Wednesday, August 01, 2018

ONLY 35 DAYS FROM ATLANTIC LEAGUE TO MAJORS

How is this for a rapid climb from and Independent League to the majors?

Brandon Cumpton had not been in the major leagues since 2014 (Pittsburgh), but after spending two months with Southern Maryland of the Atlantic League (4-3, 4.11 in 11 starts) his contract was purchased by Toronto (his last day with the Blue Crabs is listed as June 28).  Thirty five days later (July 31) he was summoned from the Blue Jays' bullpen in an eventual 6-2 loss at Oakland.

The right-hander came on for the fifth and (most of) the sixth inning, and he allowed a run and three hits in 1.2 frames, striking out two and walking the same number.  Half of Cumpton's 46 pitches were strikes.

He had gone 2-1 with an unimpressive 5.63 ERA in six appearances with Triple-A Buffalo after his time in the Atlantic League when Toronto added him to its major league roster.

Cumpton had been in the Pirate organization from 2010 to 2014, including 23 appearances (15 starts) for the parent club in the last two of those seasons with a 5-5 record and a 4.05 ERA.  He did not pitch the next two seasons before returning to Pittsburgh's minor league system last year.

In earlier years, a few veterans such as Jose Lima went directly from the Atlantic League to the majors, but such rapid advancements are rare these days, especially for someone without a distinguished major league resume.

Good for Cumpton and for the Independent game.


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Monday, July 30, 2018

MAJORS OBTAIN AT LEAST 51 FROM INDEPENDENT RANKS SO FAR THIS SEASON

While the focus in baseball right now is tomorrow's (July 31) trade deadline, our attention, as always, is on major league teams finding interest in players in the Independent leagues.

IndyBaseballChatter has tracked 51 players who have been obtained by major league organizations since the end of spring training.  (This total is from the four primary, long-standing leagues, with a few more joining farm systems out of the newer Independent leagues.)

We also can report that six players who have been in one or more Indy league have gotten the thrill of making their major league debut this season.  Trevor Richards (Miami) and Robert Stock (San Diego) still are there while Jeremy Bleich (Oakland), Ryan Bollinger (Yankees), Brandon Mann (Texas) and Marcus Walden (Boston) have returned to the minors.  Bollinger was active, but did not appear in any games.

Thirty-three Indy vets in all have been active on major league rosters this season with 21 still at that level (although several are on the disabled list).  The record for one year was last season's 45, which still could be challenged before the season ends.

When Bleich, who had pitched for the Somerset Patriots in the Atlantic League, was called up by the Athletics recently, he became the 245th player from the Independent ranks to be active for a major league team since the non-affiliated brand of baseball started in 1993.  That is very impressive, especially since many in the majors virtually dismissed the concept when the first leagues started playing.  (The complete list is available for fans to obtain, as stated elsewhere on this blog.)


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Monday, July 02, 2018

TWO MORE INDY HURLERS NOW IN MAJORS

Pitchers who have paid their dues in Independent leagues are continuing to get new opportunities in the major leagues.

The two most recent examples are Milwaukee's Aaron Wilkerson, who started his professional journey in the now defunct United League, and reliever Robert Stock of San Diego, who came out of the Can-Am League (New Jersey Jackals) only two years ago.

They join 17 others who currently are drawing major league paychecks, although two are on the disabled list.

Wilkerson will be monitored closely in that the Brewers are driving toward a possible postseason berth, and the 29-year-old could work into starting roles.  He debuted in the major late last season (three appearances; two starts) and went to spring training to compete for a rotation job only to injure his non-throwing (left) shoulder on a swing just before the regular season.

He has been back on the mound since mid-May, posting a nice 2.08 earned run average in eight appearances (seven starts) for Triple-A Colorado Springs.  He had a rocky first appearance of '18 for Milwaukee, allowing Cincinnati three runs and five hits in three innings Sunday. 

Wilkerson broke into the professional ranks with Fort Worth (United League), Florence, KY of the Frontier League and Grand Prairie, TX of the American Association in 2013, then returned to Grand Prairie early the next season before Boston bought his contract.

Stock, 28, had a full season with New Jersey two years ago, posting a 2.85 ERA (1-2, five saves) in 52 appearances.  He has relieved four times in a week in his first trip to the majors, striking out five in three innings with a 3.00 ERA for the Padres.




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Monday, June 18, 2018

FONT MAKES A BIG STEP FOR TAMPA BAY BY TOPPLING THE YANKEES

So many baseball people like Wilmer Font's potential.  That is why he has been able to stay in the major leagues this year even though he was anything but sharp during stints with the Dodgers and Oakland.

The potential probably never looked better than Sunday when the 28-year-old, who had a season and a half at Ottawa in the Can-Am League (16-6) before getting his second affiliated opportunity, made one of those Tampa Bay bullpen-day starts, handcuffing the potent New York Yankees on one a run in 4.2 innings.  The Rays won the Yankee Stadium tussle, 3-1, with the win going to another former Independent Baseball hurler, Chaz Roe.

"Today, he (Font) gave us a huge boost with a chance to win," manager Kevin Cash told MLB.com.  "He went a little deeper than what we anticipated.  But he was efficient and threw strikes."

Font said he "wanted to (finish) the fifth, but we got a team win.  That's all that matters."  The right-hander, who had a grand total of five major league innings (Texas, '12-'13) prior to joining the Dodgers late last season after winning Pitcher of the Year honors in the Pacific Coast League, has been a starter almost exclusively since joining Ottawa.  The Venezuelan believes he can be a part of the Rays' rotation.  "I feel pretty good starting," he told MLB.com.  "I can throw more pitches the next start."

Yankees manager Aaron Boone also praised the hurler, who has only been with Tampa Bay since May 26, working four times out of the bullpen and starting in his last three appearances.  "Font was good," Boone said.  "He fastball was a wide range--low 90s to even upper 90s.  A lot of teams have been interested in him because the ability is there.  He flipped in the curve enough to keep us off balance.  He was under control for most of the game, and we couldn't break through on him."

Font now has a 2.20 earned run average in 16.1 innings for his new team, allowing 11 hits although his walks (eight) remain fairly high.  To show how far he has come since his difficult days with the Dodgers and Athletics, the 6-foot-4 hurler still has a 7.56 ERA (0-3 record) in his 33.1 innings this season.

"It was definitely a good win for us," said Roe, who pitched in the American Association (Laredo) and has worked his way into regular relief duty in the majors, pitching for Arizona, the Yankees, Baltimore, Atlanta and the Rays.  He is 31.

The Independent leagues have contributed 21 players currently on major league rosters or disabled lists with the Rays and Washington both owning three of them.  Frontier League grad Vidal Nuno (Washington, PA) also is with Tampa Bay while the Nationals have ace Max Scherzer (Fort Worth, American Association), starter Tanner Roark, who made his pro debut at Southern Illinois in the Frontier League, and reliever Brandon Kintzler, who pitched for St. Paul in the American Association and Winnipeg before the Goldeyes transferred to that league from the Northern League.



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Monday, April 02, 2018

INDEPENDENT PLAYERS IN MAJOR LEAGUE UNIFORMS HIT CENTURY MARK

How lofty does it sound when you hear 103 players who have been in one or more Independent leagues wore a major league uniform during spring training?

It happened.

Fifty-eight were either on 40-man rosters or had non-roster invitations to one of the 30 camps in Arizona and Florida.  At least another 45 were brought over from minor league camps to suit up with the big guys for one or more games.  We may have missed a few more, but can identify the 103.

Sixteen of the 58 full-time trainees were on Opening Day rosters, although that number is down from 20 of one year ago.

The only totally new player among the 16 is Boston reliever Marcus Walden, who was with the Lancaster Barnstormers in the Atlantic League virtually all of 2015, posting a 2-4 record, 15 saves and a 2.95 earned run average in 48 appearances.  The right-hander spent last season as a combo starter-reliever for Triple-A Pawtucket (10-6, 3.92) in the Red Sox system, then had a terrific spring training as a non-roster pitcher.

Catcher Raffy Lopez (Bridgeport, Atlantic League), who spent part of last season at Toronto, also went from non-roster status to San Diego's Opening Day roster although he went back to Triple-A during the first weekend without getting into a game for the Padres.

The American Association is the most decorated of the Independent leagues with six major leaguers plus Houston reliever James Hoyt, who started the season the disabled list.

The Independent players who were on 25-man rosters when the season kicked off March 29 with their current major league and their Independent affiliations:

Pitchers (12):  Wilmer Font, Los Angeles-NL (Ottawa, Can-Am League), Luis Garcia, Philadelphia (Newark, Can-Am), Rich Hill, Los Angeles-NL (Long Island, Atlantic League), Brandon Kintzler, Washington (St. Paul, American Association and Winnipeg, Northern League), Chris Martin, Texas (Grand Prairie, Association), James Paxton, Seattle (Grand Prairie), Tanner Roark, Washington (Southern Illinois, Frontier League), Chaz Roe, Tampa Bay (Laredo, Association), Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, Association), Josh Smoker, Pittsburgh (Rockford, Frontier), Marcus Walden, Boston (Lancaster, Atlantic) and Brad Ziegler, Miami (Schaumburg, Frontier).

Position Players (4):  C Raffy Lopez, San Diego (Bridgeport, Atlantic), 1B-OF Jose Martinez, St. Louis (Rockford), OF David Peralta, Arizona (Wichita and Amarillo, Association, and Rio Grande Valley, North American League) and C Rene Rivera, Los Angeles-AL (Camden, Atlantic).

Hoyt pitched for Wichita plus the North American cities of Edinburg and Yuma.



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