While Boston's apparent signing of Carl Crawford seemed certain to steal the spotlight on the last day of the Winter Meetings in Orlando, Thursday also was a banner day for Independent Baseball.
No fewer than five former Indy players, including three who signed during or after the season, were taken by new organizations during the Rule 5 free agent draft. All five went as part of the Triple-A phase of the draft which means the new organization had to pay $12,500 for each contract. The quintet will be on Triple-A rosters for now although they can play at any level in the organization in 2011.
The Northern League, whittled down to part of the new North American League in the future, came out looking extremely good because four of the players have played there, starting with Triple Crown threat Jacob Blackwood, an infielder, and catcher Travis Scott, both part of the NL this season.
The American Association can claim partial credit for three of the five draftees starting with southpaw Justin Dowdy, who was taken by San Francisco. Dowdy saved 17 games and posted an exceptional 1.08 earned run average with Wichita, KS and pitched in the All-Star Game before having his contract purchassed by Tampa Bay. He fanned 40 batteres in 25 innings. Dowdy, a 10-year pro vet at the age of 27, had one save and a 2.04 ERA in 11 games in Class AA.
Blackwood was drafted by San Diego, Scott by Pittsburgh. The other players with new homes are pitchers, right-hander Matt Sartor with San Francisco and righty Daniel Sattler with the Los Angeles Angels.
Blackwood and Sattler both had ties to the Kansas City (KS) T-Bones, one of the clubs moving from the Northern League to the American Association, while Scott was with Rockford, IL, which was in the Northern League and seems ticketed for the Northern Division of the NAL, which is being formed by the remaining teams in the Northern, United and Golden Leagues.
Sartor played for Lewisville, TX of the Continental League, which stopped play after the '10 season. Dowdy also has had time with Shreveport, LA in the American Association, Alexandria, LA when it was in the United League, Calgary, Canada of the Northern League and Rockford, when the RiverHawks played in the Frontier League.
Blackwood, drafted as a third baseman (he also plays second), led the Northern League with 31 home runs and 86 RBI and his .331 average ranked third. He struck out only 46 times in 426 times at bat. Scott, who bats left-handed, hit .300 in 65 games for Rockford with five homers and 29 driven in.