Friday, January 23, 2015

INDEPENDENTS PAVE WAY FOR STILL MORE TO COACH FOR MAJOR LEAGUE ORGANIZATIONS

It never ceases to surprise this writer how many uniformed personnel (players, coaches, managers) are getting fresh opportunities with major league organizations after being in Independent leagues.

These are only a few of the recent moves we have seen:

**Longtime Indy infielder Iggy Suarez after failing to reach the majors as a player, is now the hitting coach for Lowell, MA in the Boston system. He did play in the Red Sox chain from the time he was 22 until he reached 28, then spent four seasons in the Atlantic League (Somerset, NJ, Lancaster, PA, Southern Maryland (Waldorf), Sugar Land, TX and Bridgeport, CT, the latter in 2013. He is only 33.

**In a similar path, 19-year minor leaguer Liu Rodriguez is getting an opportunity at 38 as a minor league coach for Milwaukee. He played in Independent leagues from ’06 to ’12, with Atlantic League stops at Newark, NJ and five years between Southern Maryland and York, PA. He also spent time in the Golden League.

**A newcomer in the Los Angeles Dodgers system at Ogden, UT is noted slugger Darryl Brinkley, who started his pro journey at 25 in Winnipeg (then Northern League, now American Association). Brinkley hit .399 at Calgary (Northern League) in ’07, and also made Indy stops at Saskatoon (Prairie League), New Jersey (Little Falls) in the Northeast and Can-Am Leagues plus Bridgeport, CT in the Atlantic and Edmonton in the Golden. He was in some of those cities more than once.

**Joe Espada, who once played in the Central League (Pensacola, FL), is the New York Yankees’ new third base coach. Only 39, he had the same job for four seasons with Miami.

**Butch Henry, who managed El Paso, TX in the American Association for several seasons, has been hired as pitching coach for the Yankees’ short season team at Staten Island, NY.

Then there is the case of former pitcher Jason Simontacchi, recently promoted to Double-A pitching coach for St. Louis. He was in Joplin, MO where the American Association has a new team this season (Blasters) as part of the Cardinals’ winter caravan and talked about how playing Independent Baseball years ago helped him:

“I needed to develop a little more, develop my pitches and get back some of my confidence that I lost in the two years prior to that (affiliated leagues) because I wasn’t pitching very well,” he told The Joplin Globe. “I went there (Springfield, IL., Frontier League) and pitched better and it kind of got me on a roll a little bit.” That was pretty modest. Simontacchi went 10-2 that season, was named Pitcher of the Year, and helped Springfield to the league title.

He was in the majors four years later, starting out 7-1, 2.82 in his first 13 starts for St. Louis. Simontacchi finished his pitching career in the Atlantic League (Long Island, NY) and Lancaster.

PLAYER MOVES

The newest trio of Indy invitees to major league spring training all have Atlantic League experience. Outfielder Ben Francisco (Lancaster) will be with Arizona, Logan Kensing (Bridgeport) with the Chicago White Sox and longtime veteran Dontrelle Willis (Bridgeport and Long Island) with Milwaukee.

Yoslan Herrera (Lancaster) was scheduled to be back in camp with the Los Angeles Angels for whom he had a 2.70 ERA in 20 appearances last season, but a deal was worked out whereby Herrera would get his release in order to play in Japan (Yokohama), presumably for more guaranteed money.



THE INDEPENDENT BASEBALL INSIDER will resume in March. Request a free sample column from December in order to be automatically reminded when the column starts for 2015.

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Monday, January 19, 2015

SUSSEX OFF AND RUNNING; MORE PLAYERS GET SPRING TRAINING INVITATIONS

More challenges lie ahead before anyone knows how successful the Can-Am League's new Sussex County Miners will be, but General Manager Dave Chase certainly has the New Jersey team off to a nice offseason start.

Chase, a real vet when it comes to minor league franchises, tells us he has been very pleased with the media reception, at one point saying he was "overwhelmed" by it. His first major hit was his ability to get two-time American Association Manager of the Year Steve Shirley to guide the Miners since it will take a seasoned leader to secure a solid roster.

Chase has a four-person sales staff out working to build the fan and sponsor base.

MORE MAJOR LEAGUE SPRING TRAINING INVITATIONS

The American Association, already assured of strong representation in major league spring training camps, keeps getting good news, and I am not just talking about the fact Fort Worth, TX product Max Scherzer is joining Washington with his rich new contract.

Right-handers Cody Satterwhite (Sioux City, IA) and James Hoyt (Wichita, KS) have joined the major league contingent with the New York Mets and Houston, respectively. Hoyt was part of the five-player swap in which the Astros received Evan Gattis from Atlanta. Hoyt, who does not have major league experience, also pitched for two North American League teams (Yuma, AZ and Edinburg, TX) during his '11-'12 seasons in Independent Baseball.

The Mets also will have another right-hander in camp in Jon Velasquez, who pitched for Rockland (Pomona, NY) in the Can-Am League and Camden, NJ of the Atlantic League. And Atlantic Leaguer Yoslan Herrera (Lancaster, PA) will be back in camp with the Los Angeles Angels for whom he logged some time last season.

SAME TEAM, SAME POSITION

Outfielder Brian Anderson is being given a new chance (although in minor league camp) with his original organization, the Chicago White Sox. After logging 334 major league games (.227-22-80) with the Chisox (and briefly with Boston), Anderson, who turns 33 in March, tried his hand at pitching, including five relief appearances in 2012 (0-1, 1.80) with Somerset, NJ in the Atlantic League. The onetime University of Arizona star, has once again signed on for a look in the White Sox's minor league camp as an outfielder.


THE INDEPENDENT BASEBALL INSIDER will resume in March. Request a free sample column from December in order to be automatically reminded when the column starts for 2015.

Get the independent minor league baseball trivia question of the day by clicking this link: Independent Minor League Baseball Trivia Questions

Monday, January 12, 2015

STRONG CAN-AM SEASON AS CLOSER GIVES SANCHEZ NEW LIFE

Salvador Sanchez appears to be a really good test case to see how far one can advance in an affiliated league after converting from the outfield and getting one season of accelerated work as a closer in the Can-Am League.

The Miami Marlins have signed the 6-foot-5, 220-pound right-hander and placed him on their Triple-A New Orleans roster, based in great measure on a 25-save season with the New Jersey Jackals (Little Falls). Sanchez will pitch at 29 in 2015, but only the last four years of his first decade in pro baseball have come as a pitcher.

The New York City native hit as many as 16 home runs in a season and climbed to Class AA during his nine seasons in the Chicago White Sox organization. He only started pitching in the ’11 season, and did not get many innings until ’13 in the Double-A Southern League where he posted a 2.72 ERA in 27 appearances for Birmingham, AL.

New Jersey worked the right-hander hard last season, and he responded with a 4-2 record, 2.41 ERA and the 25 saves. His other numbers were good, too, with only 33 hits allowed in 41.1 innings during 42 appearances, and he fanned 46 and walked only 12. Sanchez logged another seven appearances, including two in the playoffs, for Somerset, NJ of the Atlantic League after the Can-Am season ended.

ANOTHER CONVERTED OUTFIELDER

Slender southpaw Leyson Septimo also converted from the outfield to the mound, but he did so much earlier in his career, eventually logging 21 major league appearances with the parent White Sox (0-2, 5.14) in 2012. He played briefly in the Atlantic League (Southern Maryland, Waldorf) last summer (0-0, 14.14 in eight relief outings), and now is getting a new start at age 29 with Atlanta’s top farm club in Gwinnett, GA.

NEW ADDRESSES FOR BURGAMY, MINICOZZI

Well-traveled Independent Baseball veterans Mark Minicozzi and Brian Burgamy, both borderline major leaguers, have new homes.

Minicozzi, mostly a first baseman these days, joined the Washington Nationals organization after being in the San Francisco farm system. He has played with Winnipeg and Kansas City, KS in the American Association, Worcester, MA in the Can-Am League and Camden, NJ in the Atlantic League.

Burgamy, known largely for his bat and listed now in the outfield, has joined the Los Angeles Dodgers system after playing in the minors for the New York Mets. He has made Atlantic League stops in York, PA, Camden and Sugar Land, TX as well as with St. Paul, MN in the American Association.




THE INDEPENDENT BASEBALL INSIDER will resume in March. Request a free sample column from December in order to be automatically reminded when the column starts for 2015.

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Wednesday, January 07, 2015

CAN-AM'S FUENMAYOR MAKING ROYALS TAKE NOTICE WITH BIG NUMBERS IN VENEZUELA

The Kansas City Royals must be happy with their recent signing of Balbino Fuenmayor out of the Can-Am League (Quebec) because the corner infielder is not only putting up great numbers in Venezuela, but they look even more impressive when compared to Arizona outfielder David Peralta, who made a big impact in his rookie season in the National League.

Fuenmayor has 10 homers and 38 runs batted in along with a .315 average in the 42 games he has played (45-for-143), while Peralta’s production is slightly lower in the same winter league. Peralta (Amarillo, TX and Wichita, KS, American Association, and Rio Grande Valley, North American League) is at .319 with 32 RBI and only a pair of homers in 55 games (67-for-210).

Fuenmayor won both the home run (23) and RBI (99) titles in the Can-Am and was runner-up in average (.347). Peralta played almost every day after the Diamondbacks brought him up last season, hitting .286 with eight homers and 36 batted in for 88 games.

In other winter league play, free agent catcher Jose Gil (Lincoln, NE, American Association) is showing some offensive punch in Venezuela with .328-6-24 numbers for 37 appearances and American Association (Grand Prairie, TX) grad Ryan Searle continues to set the pace in strikeouts in Australia (56 in 48.2 innings) although his ERA, mostly in a starting role, is only at 4.25. Two other American Association hurlers have much better ERAs in the same league, Jason Jarvis (Grand Prairie) is at 2.21 for 11 relief outings and Morgan Coombs (Gary, IN) has won six of seven decisions and has a 2.36 mark mostly as a starter.

BRESLOW NOW OFFICIAL, CHRIS MARTIN AVAILABLE

Boston finally announced its re-signing of lefty reliever Craig Breslow today (Wednesday). Reports have had the onetime Can-Am League (New Jersey Jackals) hurler getting $2 million after the Sox earlier rejected his $4 million option.

An original Independent find, right-hander Chris Martin was designated for assignment this week by Colorado. The onetime Grand Prairie hurler, 28, got into his first 16 major league games last season, ending up 0-0, 6.75 out of the bullpen with 14 strikeouts in 15.2 innings.

JUSTIN CHRISTIAN GOES YARD

Outfielder Justin Christian (Southern Maryland, Atlantic League, and River City, Frontier League) is another original Independent signee making news. While known primarily for his speed, the free agent has homered twice in four postseason games in Mexico. The occasional major leaguer only hit three blasts in 61 regular-season games.


THE INDEPENDENT BASEBALL INSIDER will resume in March. Request a free sample column from December in order to be automatically reminded when the column starts for 2015.

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Monday, December 22, 2014

ALBERS RETURNS FROM KOREA, GETS MAJOR LEAGUE BID FROM TORONTO

With left-handed pitching always at a premium, Andrew Albers is back from a one-year stay in Korea to try and regain a major league job, this time with Toronto. Albers got his feet on the ground professionally during a strong season in the bullpen for the Quebec Capitales of the Can-Am League in 2010 (3-0, 17 saves, 1.40 in 40 appearances), then signed with Minnesota and less than three years later got a nice 10-game starting trial with the Twins (2-5, 4.05) before going abroad for a sizeable payday.

The Blue Jays not only signed the 29-year-old former University of Kentucky hurler but invited him to their major league spring training camp.

ONE YEAR AFTER AMERICAN ASSOCIATION, A MAJOR LEAGUE OPPORTUNITY

American Association grad Mark Hamburger also has a major league invitation. The righty is only one year removed from starting for the St. Paul (MN) Saints (6-8, 3.26), and Minnesota obviously liked what it saw in the 27-year-old during his one season, mostly in the bullpen, for their top two farm clubs to earn the major league opportunity. He did have five appearances with Texas in ’11.

TWO QUICK MOVES FOR SUGAR LAND’S BRODERICK

An Independent stint also seems to be paying off for right-hander Brian Broderick, who put up a strong 2.31 earned run average for 62.1 innings in the Atlantic League (Sugar Land, TX) last season.

The Los Angeles Angels had only recently signed Broderick, 28, after seeing him in the Mexican League this fall, and now they have traded him to Kansas City in order to pick up second baseman Johnny Giavotelli, who has major league time in four seasons. There has not been any word whether Broderick may get an opportunity in the Royals’ major league camp.

‘FAMILY’ TRADES HIM AWAY

Matt Robertson will have a story to tell his grandchildren years from now.

He can build up a great tale how his own family traded him. The youngest of the four Robertson brothers who run the Wichita (KS) Wingnuts, Matt did not get much chance as a starting pitcher while in the American Association last season. This was the role where he had been successful at Emporia (KS) State. So, the team dealt him to the Frontier League (Florence, KY), where he supposedly will return to starting.

I am guessing the Robertsons will have some fun talking about the trade at the Christmas dinner table.


THE INDEPENDENT BASEBALL INSIDER will resume in March. Request a free sample column from December in order to be automatically reminded when the column starts for 2015.

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