Please overlook any cheering in the offices of the Kansas City (KS) T-Bones (Northern League) and the Southern Illinois (Marion) Miners (Frontier League) today. They are allowed.
Both Independent Baseball teams had one of their graduates promoted to the prized 40-man rosters of major league teams, which means they are recognized as bonafide prospects and will be in spring training with the big boys in Arizona come February.
Travis Schlichting is a 25-year-old righthander with the Los Angeles Dodgers and Clay Zavada is a 24-year-old lefty with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Schlichting, listed at 6-foot-4 and only 190 pounds, was Tampa Bay's fourth round draft choice in 2003, and played third base in the minors for nearly four years with modest success. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim gave him a five-game look on the mound in the rookie Arizona League in 2006, and he became a nearly fulltime pitcher with the T-Bones a year later.
The Dodgers thought enough of his arm after 51 Northern League innings in 2007, despite 72 hits, 29 walks and 11 wild pitches, that he was on their Double-A Jacksonville, FL farm club by late May of '08. The hits went down to one an inning and the walks also slowed (18 in 59.2 innings) that with a 6-4 relief record and 3.77 ERA over 33 appearances were sufficient they knew the Round Rock, TX resident should be protected on the major league roster.
Zavada has even less professional experience, going 2-3 with a pair of saves and a 3.10 earned run average in the Pioneer League in 2006 in the D-Backs system, then coming back from a year off the diamond for personal reasons to limit hitters to a .137 batting average in the Frontier League in a month this summer. The 6-foot-1 resident of Streator, IL struck out 22 in 15.2 innings, and impressively walked only four in his dozen appearances out of the bullpen. Zavada posted a 2-1 record with four saves and a 1.72 ERA for Southern Illinois.
He was even more dazzling when Arizona purchased his contract and sent him to South Bend, IN of the Class A Midwest League. Zavada allowed a mere six hits in 35.1 innings while striking out 54 and walking only five. The .056 opponent batting average and 0.51 ERA combined with a 3-1 record and eight saves plus a perfect earned run average over the last 21 of his 24 appearances must have made it an easy decision to promote him.
WHICH CITIES WILL COME NEXT
We could not help but think as we finished Thursday's lengthy subscriber-only Independent Baseball Insider column in which we outlined the 2009 Independent Baseball map about some of the cities which have been mentioned in various quarters where Indy teams may one day play. It is not a short list.
Which--if any--of these cities will come next? Lee's Summit, MO, Ypsilante, MI, Topeka, KS, Burnsville, MN, Champaign-Urbana or Normal, IL and Brighton or Commerce City, CO all are among areas that pop up from time to time.
Our I.B.I. projection was for a minimum of 57 teams in '09 with the count potentially swelling as high as 66 if the United League returns and the Golden and Continental Leagues complete potential expansion.
We slipped up on one point, saying Avon, OH was replacing the Midwest Sliders in the Frontier League. The Sliders will continue until they become the Oakland County (MI) Cruisers in 2010. Avon, of course, replaces Chillicothe, OH, a charter member of the FL.