If there is one time of year when baseball is a little quiet it is now. The Yankees probably still are figuring out ways to spend more millions on free agents, but many of the sport's major and minor league front offices are virtually dark. It gives everyone who has worked long hours putting teams together or selling tickets or planning fun-filled promotions a few days to get re-energized before starting to go full speed once more, certainly by January 5.
It also is somewhat quiet in my little corner of the world with another Independent Baseball Insider column not due for subscribers until January 8.
But I know fans, especially those lucky enough to have a few days off, would like some hard news as well as rumors from the Independent Baseball world as they enjoy a tasty turkey or ham sandwich. You now what, it isn't difficult finding a few nuggets to discuss, either.
What about 2008's co-home run champ, Josh Pressley, getting a fresh affiliated opportunity with the Washington Nationals. Since they did not get Mark Teixeira, maybe the left-handed-hitting Pressley will get a look at first base one day. At 29 for '09, the 6-foot-6 Pressley easily surpassed his previous home run best with 30 dingers for the Somerset (NJ) Patriots (Atlantic League) last summer while hitting an imposing .354, scoring 95 times and driving in 101 runs. Pressley and teammate Brandon Larson (3B) led Independent Baseball with 30 homers apiece.
Last season was a marked jump for Pressley, who homered only 13 times and drove in 56 in 102 games for the '07 Patriots. He did play 31 more games and have 160 more at-bats last season. Pressley has lots of Double-A experience, but only 42 at Triple-A so some time with Washington's top farm club may be in order before getting a chance to go up.
ALFONZO'S FRESH START
Eliezer Alfonzo, who was the top catcher for St. Paul, MN in 2003, is getting a new opportunity in the majors after a dismal 2008 when Major League Baseball penalized him for 50 games and the San Francisco Giants kept him in Triple-A most of the season. He signed with San Diego recently, and Corey Brock of MLB.com believes he "could prove to be the backup catcher behind Nick Hundley". It would not be shocking in this corner to see the soon-to-be 30-year-old Alfonzo get a heavy load if his power comes back. Hundley was a rookie in '08 with only 198 at-bats. Alfonzo had 17 doubles and 12 homers in 286 at-bats for the Giants in 2006. Alfonzo is a non-roster invitee to the Padres' major league spring training camp.
ANOTHER SOMERSET SIGNING
Cincinnati has invited longtime major leaguer Aaron Fultz to vie for a spot on its pitching staff after he spent most of last summer in the Atlantic League, posting a 5-5 record and 4.00 ERA as a starter and reliever for the Patriots. The southpaw, 35, was a solid 4-3, 2.92 in 49 games during 2007 in the Cleveland bullpen, and is 25-15 with three saves in 463 major league games with five different teams. It is not inconceivable Somerset could have a strong presence in the majors in 2009, if Fultz, righty Brandon Knight and catcher Robinson Cancel win jobs with the Mets and Mark DiFelice sticks with Milwaukee.
BROWNLIE AND CHRIS WALKER GET INVITES
Two more Atlantic League grads getting major league spring training invitations are righthander Bobby Brownlie (Newark, NJ) with Washington and outfielder Chris Walker (Camden, NJ) with the World Champion Phillies.
LET'S MAKE A DEAL
Anyone in Independent Baseball looking to make a trade might want to talk to Chico, CA General Manager Curt Jacey or new field boss Greg Cadaret. It appears the Outlaws may be doubly interested in acquiring Northern California products. Chico and Golden League rival Yuma, AZ pulled off a seven-man swap right before Christmas with all four of the new Outlaws coming from their part of California.