A few leftover nuggets from spring training...
When the dust settled and the 25-man Opening Day rosters were set for the 30 major league clubs, 14 players who once called Independent Baseball home, not including Arizona hurler Max Scherzer (Fort Worth, TX, American Association), could be found. Scherzer will be in the Diamondbacks' rotation but technically is on the disabled list until his turn comes up in a few days.
Two of the 32 non-roster players made it (which probably is about an average year) with Kevin Millar (St. Paul, MN) taking his bat and his clubhouse hi-jinks to Toronto and another player who started in the Indy ranks, right-hander Chris Jakaubauskas, in the Seattle bullpen.
Jakaubauskas not only surprised the Mariners with his consistency in order to make the team, the 30-year-old onetime University of Oklahoma position player seems to have a specific role with the M's. With the bullpen lacking any left-handers, Jakubauskas is considered the first option to face southpaw hitters. "We feel comfortable with him in that role," Manager Don Wakamatsu told MLB.com.
Jakubauskas, who finished spring training with a sparkling 1.99 earned run average, started his Independent climb with the Florence (KY) Freedom in 2003. After three seasons in the Frontier League, he became Pitcher of the Year in the Golden League (Fullerton, CA, now called Orange County) in 2006 and was off to a 6-0 start with Lincoln, NE of the American Association in '07 when his contract was purchased by Seattle.
We will be breaking down the Opening Day Independent Class of 2009 in detail in this week's Independent Baseball Insider column.
BEST BETS TO REACH MAJORS SOON
It is tricky, to say the least, but based on spring training (and perhaps a dose of intuition), this typist believes the players listed below (alphabetically) rank as solid candidates to reach the majors before long:
Eliezer Alfonzo, C, San Diego (St. Paul)
Justin Christian, OF, Baltimore (River City, Frontier League)
Nelson Figueroa, RHP, New York Mets (Long Island, NY, Atlantic League)
Lindsay Gulin, LHP, Milwaukee (St. Paul and Lincoln)
Luke Hochevar, RHP, Kansas City (Fort Worth)
A tip on Christian is that the Orioles brought the fleet 29-year-old back and gave him two complete games last weekend after sending him to the minors earlier. The sentimental favorite has to be Gulin, who has not yet tasted regular season baseball in the majors.
KEEP AN EYE ON BRENT KRAUSE
St. Paul publicist Sean Aronson pointed out a player we had overlooked as we scouted box scores for former Indy players who got an occasional day in a major league camp. Outfielder Brent Krause, a Minnesota native who hit .317 in 93 games for the Saints this past summer, got two at-bats with Milwaukee. That is one huge step from the American Association in this span.
Krause is another player who started in the Independent ranks, going from Schaumburg, IL and Sioux City, IA of the Northern League in 2004 (Sioux City now plays in the American Association) to Fargo, ND (Northern) the next two seasons and St. Paul most of the last two years. Baltimore gave him a brief look in its system the last part of 2007.