Monday, July 01, 2019

NEW MAJOR LEAGUERS DETWILER AND MAZZA HAVE TAKEN DIFFERENT PATHS

For similarities, Ross Detwiler and Chris Mazza are pitchers who have been added to active major league rosters in the last few days after working for Independent league teams.

But the similarities end at this point, and not only because Detwiler is a southpaw and Mazza a righty.  Detwiler is a 33-year-old returning to the majors where he already had 191 career appearances, including 84 starts, spread over 12 seasons (2007-2018).  Mazza is 29 without any previous trips to the majors.

Here are some details:

For a little chuckle since baseball often produces oddities, Detwiler could not win in the Atlantic League this season, yet his first time to the mound for the Chicago White Sox--his seventh major league team--resulted in a win, his 25th in the big time although his first since '16 when he won twice for Oakland.

Detwiler held the Minnesota Twins, owners of one of the game's top offenses, to two runs and six hits over five innings to help the White Sox end a seven-game losing streak to their American League rival, 6-4, in the Windy City.

"This was awesome, especially to do it here in Chicago," Detwiler told MLB.com.  "It just feels great to be here.  Been back to the minors a little bit, Indy ball.  It's been a tough road, but we're here."

He has received a trip back to the majors for two consecutive years (Seattle in '18) after working for the York Revolution in the Atlantic League.  He was the Opening Day starter for York this season, and had made three starts (0-0, 2.81) before the White Sox purchased his contract and sent him to Triple-A Charlotte.

Mazza had pitched in the minor leagues since 2012 without getting an opportunity in the majors.  His stops included time in both the Pacific Association (San Rafael) and Atlantic League (Southern Maryland) last year, before he was taken by Seattle in the Rule 5 draft, then shuttled to the New York Mets, who gave the 6-foot-4 hurler an opportunity this season.

His first major league opportunity came against National League East-leading Atlanta last Friday, and he did not disappoint.  Mazza allowed only one run and five hits (no walks) in four innings.  What a feeling.

"To finally get here, it's like an overwhelming excitement," he told MLB.com.

Mazza, who was a combined 3-5,3.59 in a dozen starts between the Mets' top two farm clubs before his call came, and he was watching the National League team on television when Syracuse manager Tony DeFrancesco called with the long-awaited news.

"I'm trying to hold back tears as I'm trying to listen to instructions of what I've got to do", he recalled.  "That was a pretty emotional roller-coaster.  After that, I just called my dad and let it out a little bit."

Why not? Well deserved.


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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

EXCITING TIMES AS MAJORS REACH HEAVILY INTO INDEPENDENT RANKS AND FIRST SOUTH AFRICAN PITCHER DEBUTS

The highlight so far in the relatively young Independent season has to be the run by major league organizations to grab an abundance of talent, especially from the Atlantic League and the American Association.  It reinforces--if that is needed--just how much the majors look these days to the non-affiliated leagues for players who have escaped their watchful eyes or need a renewed opportunity to prove that they can play at a high level.

But I must admit another of the joys of doing this blog and writing about Indy players is seeing new barriers reached.

This happened again in this month of June when 27-year-old right-handed pitcher Tayler Scott became the very first native of South Africa to pitch in a major league game.

Scott, who spent a sizeable part of 2016 pitching for the Sioux City Explorers, did not have much upper level impact in the major league system until he had been in the American Association.  One season after he turned in his tidiest earned run average (1.88) in his 23 games for Steve Montgomery's club he reached Triple-A for the first time for the Texas Rangers.

Now, two years later the 6-foot-3 Johannesburg native has "major leaguer" by his name, even though the baptism for Seattle saw him give up three earned runs in 2.2 relief innings against the Los Angeles Angels.

"It's been a big accomplishment to be the first pitcher from South Africa (in the majors)", he told that country's The South African newspaper.  "It's pretty amazing".

Infielder Gift Ngoepe is the only other South Africa native to make it to the majors, playing for both Pittsburgh and Toronto and a current Philadelphia minor leaguer. 

"When he first signed, he (Ngoepe) was 16 so I was (two years) younger", Scott told the newspaper.  "It kind of opened my eyes that you were able to do that and go play baseball in America.  We came up to a baseball camp when I was 15, and from then on, I realized that's what I wanted to do".

Three players from the Independent ranks have played in the majors for the first time so far this season with another Sioux City pitcher, Parker Markel, also debuting with the Mariners.  A third right-hander, Nick Anderson, who broke into pro baseball in the Frontier League (Rockford and the traveling Frontier Greys), has been with Miami all season.  He is 2-2, 4.39 for 27 appearances.

Hectic Pace of Signings by Majors

An unofficial count shows 21 players with time in the Atlantic League and 13 with American Association experience have had their contracts purchased by major league organizations since the end of March with the Frontier and Can-Am Leagues also contributing to the impressive list.




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Saturday, March 30, 2019

NINETEEN FORMER INDEPENDENT PLAYERS START SEASON IN MAJORS

         With pitchers continuing to dominate, 19 players who have played in one or more Independent leagues started the season in the major leagues, an increase of two over one year ago.  This includes southpaw Rich Hill, who is on the Los Angeles Dodgers' Injured List but likely will return to the starting rotation when he is activated.

         Only three position players are in the group, including Arizona infielder Ildemaro Vargas (Atlantic League), who was recalled from Triple-A at the last minute.

         The American Association contributed eight of the 19 with the Frontier League next with five and the Can-Am League third with a trio of pitchers.  The Frontier contingent includes Miami right-hander Nick Anderson, in the majors for the first time after starting his pro career in Rockford, IL.  He is one of six players on the list who played their first game in an Indy league.

         Thirty-seven Indy players were in the majors at some time last year.

         The entire list, including the major league team and the Independent affiliations: 

         Pitchers (15 + 1 IL)--*Nick Anderson, Miami (Frontier Greys and Rockford, Frontier League); John Brebbia, St. Louis (Sioux Falls and Laredo, American Association); Jon Edwards, Cleveland (Alpine, Pecos League, and San Angelo, North American League); Wilmer Font, Tampa Bay (Ottawa, Can-Am League); Luis Garcia, Los Angeles-AL (Newark, Can-Am); Junior Guerra, Milwaukee (Wichita, American Association); #-Rich Hill, Los Angeles-NL (Long Island, Atlantic League); D. J. Johnson, Colorado (Traverse City, Frontier); Brandon Kintzler, Chicago-NL (St. Paul, American Association, and Winnipeg, then Northern League); *Chris Martin, Texas (Grand Prairie, American Association); *James Paxton, New York-AL (Grand Prairie); *Trevor Richards, Miami (Gateway, Frontier); *Tanner Roark, Cincinnati (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Chaz Roe, Tampa Bay (Laredo); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, American Association); Robert Stock, San Diego (New Jersey, Can-Am).

            Position Players (3)--OF-1B Jose Martinez, St. Louis (Rockford); OF David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association; Rio Grande Valley, North American); INF Ildemaro Vargas, Arizona (Bridgeport, Atlantic).

            *First professional game was in an Independent league.

            #Is on the injured list.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

FRONTIER LEAGUE FIND TREVOR RICHARDS HAS HOT HAND WITH MARLINS

             The Frontier League may get pushed to the background at times since other Independent leagues cater more to older, more experienced players, but it is a huge mistake to overlook the oldest Indy circuit--this is Year 26--for its production of major leaguers.

            This is the case right now, barely a week before all 30 major league teams start playing for keeps, as another of the Frontier League's pitchers makes major noise with Miami with a second right-hander not far behind, also with the youthful Marlins.

            It is not easy for new faces to squeeze their way onto 25-man Opening Day rosters, but this pair among the 51 onetime Independent players in major league spring training camps may be exceptions.  Nearly a dozen of the 51 only needed to stay healthy to retain their jobs at baseball's top level while the other three dozen or so really had to impress in spring training to win a position.

            The Frontier League already has Cincinnati pitcher Tanner Roark (Southern Illinois) and St. Louis first baseman-outfielder Jose Martinez (Rockford) well established in the bigs.  Trevor Richards could easily come next with another hurler, Nick Anderson, in the mix.  Like Roark, this pair are especially meaningful to the Independent leagues since they played their very first professional games without benefit of a major league organization behind them.

            The 25-year-old Richards broke into the majors last season, only two summers after being signed out of the Frontier League (Gateway), and started 25 times for the youthful Marlins (4-9, 4.42).  He has really stepped it up in the past month.

            As veteran MLB.com writer Joe Frisaro put it:  He (Richards) "has been lined up as the fifth starter.  But the way he's thrown in spring training he's making a case to move up to No. 2."         

            The masterpiece on his Florida log came last Sunday when he threw six no-hit innings against the Cardinals, bringing his spring earned run average to 1.86 with 20 strikeouts while limiting batters to eight hits and four walks in 19.1 innings.  The batting average against him is a measly .125.

            "It's been happening (for Richards) all spring," manager Don Mattingly told MLB.com.  "We've seen adding the (new) pitches and what it can do for him.  It's trending in the right direction."

            Richards said "we'll go mainly fastball, curveball, changeup, and we're toying with a fourth one, but we'll see how that one comes along."  The change has been his bread and butter, with a .165 average against it last season.

            Anderson learned the pitching ropes in the Frontier League between 2012 when he came out of North Dakota's Mayville State and 2015, toiling first for Rockford, then for the travel team, the Greys, and climbed the minor league ladder with Minnesota, including 88 strikeouts in only 60 Triple-A innings last season (8-2, 3.30).  He moved into the major league picture when he joined Miami and the Marlins added him to their 40-man roster, a feat achieved by zero other Independent players not already at that level during the offseason.

            He has done just fine in spring training, striking out nine without walking anyone in 6.1 innings while posting a 4.26 ERA.

            The Marlins have still two more onetime Independent hurlers in camp and doing well although it may not be good enough to make the Opening Day roster.  They are southpaws Mike Kickham (Kansas City, American Association) and Brian Moran (Bridgeport, Atlantic League).  Kickham has a 1.50 ERA after six appearances (6.0 innings) and Moran is at 2.45 after five outings, allowing only one hit in collecting eight outs.

Some Other Hopefuls


            Other former Independent players making solid bids for major league jobs include relievers Marcus Walden of Boston and Eric Yardley of San Diego and infielders Emilio Bonifacio of Tampa Bay and Ildemaro Vargas of Arizona.  Yardley spent time with Trinidad and Taos of the youth-oriented Pecos League while the others were in the Atlantic League.  Walden was at Lancaster, Vargas at Bridgeport and Bonifacio at Long Island, the latter just last season.


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Friday, February 15, 2019

INDEPENDENT LEAGUES CONTRIBUTE 49 PLAYERS TO MAJOR LEAGUE CAMPS

          The contributions of Independent leagues to major league organizations is never more evident than the annual compilation by IndyBaseballChatter.com of the players who have had experience in these leagues and are in major league spring training camps

That total is 49 as of today although it still could grow.

Twenty-three of the players are on 40-man major league rosters while the other 26 are non-roster invitees.  Both totals are down slightly from one year ago when 26 players were on rosters and 32 players received special invitations.

Pitchers continue to dominate, with 39 hurlers in the 30 camps compared to 10 position players.

Nine players received their initial professional experience in an Indy league although many of the others would not be wearing major league uniforms without the experience gained outside of the 30 big-league organizations, often taking advantage of a second-chance opportunity after being drafted but failing to advance with their original team.  Approximately another 165 former Independent players are currently in major league farm systems.

Those in major league camps with their current organization followed by their stop(s) in Independent leagues:  

          Pitchers (39)--NR-Tyler Alexander, Oakland (Fargo-Moorhead, American Association, and Sussex, Can-Am League); *Nick Anderson, Miami (Frontier Greys and Rockford, Frontier League); NR*Ryan Atkinson, Arizona (Evansville, Frontier); NR-Jeremy Bleich, Philadelphia (Somerset, Atlantic League); NR-Ryan Bollinger, San Diego (Windy City, Frontier; Trois-Rivieres, Can-Am; St. Paul and Winnipeg, American Association); NR-Buddy Boshers, Cincinnati (Somerset); John Brebbia, St. Louis (Sioux Falls and Laredo, American Association); NR-Hunter Cervenka, St. Louis (Sugar Land, Atlantic); NR-Tim Dillard, Texas (Lancaster, Atlantic); Jon Edwards, Cleveland (Alpine, Pecos League, and San Angelo, North American League); Wilmer Font, Tampa Bay (Ottawa, Can-Am); Luis Garcia, Los Angeles-AL (Newark, Can-Am); Junior Guerra, Milwaukee (Wichita, American Association); NR-Ariel Hernandez, Texas (Frontier Greys); NR-Tyler Higgins, San Diego (New Britain, Atlantic); Rich Hill, Los Angeles-NL (Long Island, Atlantic); NR*James Hoyt, Cleveland (Wichita; Edinburg and Yuma, North American League); D. J. Johnson, Colorado (Traverse City, Frontier); NR-Mike Kickham, Miami (Kansas City, American Association); Brandon Kintzler, Chicago-NL (St. Paul and Winnipeg, then Northern League); *Chris Martin, Texas (Grand Prairie, American Association); NR-Brian Moran, Miami (Bridgeport, Atlantic); NR-Vidal Nuno, Washington (Washington, Frontier);  NR-Edward Paredes, Philadelphia (York, Atlantic); *James Paxton, New York-AL (Grand Prairie); NR-Alex Powers, Cincinnati (New Jersey, Can-Am); *Trevor Richards, Miami (Gateway, Frontier); *Tanner Roark, Cincinnati (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Chaz Roe, Tampa Bay (Laredo); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, American Association); NR-Bo Schultz, Baltimore (Grand Prairie); Robby Scott, Arizona (Yuma, North American); NR-Tayler Scott, Seattle (Sioux City, American Association); NR*Chris Smith, Detroit (Lake Erie, Traverse City and Washington, Frontier; White Sands, Pecos League); NR-Josh Smoker, Los Angeles-NL (Rockford); Robert Stock, San Diego (New Jersey); Marcus Walden, Boston (Lancaster); *Aaron Wilkerson, Milwaukee (Grand Prairie; Florence, Frontier; and Fort Worth, United League); NR-Eric Yardley, San Diego (Trinidad and Taos, Pecos).

            Catchers (3)--Rafael Lopez, Atlanta (Bridgeport); NR-Rene Rivera, San Francisco (Camden, Atlantic); NR-Josh Thole, Los Angeles-NL (New Britain).

            Infielders (5)--NR-Emilio Bonifacio, Tampa Bay (Long Island); NR-Ryan Court, Chicago-NL (Sioux City); NR-Peter Mooney, Colorado (New Jersey); NR-Brandon Snyder, Washington (Southern Maryland, Atlantic); Ildemaro Vargas, Arizona (Bridgeport).

            Outfielders (2)--Jose Martinez, St. Louis (Rockford); David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association; Rio Grande Valley, North American).

            *First professional game was in an Independent league.

            NR-Non-roster invitee.

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