Friday, August 22, 2014


The end of the regular Mexican League season a few days ago reminds me we will almost certainly see the return of a number of players to the Atlantic League and perhaps other Independent leagues in the days ahead, often bolstering rosters for the postseason.

For example, it would not be surprising to see the top two hitters among the returnees. Batting champion Sandy Madera (.403) and runner-up Chris Roberson (.384) have played Independent Baseball in the past with Madera with the New Jersey Jackals (Can-Am League) on multiple occasions as well as with Newark, NJ, which no longer has a team in either the Atlantic League or the Can-Am. Roberson was at Winnipeg (American Association) as recently as two years ago.


We have written in this space and our weekly Independent Baseball Insider column on various occasions how the Arizona Diamondbacks have been the most active of any major league organization in signing Independent players the last couple of years, largely because onetime Can-Am League and American Association Manager Chris Carminucci is that team’s coordinator of Independent league scouting. J. P. Morosi of did a lengthy piece on the subject just this week. Excerpts follow:

“The lucky ones (scouts) have assignments that fall within a given geographic region. Chris Carminucci, the Arizona Diamondbacks’™ coordinator of independent league scouting, is not one of them. And his willingness to go anywhere, in the name of finding talent, is why the fourth-place Diamondbacks can claim one of the best stories in baseball this season: David Peralta, the effervescent 27-year-old rookie outfielder from Venezuela.

“€œI can’€™t keep track of him (Carminucci),”€ said Mike Bell, the Diamondbacks’€™ director of player development. “œI don’€™t know if I’€™ve ever called him when he’€™s not in a car driving through Canada, or in Lincoln, Nebraska, or somewhere in the Northeast. Then he gets on a plane and shoots down to Texas.

“This guy must have coffee running through his veins. And I’€™ve never talked with him when he’s not having a good day.”

“A slight amendment: Carminucci is having a good year. This season, the Diamondbacks have called up three players Carminucci signed out of independent leagues: infielder Andy Marte, right-hander Bo Schultz, and Peralta. For three indy ball alums to play on the same team is rare. To have one on the fringe of the National League Rookie of the Year discussion . . . well . . . it would be difficult to imagine this sort of baseball tale even while daydreaming in the grandstand at Yogi Berra Stadium –€” which, by the way, is home to an independent club in Upper Montclair, N.J.

“Peralta, who made his major-league debut June 1, is now the Diamondbacks’€™ everyday right fielder and No. 3 hitter, with All-Star first baseman Paul Goldschmidt lost for the season. Peralta’€™s .793 OPS ranks among the top 30 major-league outfielders who have at least 250 plate appearances this year. His star rose even higher this month, with a bold steal of home on a lazy throw back to the pitcher by Colorado catcher Michael McKenry. He’€™s drawn favorable comparisons to Rays outfielder David DeJesus, the smooth, steady, 12-year big leaguer.

“And to think: Peralta’€™s pro baseball career began as a pitcher in the St. Louis Cardinals’ system. He was released in 2009 after two shoulder surgeries, having never made it out of rookie ball. But Peralta went home to Venezuela, transformed himself into a position player and returned to the U.S. in 2011 as an outfielder with the Rio Grande Valley WhiteWings of the North American League . . . which no longer exists.

“Once Peralta moved in 2012 to the Wichita Wingnuts of the (higher-profile and still-breathing) American Association, he was on Carminucci’s radar

“€œEvery independent league player brings something to the clubhouse: They’ve failed,”€ said Carminucci, a former independent league player, manager and general manager. “€œIn this game, you have to learn how to fail and get back up and fight. David in particular has done that, but that’s true of these other guys, too. And from the moment he walked into that clubhouse last year, everyone had instant respect for him, because he came all the way back.

“There’€™s a saying in Independent ball: ‘You don’€™t like where you are? Play better and get out.’

“The stellar half-season at Visalia wasn’€™t enough for Peralta to get an invitation to the Diamondbacks’€™ major-league spring camp. He made an impression on general manager Kevin Towers, anyway. Added to the roster for a spring game because the Diamondbacks needed an extra outfielder, Peralta grounded a single up the middle and hustled to second on a momentary bobble by the center fielder.

“KT was sitting ahead of me,”€ Bell recalled. “€œHe turned around and asked, ‘€˜Does he always run that good?’€™ I just said, ‘€˜I can tell you, he always runs that hard.’

“€œThere are certain players who have a look about them. That day, a light bulb went off in Kevin’€™s head, like, ‘€˜This guy’€™s a big leaguer.’€™ Kevin started talking about him [as a call-up candidate] real early in the season. It’€™s funny: That one play in spring training stood out in our GM’s eyes, and it stuck with him all year.”

“The irony, of course, is that Carminucci has had little time to admire the ascent of his star signee. He’€™s too busy trying to find the next David Peralta, while several more of his former independent leaguers are progressing through the Diamondbacks’€™ system. Nick Sarianides, a 24-year-old reliever, has been dominant at low Class A South Bend; Carminucci found him pitching for a Can-Am League team in Trois-Rivieres, Quebec.

“Carminucci said he’€™s grateful that Towers, Bell and chief Diamondbacks scout Bill Bryk value his expertise in what many baseball executives view as a niche market. In contrast to massive amateur scouting departments that cost upwards of $4 million per year –€” before signing bonuses –€” only a handful of major-league organizations employ a full-time independent league scout like Carminucci.

“Perhaps more of them should.”


I made a bobble in yesterday’s Insider when I said new Texas Rangers reliever Jon Edwards had spent time in the American Association (St. Paul, MN). I had read that on a website, but did not double check. Edwards only worked in the Pecos and North American Leagues before Texas signed him.

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