others from the Independent ranks who appear to be continuing their fight for Opening Day jobs include infielder Robert Andino (Somerset, NJ, Atlantic) with Miami and reliever Logan Kensing (Bridgeport, CT, Atlantic) with Detroit.

The total count of players with Independent experience who will be on Opening Day rosters appears to be between 15 and 20. Thirty-seven such players were in the majors at least part of last season.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2016


Major league spring training has an abundance of intriguing storylines for Independent Baseball fans this year regardless of anyone's favorite league, but it is difficult topping what the Atlantic Eight brings to the table.

I have dubbed it the Atlantic Eight because of the fact eight players who were in the Atlantic League either for a long spell or for a cup of coffee last season are in major league camps fulltime, which may never have been accomplished by any league since the Independent frenzy started back in 1993.

The American Association has been out-pacing the Atlantic League in the pure number of former players in the majors in some recent times, but the Atlantic goes out of its way to declare its players "major league ready", and the league's argument is very strong right now.

Veteran right-hander Rich Hill, who made an important foray into the Atlantic League (Long Island, NY) last summer on the way to sizzling as a starter at Boston in September then signing a $6.1 million contract with Oakland in the offseason, is the only one of the Atlantic Eight on a 40-man roster although he is far from standing alone in representing the newest group of Atlantic Leaguers vying for regular-season jobs.

Minnesota has the strongest contingent in raw numbers and possibly the other top candidates to make it to Opening Day with outfielder Joe Benson (Sugar Land, TX) and southpaw relievers Dan Runzler (Sugar Land) and Buddy Boshers (Somerset, NJ. World Champion Kansas City has comeback-minded righty Chien-Ming Wang (Southern Maryland), Atlanta has Sugar Land lefty Hunter Cervenka, righty Tim Stauffer (Sugar Land) is with Arizona and infielder Robert Andino (Somerset) is making his comeback bid with Miami. All technically carry the tag non-roster invitee at the moment.

Hill, being counted on in the Athletics' rotation, struggled in his first start by walking three, giving up two hits and a run while only retiring four batters. Stauffer has not pitched, at least in a regular Cactus League game, but everyone else has put up decent numbers in the early going (through Monday). Boshers and Runzler, at least one of whom could land in the Twins' bullpen, both have had two scoreless outings of an inning apiece and Benson, getting action nearly every day in the Grapefruit League so far, has gone 2-for-8 with a walk, double, RBI and run.

Wang, at Southern Maryland briefly while trying to get his career back on track, has now worked three scoreless innings for the Royals, giving up two hits and collecting two strikeouts. Cervenka has two scoreless frames while Andino has gone 2-for-7 plus two walks and has scored twice in four appearances.

One other 2015 Atlantic League pitcher, Long Island lefty Donnie Veal, has gotten into a Cactus League game, coming from Texas's minor league camp for at least one day. He was touched for two runs in an inning of work.

Aside from this Atlantic League contingent, attention should be given to two other Independent players who are trying to find their way onto the 25-man roster of the reigning World Series-champion Royals. First baseman Balbino Fuenmayor, the 2014 choice of Baseball America as Independent Player of the Year for his breakout season at Quebec in the Can-Am League, is seeing solid playing time and has gone 2-for-9 with one run batted in during five appearances. He also has played for Laredo, TX of the American Association and the Frontier League Greys. Outfielder Jose Martinez (Rockford, IL, Frontier League), new to the 40-man roster, is 4-for-9 after four appearances.

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Monday, February 22, 2016


Fans of Independent Baseball are virtually guaranteed of an exciting lead-up to the major league season as well as to the Indy openers in April and May because another strong contingent of players who have spent time developing their talent in the non-affiliated leagues are wearing uniforms representing one of the 30 American and National League teams in spring training.

Records maintained exclusively by IndyBaseballChatter.com show exactly 50 onetime Independent players are official invitees to the camps spread throughout Arizona and Florida, with many of them totally dependent on the Indy leagues in order to get any momentum toward a big-league career and some using this route to rehab from an injury or develop new skills so they can re-energize their professional life. The 50-man contingent is evenly divided between 40-man roster players and non-roster invitees.

The Independent league graduates could take the field any given day as a unit since all positions are represented although, as usual, the top-heavy number–38 of the 50–are pitchers.

The complete roster, by position, with the major league team and the Independent affiliations in parenthesis. An asterisk indicates the player started his professional career in an Indy league while an “n” in front of the player indicates he is in spring training as a non-roster player competing to make a 25-man opening day roster.

Pitchers (38)–nTim Adleman, Cincinnati (New Jersey, Can-Am League, and El Paso and Lincoln, American Association); nDylan Axelrod, Miami (Windy City, Frontier League); nBuddy Boshers, Minnesota (Somerset, Atlantic League); nCraig Breslow, Miami (New Jersey, Northeast League); n*Greg Burke, Philadelphia (Atlantic City, Atlantic); nAngel Castro, Oakland (Lincoln); nHunter Cervenka, Atlanta (Sugar Land, Atlantic); n*Aaron Crow, Chicago-NL (Fort Worth, American Association); Steve Delabar, Toronto (Brockton, Can-Am, and Florence, Frontier); Jon Edwards, San Diego (San Angelo, North American League, and Alpine, Pecos League); Luis Garcia, Philadelphia (Newark, Can-Am); nJarrett Grube, Cleveland (Southern Maryland, Atlantic); Junior Guerra, Milwaukee (Wichita, American Association); Rich Hill, Oakland (Long Island, Atlantic); *Luke Hochevar, Kansas City (Fort Worth); John Holdzkom, Pittsburgh (Amarillo and Sioux City, American Association, and San Angelo, United League); n*James Hoyt, Houston (Wichita and Edinburg and Yuma, North American); Scott Kazmir, Los Angeles-NL (Sugar Land); nLogan Kensing, Detroit (Bridgeport, Atlantic); nBrandon Kintzler, Minnesota (St. Paul, American Association, and Winnipeg, Northern League); Vidal Nuno, Seattle (Washington, Frontier); *James Paxton, Seattle (Grand Prairie, American Association); nScott Rice, Arizona (York, Long Island, and Newark, Atlantic); *Tanner Roark, Washington (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Chaz Roe, Baltimore (Laredo, American Association); nDrew Rucinski, Chicago-NL (Rockford, Frontier); nDan Runzler, Minnesota (Sugar Land); *Tanner Scheppers, Texas (St. Paul); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth); Bo Schultz, Toronto (Sioux Falls and Grand Prairie, American Association); nJoe Thatcher, Cleveland (River City, Frontier); *Ian Thomas, Los Angeles-NL (York and Winnipeg, Northern and American Association); nChien-Ming Wang, Kansas City (Southern Maryland); nChris Smith, Oakland (Sugar Land and Wichita); Josh Smoker, New York-NL (Rockford); nTim Stauffer, Arizona (Sugar Land); Tom Wilhelmsen, Texas (Tucson, Golden League); Brad Ziegler, Arizona (Schaumburg, Northern).

Catchers (2) – Rene Rivera, Tampa Bay (Camden, Atlantic); nEddy Rodriguez, New York-AL (Sioux Falls and El Paso, American Association).

Infielders (4) –nSS-2B Robert Andino, Miami (Somerset); *1B-OF Chris Colabello, Toronto (Worcester and Nashua, Can-Am), *2B-SS Stephen Drew, Washington (Camden); n1B-3B Balbino Fuenmayor, Kansas City (Quebec, Can-Am; Laredo, American Association; Frontier Greys, Frontier).

Outfielders (6) —nJoe Benson, Minnesota (Sugar Land); Jose Martinez, Kansas City (Rockford); *Daniel Nava, Los Angeles-AL (Chico, Golden); David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita and Rio Grande Valley, North American); nAntoan Richardson, Pittsburgh (Schaumburg); nOF-1B Reynaldo Rodriguez, Minnesota (Yuma, Golden).

Scheppers, Pat Misch Already Scratched

The list of former Independent players slated for major league camps lost one hopeful as spring training was opening because southpaw Pat Misch, a former major leaguer who divided last season between the Miami farm system and Taiwan with a two-game pit stop at Lancaster, PA of the Atlantic League (1-0, 1.80), was granted a release from his agreement with Milwaukee in order to pitcher for the Orix Buffaloes in Japan.

While Texas reliever Tanner Scheppers is considered one of the 50 Indy players in major league camps, the veteran, who started his pro career with the St. Paul (MN) Saints of the American Association, has been ruled out until as least the All-Star Break because of a new knee injury. He is returning to the Metroplex area for surgery.

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