Tuesday, August 04, 2020

INDY GRADS BENEFIT FROM MARLINS' VIRUS ISSUES


While the COVID-19 surge that shut down the Miami Marlins for more than a week was a devastating blow for Don Mattingly's young team it has proven to be a fortunate break for two former Independent Baseball pitchers and could help still others.

Hard-throwing James Hoyt and southpaw Brian Moran have new baseball lives with the Marlins organization that may well not have happened without the pandemic which stopped nearly 20 Miami players in their tracks.
In these fluid times in the major leagues hardly a day goes by without transactions that involve those who have been in Indy leagues at some time, with intriguing recent stories involving Caleb Thielbar's first major league opportunity in five years and United League/Pecos League find Yermin Mercedes debut, if only for a day.

Hoyt, who started his professional career in the North American League and American Association back in 2012, did not make Cleveland's Opening Day roster and shortly after was designated for assignment by the Indians.  He seems to have gotten a break in that he was sold to Miami and is on the Marlins' active roster.  Moran, who has pitched in the Atlantic League (Bridgeport), had a similar fate after opening the season with Toronto.  He has not been added to Miami's active roster as yet, but he is on the team's 40-man roster and at the alternate training site and seems likely to get the opportunity.

Thielbar, now 33, has had a long career jumping back and forth between the American Association's St. Paul Saints and the Minnesota Twins, and the left-hander was promoted from the American League team's alternate training site team to the parent club Monday.  He appeared in 109 games for Minnesota during the period 2013-15 (5-3, 2.74), but has been back with the Saints since ('16-'17) as well as spending time in the Detroit and Atlanta farm systems.

The Mercedes story is one of the rare ones in that the catcher started out with three seasons in the Dominican Summer League followed by 2014 in lower level Independent leagues (United and Pecos).  He earned three seasons in the Baltimore farm system and joined the Chicago White Sox chain in '18, but he did not even reach Triple-A until last season.  The White Sox had him on the 40-man roster and with their alternate training team until Sunday when the 5-foot-11, 235-pound hopeful finally got a call to the majors.  Mercedes got one time at bat, then was sent back to the alternate group.  Hopefully, more opportunities will come along.

Some Other Moves

Boston called up Chris Mazza (Southern Maryland, Atlantic League, and San Rafael, Pacific Association) to join its struggling mound corps and another right-hander, Justin Topa (Rockland, Can-Am League), has been promoted to Milwaukee's alternate training team.  Pitcher Wilmer Font (Ottawa, Can-Am) has been activated from the injured list by Toronto while catcher Rene Rivera (Camden, Atlantic) and lefty Rich Hill (Long Island, Atlantic) have gone on 10-day lists of the New York Mets and Minnesota, respectively.

Two players who were in the newly-created Constellation Energy League in Sugar Land, TX, have been obtained by major league organizations. Veteran major league reliever Fernando Rodney has joined Houston's alternate training team and pitcher-outfielder Brett Eibner has done the same with Miami.  Eibner, who has played the outfield for three major league teams, was a two-way player for Texas of the American Association and the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League last season.

Tampa Bay dropped hurler Trevor Richards (Gateway, Frontier League) from its active roster, sending him to the alternate training squad.

Stay tuned.  More moves are inevitable. 

Tuesday, July 28, 2020

MAJOR LEAGUE COUNT CLIMBS TO 24 AND 4 ADDED TO ALTERNATE TRAINING SITE

Only five days into the major league season and the tally of former Independent players on active major league rosters has improved to 24, with four new additions to the Alternate Training Site rosters including one player who started his professional career in an unaffiliated league.

One of the additions to active duty was an oversight in our Opening Day report in that we overlooked veteran utilityman Emilio Bonifacio, who is with the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals.  The 35-year-old Bonifacio, who plays both the infield and outfield, is a longtime major leaguer although he played 70 games with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League two years ago.  The switch-hitter was leading the Atlantic League when his contract was sold to Milwaukee, hitting a robust .348 with 95 hits and 34 runs batted in.

Toronto has added its third pitcher with Indy experience, activating right-hander Wilmer Font (Ottawa, Can-Am League) off the 10-day injured list.

The count of Independent players in the Alternate Training Camps is up to 18 with Boston adding hurler Robert Stock (New Jersey, Can-Am League, and Normal, Frontier League) after he was designated for assignment by Philadelphia.  He is on the Red Sox's 40-man roster.

Oakland added righty Ben Bracewell (River City, Frontier), southpaw Fernando Abad (Long Island) is now in the New York Yankees second tier camp after being released by Washington and veteran free agent outfielder Travis Snider (another former Long Island player) signed with Miami and was invited to the Marlins' camp.  Snider was a non-roster invitee with Arizona during spring training.

Bracewell deserves special credit in that he broke into the professional game with River City in '14, the same season he finished a two-year stint at Mississippi State.  The 29-year-old native of Alabama made four starts (1-0, 7.56) with the Rascals before joining the Oakland farm system where he has been ever since.  At 6-foot, Bracewell spent most of last season at Triple-A Las Vegas, posting a 3.13 ERA (1-3 record, two saves) in the often offensive-minded Pacific Coast League.  All but one of his 41 appearances were in relief and he struck out 70 PCL hitters in 72 innings.  He was a non-roster invitee to the Athletics' major league spring training camp.

Congratulations to the Atlantic League

It was announced today (Tuesday) that Gastonia, NC, which previously had an affiliated minor league team, will become part of the Atlantic League next season when the city opens a new 5,000-seat stadium.  The league already has another North Carolina-based team (High Point). 

Friday, July 24, 2020

2019 AMERICAN ASSOCIATION HURLER AMONG 5 INDY GRADS WHO MAKE JUMP TO MAJORS

The major leagues' so-called Summer Camp turned out to be a bonanza for at least five players with Independent Baseball playing experience, with the American Association's bounce-back lefty Tyler Matzek topping the list.

Matzek, who pitched for the Texas AirHogs for significant time each of the last two years in his quest to overcome wildness and other issues and return to the majors for the first time since the '15 season, backed up his terrific spring training during Summer Camp to earn a spot on the Atlanta Braves' 30-man Opening Day roster.

Matzek was one of five onetime Indy players who began the re-start of training without a spot on the coveted 40-man roster who is on an active major league roster for the official start to the 2020 season.  The others making the grade are pitchers Ross Detwiler with the Chicago White Sox, Brian Moran with Toronto, Pittsburgh's Nik Turley and catcher Rene Rivera with the New York Mets.  All four of the hurlers throws left-handed and the entire group has at least a little major league experience.

Another 17 Indy grads also are on active rosters while right-handers John Brebbia of St. Louis and Wilmer Font of Toronto are on the injured list.  An additional 15 players with non-affiliated experience, including injured hurler Parker Markel of the Los Angeles Angels, remain on the alternate list and could get promoted as needed.

The complete list of 22 players active in the majors with their current affiliation and their Independent teams and leagues follows:

PITCHERS (18):  *Nick Anderson, Tampa Bay (Rockford and Frontier Grays, Frontier League); Ross Detwiler, Chicago-AL (York, Atlantic League); *Randy Dobnak, Minnesota (Utica, United Shore League); *Zac Grotz, Seattle (Bridgeport and York, Atlantic League, and Washington, Frontier); Junior Guerra, Arizona (Wichita, American Association); Rich Hill, Minnesota (Long Island, Atlantic); Brandon Kintzler, Miami (St. Paul, American Association, and Winnipeg, then in Northern League); *Chris Martin, Atlanta (Grand Prairie, American Association); Tyler Matzek, Atlanta (Texas, American Association); Brian Moran, Toronto (Bridgeport); *James Paxton, New York-AL (Grand Prairie); Trevor Richards, Tampa Bay (Gateway, Frontier); *Tanner Roark, Toronto (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Chaz Roe, Tampa Bay (Laredo, American Association); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, American Association); Nik Turley, Pittsburgh (Somerset, Atlantic); Marcus Walden, Boston (Lancaster, Atlantic); Eric Yardley, Milwaukee (Trinidad and Taos, Pecos League).

POSITION PLAYERS (4): 1B-OF Jose Martinez, Tampa Bay (Rockford); OF David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association, and, Rio Grande Valley, North American League); C Rene Rivera, New York-NL (Camden, Atlantic); INF Ildemaro Vargas, Arizona (Bridgeport). 

*First professional game was in an Independent league

ON Deck

Yermin Mercedes did not make the Chicago White Sox Opening Day roster, but the rookie catcher, who matured largely while in the Pecos (Douglas and White Sands) and United Leagues (San Angelo), seems to have the respect of General Manager Rick Hahn, who told MLB.com "the debate (between Zack Collins or Mercedes for the third catcher on the team) was we were probably going to be fine either way, but in the end, we felt Zack's left-handed bat and a little bit more experience and familiarity with the arms in the big leagues gave him the advantage.  If in the end, for whatever reason, we had to get Yermin active on the big league level, we feel real good with where he's at right now.  Certainly, an impressive bat."

Veteran southpaw Caleb Thielbar (St. Paul) seems to have barely missed his first major league opportunity since 2015.  Minnesota lists the 33-year-old as one of two pitchers on their "taxi squad".

Not Such Good News

Philadelphia has designated for assignment righty Robert Stock (New Jersey, Can-Am, and Normal, Frontier).  He entered camp on the Phils' 40-man roster.  Baltimore released southpaw Hunter Cervenka (Sugar Land, Atlantic).  He had been in camp as a non-roster invitee in February.



Wednesday, July 22, 2020

DURABLE RENE RIVERA JOINS 40-MAN; HOW MANY OTHERS WILL FOLLOW?

With the so-called Summer Camp about over, we should know by Friday how many of the 41 players with Independent league experience will be on the expanded 30-man active rosters of major league teams when the season begins.

Durable Rene Rivera appears to have become the first player who did not start Summer Camp on a 40-man roster to earn an Opening Day job.  The well-traveled catcher was awarded a 40-man slot with the New York Mets, somewhat of an early birthday present for Rivera, who turns 37 July 31.

Rivera is in his second stint with the Mets ('16-'17), and has played for eight other major league teams during his professional career which started back in 2001.  He played 22 games for Camden, NJ in the Atlantic League a decade ago (7-19-.280) before returning to a major league organization.  A backup with strong defensive credentials for most of his career, Rivera has a lifetime major league average of .221 with 41 home runs in his 515 appearances.

Lefty Fernando Abad (Long Island, Atlantic League) has not been so fortunate, being released by reigning World Series champion Washington.  Three other pitchers are on the Injured List, St. Louis veteran John Brebbia (Sioux Falls and Laredo, American Association), Toronto's Wilmer Font (Ottawa, Can-Am League) and the Los Angeles Angels' Parker Markel (Sioux City, American Association).

Nunn Loses Job

Southpaw Chris Nunn, who was a spring training non-roster invitee with Atlanta in February, has been released by the Braves.  He had pitched for St. Paul (American Association) and Evansville (Frontier League).  The 29-year-old has topped out at Triple-A so far.

Friday, July 10, 2020

KICKHAM, deSAN MIGUEL GET MLB SHOTS

Kansas City T-Bones (American Association) lefty Mike Kickham and Southern Maryland (Atlantic League) catcher Allan deSanMiguel have been added to Spring Training 2.0 rosters, giving Independent Baseball 40 of its graduates with an opportunity to be on major league rosters when the 2020 season finally opens July 23.

Added in recent days as teams fill gaps in their 60-man training camp rosters and gear up for the 60-game schedule, both Boston's Kickham and deSanMiguel of Kansas City may have benefitted from unfortunate absences of star major leaguers.  The Royals have temporarily lost All-Star backstop Salvador Perez while the Red Sox are currently without 19-game winner and projected opening day starter Edwardo Rodriguez.

Kickham, 31, has not seen any regular-season major league duty since he appeared in 14 games for San Francisco in 2013-14, but he put together a 5-5 record and 4.27 earned run average in Triple-A for Miami last season and was a non-roster invitee to Boston's regular spring training camp earlier this year.  He was a starter for the T-Bones in '16, with a 3-5 record and solid 2.83 ERA.

deSanMiguel, a 5-foot-9 right-handed hitter, has been playing professionally since 2005 but has yet to play in the major leagues.  The Australian native turned 32 in February.

More Releases

Veteran right-hander Chris Smith, who got to the majors after starting his pro career in a non-affiliated league, and lefty Casey Crosby, who was in Triple-A with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, were among several more onetime Independent players handed their releases recently.  Smith, let go by Detroit, pitched in the Frontier League for Lake Erie, Traverse City and Washington and also was at White Sands of the Pecos League.  Crosby's Indy time was spent with Lincoln and Chicago in the American Association and Lancaster in the Atlantic League.  He has returned to Butch Hobson's Chicago Dogs.

Veteran outfielder Blake Gailen was released by the Dodgers.  He played for both Lincoln and Wichita in the American Association, Lancaster, Chico in the Golden League and Anderson in the South Coast League.  Former Lincoln hurler Ricky Knapp also was released by the Dodgers while another righty, Garrett Mundell, was dropped by Milwaukee.  He had pitched at Trois-Rivieres of the Can-Am League.  

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Wow! 38 With Independent Baseball Experience Invited to Train with MLB Teams...So Far

The 17 onetime Independent Baseball players healthy and still in major league spring training camps when the sport shut down in mid-March because of the COVID-19 pandemic seemed certain all along to be part of re-opening rosters.  Add in another five who are on 40-man rosters but had been optioned plus 16 invitees and the non-affiliated leagues have a total of 38 players due to report for the second spring training session starting this week.

This total still could climb a bit since some of the 30 teams are well short of the 60-man roster limit at this point.

IndyBaseballChatter.com has identified the full list of players who will be on the 30-man active rosters or on the so-called "taxi" squad when play begins late in July.  The players with their major league affiliation and their former Independent teams:

Pitchers (30)--#Fernando Abad, Washington (Long Island, Atlantic League); #Tim Adleman, Detroit (Lincoln and El Paso, American Association; New Jersey, Can-Am League; Long Island); *Nick Anderson, Tampa Bay (Frontier Greys and Rockford, Frontier League); #David Carpenter, Cincinnati (Bridgeport, Atlantic); #Ross Detwiler, Chicago-AL (York, Atlantic); *Randy Dobnak, Minnesota (Utica, United Shore League); Wilmer Font, Toronto (Ottawa, Can-Am); #Luis Garcia, Texas (Newark, Can-Am); 4*Zac Grotz, Seattle (Bridgeport and York plus Washington, Frontier);  Junior Guerra, Arizona (Wichita, American Association); Rich Hill, Minnesota (Long Island); *James Hoyt, Cleveland (Wichita plus Yuma and Edinburg, North American League); Brandon Kintzler, Miami (St. Paul, American Association, and Winnipeg, Northern League); #Parker Markel, Los Angeles-AL (Sioux City, American Association); #Tyler Matzek, Atlanta (Texas, American Association); *Chris Martin, Atlanta (Grand Prairie, American Association); 4Chris Mazza, Boston (Southern Maryland, Atlantic, and San Rafael, Pacific Association); #Brian Moran, Toronto (Bridgeport); *James Paxton, New York-AL (Grand Prairie); #Alex Powers, Cincinnati (New Jersey); 4Trevor Richards, Tampa Bay (Gateway, Frontier); *Tanner Roark, Toronto (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Chaz Roe, Tampa Bay (Laredo, American Association); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, American Association); #D. J. Snelten, Tampa Bay (Chicago, American Association); Robert Stock, Philadelphia (New Jersey plus Normal, Frontier); #Caleb Thielbar, Minnesota (St. Paul); #Nik Turley, Pittsburgh (Somerset, Atlantic); Marcus Walden, Boston (Lancaster, Atlantic); 4Eric Yardley, Milwaukee (Trinidad and Taos, Pecos League).

Catchers (3)--4Mercedes Yermin, Chicago-AL (Douglas and White Sands, Pecos, and San Angelo (United League); #Rene Rivera, New York-NL (Camden, Atlantic); #Josh Thole, New York-AL (New Britain, Atlantic).

Infielders (4)--Jose Martinez (also OF), Tampa Bay (Rockford); #John Nogowski, St. Louis (Sioux City);  #Brandon Snyder, Washington (Southern Maryland); Ildemaro Vargas, Arizona (Bridgeport).

Outfielder (1)--David Peralta, Arizona (Wichita and Amarillo, American Association, and Rio Grande Valley, North American).

*First professional game was in an Independent league
4Is on 40-man major league roster but had been optioned to minor leagues
#Invited to training camp

Veteran St. Louis reliever John Brebbia (Sioux Falls and Laredo, American Association) will not be playing because he is on the 60-day injured list.

Tuesday, June 16, 2020

INDEPENDENT LEAGUES STEP UP TO GIVE US SOME BASEBALL

The continued inability of the major league owners and players to reach an agreement despite so much revenue coming into the game every year could not be much more aggravating because it seems certain to severely wound baseball within the total sports world.  Continued in-fighting deprives fans of the benefits they derive from watching games either live or on television in these troubling times when everyone needs an outlet from the coronavirus, police brutality and the economic woes.

LISTEN UP.  Independent Baseball is stepping up to give the sport some game action, even though it may never reach nationwide TV screens or newspapers.

Let us all give a great big round of applause to the American Association and the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League.

Within the last week, Sugar Land has announced plans for a four-team league and six American Association teams (half of the regular league) have agreed to play.  The window will be short, starting in early July and running into September, but the players who take part will be able to shake off the rust of idleness and fans will be able to get a dose of what is expected every season even if most of it will come from websites or localized media coverage unless they happen to live in the vicinity of four specific stadiums.

Here are some details:

The American Association will play a 60-game schedule from three of its ballparks with two teams based at each site (unless states open up more opportunities).  The "regular" season will run from July 3-September 10 with playoffs to follow.  The hosts will be Sioux Falls, SD, Fargo, ND and Milwaukee, WI, with St. Paul also playing out of Sioux Falls, Winnipeg out of Fargo and the Chicago Dogs out of Milwaukee.

At Sugar Land, a Houston suburb, four teams made up what is described as "an assortment of professional players", including some with major league experience, will play 28 games apiece from July 3-August 23.

Former major league pitching star Roger Clemens and his son Koby will run one of the teams with former slugging star Pate Incaviglia another.  Incaviglia is the Skeeters' regular field boss.

Open tryouts for the Sugar Land event will take place at 10 a.m. on Wednesday, June 24, at Constellation Field.  A registration form and waiver can be found at sugarlandskeeters.com/tryouts with a $100 fee.  The deadline is June 23 with no walk-up registrations the day of the event. 

Certain numbers of fans will be in attendance at all four locations although capacity will depend largely on what is allowed in a given state.

So place a great big star on your calendar for July 3 when Independent Baseball, which allows opportunity but limited salaries, opens its doors even though major leaguers almost certainly will not be playing.  The MLB variety of baseball still may be arguing how to split up their much larger pie.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

A FEW FORMER INDY PLAYERS MAY BENEFIT IF MLB ROSTERS EXPAND; MINOR LEAGUE CUTS RUN DEEP


            If the 2020 major league season ever gets off the ground virtually all of the 18 former Independent Baseball players on major league rosters seem likely to be on active rosters.  Much of the intrigue likely will turn to some others who could be added if rosters expand from 26 to 30 players and if teams are allowed to have another group--estimates have been 20 or so per team--as emergency replacements.

            The best bet among possible additions could be left-handed hurler Tyler Matzek, who was outstanding with the Atlanta Braves during spring training although officially working out of the minor league camp.  Matzek, who has major league experience, played for Texas in the American Association last season.

            Others who could be considered include pitchers Jason Creasy of Atlanta (formerly played for Southern Maryland and Long Island in the Atlantic League and St. Paul in the American Association), Trevor Richards of Tampa Bay (Gateway, Frontier League), Casey Crosby of the Los Angeles Dodgers (Chicago and Lincoln, American Association, and Lancaster, Atlantic), Parker Markel of the Los Angeles Angels (Sioux City, American Association), Kevin McCanna of Arizona (Sioux City), Tim Adleman of Detroit (Long Island, Lincoln and El Paso, American Association; New Jersey, Can Am League), Luis Garcia of Texas (Newark, Can Am) and Aaron Wilkerson of Milwaukee (Grand Prairie, American Association; Florence, Frontier; Fort Worth, United League).
 
            Position players in a similar situation include first baseman John Nogowski of St. Louis (Sioux City,  infielder Ryan Court of Oakland (Sioux City and Sugar Land, Atlantic) and catchers Yermin Mercedes of the Chicago White Sox (Douglas and White Sands, Pecos League, and San Angelo, United) and Rene Rivera of the New York Mets (Camden, Atlantic).

40 Former Indy Players Released

            Chris Mazza is one lucky guy even though he had been optioned to Triple-A by the Boston Red Sox prior to the stoppage of baseball in mid-March.
 
            The 30-year-old right-handed pitcher actually signed a new contract with the Red Sox recently while so many other players who have spent time in Independent league play in recent years have been released by their major league organization, as minor league rosters are trimmed down--way down, truthfully--since the farm clubs are not likely to play this season.

            IndyBaseballChatter.com has identified 40 former Independent players who have been released with more almost certainly to follow since eight of the major league organizations have not been accounted for as yet.

            Mazza, who finally debuted in the majors with the New York Mets last season after toiling in four other organizations, was in the Miami and Seattle organizations two years ago in addition to playing with Southern Maryland in the Atlantic League and San Rafael in the Pacific Association.  He made nine relief appearances in the majors (1-1, 5.51) last season, and was in three Red Sox exhibitions this spring, allowing seven runs in 4.2 innings of work.

            Four of the players released were non-roster invitees to major league spring training camps this spring.  That group includes pitchers Trey McNutt, Tim Melville and Nick Rumbelow and former major league outfielder Travis Snider.

            Another player who was let go was first baseman Keon Barnum, the American Association's player of the year as well as Baseball America's choice as Independent player of the year.

            The entire list of players released:

            Pitchers (25)--Ryan Atkinson, Geoff Bramblett, Adam Choplick, Jose Cuas, Alex Demchak,  Chris Dula, Kevin Folman, Logan Gillaspie, Noah Gotsis, Johnny Hellweg, Kent Hasler, Danny Hrbek, Micah Kaczor, Brandon Lawson, #Trey McNutt, #@Tim Melville, Ryan Newell, Kyle Olliges, Kyle Regnault, Dylan Rheault, Orlando Rodriguez, #Nick Rumbelow, Dylan Thompson, Michael Tonkin, Frank Valentino.        
            Catchers (2)--Lucas Herbert, Michael Hernandez.
            Infielders (8)--1B Keon Barnum, 2B Ryne Birk, 1B Skyler Ewing, Martin Figueroa, 1B Conrad Gregor, Angelo Mora, 3B Tyler Plantier, 3B T. J. Rivera.  
            Outfielders (5)--Edgar Corcino, Keith Curcio, Dondrei Hubbard, Max Murphy, #Travis Snider.

            #Was a non-roster invitee to a major league spring training camp earlier this year.

Saturday, April 04, 2020

VET LEFTIES MATZEK, CROSBY MAY GET MLB CALLS ONCE BASEBALL RESUMES


These strange times in everyday life and obviously in the derailed baseball season make it next to impossible to figure out where certain players would be playing if not for the coronavirus.

It is known that none of the former Independent players who were in major league spring training camps when they were abruptly shut down for an indefinite time had been added to 40-man rosters, a move, currently forbidden, that almost certainly would have meant they had locked up a spot on 26-man Opening Day rosters.  

At the same time, there had not been any major surprises where players who would have been expected to be in the major leagues had been sent back to the minor leagues.  Tampa Bay had optioned Trevor Richards, who started his pro career with the Gateway Grizzlies of the Frontier League, to Triple-A Durham, but the right-hander had only won six of 18 decisions last season when he started  23 major league games in his 30 appearances and had a 4.06 earned run average.

The most promising showings in major league camps that looked like possible opportunities at some point in the season had come from a pair of left-handed pitchers on the comeback trail after not being in the big leagues for a number of years.

This pair, who certainly bear watching whenever baseball gets the green light to re-open camps, are Tyler Matzek with Atlanta and Casey Crosby of the Los Angeles Dodgers.  The fascinating thing is both pitched in the American Association last season, Matzek with the Texas AirHogs and Crosby with the Chicago Dogs.  Crosby, who started three games for Detroit when he was only 23 back in 2012, also spent time with Lincoln in '17 when he was just starting a comeback after three arm surgeries that led to nearly three seasons of inactivity from the mound.

Matzek got his MLB experience with Colorado in '14 and '15, winning eight of 20 decisions, almost entirely in starting roles.  He has faced both wildness and mental demons since, but spent considerable time with the AirHogs each of the last two years.  He worked out of the bullpen exclusively last summer, registering a 2.64 ERA and striking out 53 batters in a mere 30.2 innings.  He continued to dazzle with the Braves in spring training when he was actually assigned to the minor league camp.  The parent club gave him three looks and seven of his 11 outs came on strikeouts while he only allowed one hit (no walks).

The hurdle for both pitchers will be for their organizations to find room on their 40-man rosters, not exactly an easy chore at this point.

Non-roster veterans who could get another major league opportunity once the freeze on roster movement is lifted include reliever Luis Garcia (Newark, Can-Am League) with Texas and catcher Rene Rivera (Camden, Atlantic League) with the New York Mets. 

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

51 PLAYERS WITH INDEPENDENT BASEBALL TIES IN MAJOR LEAGUE CAMPS

The opening of spring training camps is a reminder of how much Independent Baseball continues to contribute to the major league baseball landscape.

Fifty-one players who have started their career in a non-affiliated league or have gone there for a second chance have invitations to one of the 30 major league camps, according to records compiled exclusively by www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and, if history repeats, that number may even climb a little more as teams make last minute decisions.

The count is exactly the same as one year ago, with pitchers once more dominating in that they have 41 of the slots.  Three catchers, four infielders and three outfielders complete the list.

Twenty-three of the players are on 40-man rosters while the others have non-roster invitations.

The American Association can claim 20 of the 51 spots with the Atlantic League next with 18, followed by the Frontier League with nine and the former Can-Am League (it is now part of the Frontier) accounting for seven.  Some players have been in more than one of the Indy circuits.  Ten leagues are represented in all, including three that no longer are active.

While the list includes established major leaguers such as Washington ace Max Scherzer, Toronto starter Tanner Roark and Arizona hitting star David Peralta, decisions to be made between now and Opening Day (March 26) include whether Randy Dobnak can nail down a starting mound role with Minnesota, will first baseman John Nogowski (St. Louis) and lefty Mike Kickham (Boston) prove themselves ready and whether Tampa Bay will end up with four Indy leaguers among its 26-man active roster.

The entire list of players with Independent Baseball playing experience who are due in major league spring training camps, including the team and the Indy leagues and teams where they played:

Pitchers (41)--NR-Fernando Abad, Washington (Long Island, Atlantic League); NR-Tim Adleman, Detroit (Long Island; Lincoln and El Paso, American Association; New Jersey, Can-Am League); *Nick Anderson, Tampa Bay (Frontier Greys and Rockford, Frontier League); NR-Phillippe Aumont, Toronto (Ottawa and Quebec, Can-Am); NR-Ben Bracewell, Oakland (River City, Frontier); John Brebbia, St. Louis (Laredo and Sioux Falls, American Association); NR-David Carpenter, Cincinnati (Bridgeport, Atlantic); NR-Hunter Cervenka, Baltimore (Sugar Land, Atlantic); NR-Ross Detwiler, Chicago-AL (York, Atlantic);  NR-Tim Dillard, Texas (Lancaster, Atlantic); *Randy Dobnak, Minnesota (Utica, United Shore League); Wilmer Font, Toronto (Ottawa); NR-Luis Garcia, Texas (Newark, Can-Am); *Zac Grotz, Seattle (Washington, Frontier League; Bridgeport and York); Junior Guerra, Arizona (Wichita, American Association); Rich Hill, Minnesota (Long Island); *James Hoyt, Cleveland (Wichita; Edinburg and Yuma, North American League); NR-Mike Kickham, Boston (Kansas City, American Association); Brandon Kintzler, Miami (St. Paul, American Association; Winnipeg, Northern League); #Parker Markel, Los Angeles-AL (Sioux City, American Association); *Chris Martin, Atlanta (Grand Prairie, American Association); Chris Mazza, Boston (Southern Maryland, Atlantic; San Rafael, Pacific Association); NR-Ian McKinney, Seattle (Sioux City); NR-Trey McNutt, San Francisco (Fargo-Moorhead, American Association); NR-Tim Melville, Colorado (Long Island);  NR-Brian Moran, Toronto (Bridgeport); NR-Chris Nunn, Atlanta (Evansville; St. Paul);  *James Paxton, New York-AL (Grand Prairie); NR-Alex Powers, Cincinnati (New Jersey);  Trevor Richards, Tampa Bay (Gateway, Frontier); *Tanner Roark, Toronto (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Chaz Roe, Tampa Bay (Laredo); NR-Nick Rumbelow, New York-NL (Sugar Land);  *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, American Association); NR-D. J. Snelten, Tampa Bay (Chicago, American Association);  Robert Stock, Philadelphia (New Jersey; Normal, Frontier); NR-Caleb Thielbar, Minnesota (St. Paul);  NR-Nik Turley, Pittsburgh (Somerset, Atlantic);  Marcus Walden, Boston (Lancaster); NR*-Aaron Wilkerson, Milwaukee (Grand Prairie; Florence, Frontier; Fort Worth, United League);  *Eric Yardley, Milwaukee (Trinidad and Taos, Pecos League).

Catchers (3)—Yermin Mercedes, Chicago-AL (Douglas and White Sands, Pecos); NR-Rene Rivera, New York-NL (Camden, Atlantic); NR-Josh Thole, New York-AL (New Britain, Atlantic).

Infielders (4)—Jose Martinez, Tampa Bay (Rockford); NR-Peter Mooney, Minnesota (New Jersey);  NR-John Nogowski, St. Louis (Sioux City);  Ildemaro Vargas, Arizona (Bridgeport).

Outfielders (3)—David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association; Rio Grande Valley, North American); NR-Travis Snider, Arizona (Long Island);  NR-Dillon Thomas, Oakland (Texas, American Association).

*First professional game was in an Independent league.
#Designated for assignment; status unknown.
NR-Non-roster invitee.


Be on Lookout for Others

Many additional players with Independent playing experience seem certain to see some action in major league exhibition games, including recently-signed southpaws Kyle Regnault of San Diego (Worcester and Quebec, Can-Am League) and Brandon Mann of Texas (Fargo-Moorhead, American Association, and Southern Maryland and Lancaster, both in the Atlantic League).

Friday, February 07, 2020

INDEPENDENT LEAGUE PROVIDE 24 NON-ROSTER INVITEES

This is that time of year when the words "non-roster" are seen with frequency since most major league teams will supplement their 40-man roster with around 20 invitees from their minor league system to train full-time in spring training camps throughout Florida and Arizona.

Presuming this spring training will follow recent years at least a handful of the invitees will make the decisions more difficult as the American and National League teams pare down to the 26-man limit by Opening Day on March 26.

The Independent Baseball Insider's exclusive compilation of former players from Independent leagues owning major league invitations is up to 24.  Recent additions, including both the team and the Indy stops, are:

PITCHERS--Hunter Cervenka, Baltimore (Sugar Land, Atlantic League); Ross Detwiler, Chicago-AL (York, Atlantic); Tim Melville, Colorado (Long Island, Atlantic);  Alex Powers, Cincinnati (New Jersey, Can-Am League); Caleb Thielbar, Minnesota (St. Paul, American Association).

POSITION PLAYERS--SS Peter Mooney, Minnesota (New Jersey); 1B John Nogowski, St. Louis (Sioux City, American Association); C Josh Thole, New York-AL (New Britain, Atlantic).

Melville bears watching closely since the right-hander finished last season in the Rockies' rotation after starting the year with the Long Island Ducks in the Atlantic League.

We will have a complete rundown of all players from the Independent leagues who will be in major league camps when spring training begins next week.  Which league will have the most representation?  Stay tuned.


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Friday, January 24, 2020

SPREADING CHEER FOR INDEPENDENT GRADS AS SPRING TRAINING NEARS

Talk about a spray chart!  That is what we are doing today with so many former Independent league people in the news some three weeks before spring training starts.

--One cannot help but wonder how many Indy players may be on Tampa Bay's 26-man Opening Day roster.  There is newly-acquired outfielder Jose Martinez (Rockford, Frontier League) to be certain, and it would be an upset if this trio of pitchers were not active:   Nick Anderson (also Rockford and the Frontier Greys), Trevor Richards (Gateway, Frontier) and Chaz Roe (Laredo, American Association.  Now the Rays have added lefty D. J. Snelten (Chicago, American Association) and his power arm as a non-roster invitee.  Snelten was with Butch Hobson's team just last season.

--Other non-roster players announced so far include hurlers Phillippe Aumont, Toronto (Ottawa, Can-Am League); Ben Bracewell, Oakland (River City, Frontier); Tim Dillard, Texas (Lancaster,Atlantic League); Luis Garcia, Texas (Newark, Can-Am); Mike Kickham, Boston (Kansas City, American Association); Trey McNutt, San Francisco (Fargo-Moorhead, American Association); Chris Nunn, Atlanta (St. Paul, American Association, and Evansville, Frontier); David Carpenter, Cincinnati (Bridgeport, Atlantic); Tim Adleman, Detroit (Long Island, Atlantic; Lincoln and El Paso, American Association; New Jersey, Can-Am); Fernando Abad, Washington (Long Island); Nic Turley, Pittsburgh (Somerset, Atlantic); catcher Rene Rivera, New York-NL (Camden, Atlantic); and outfielders Dillon Thomas, Oakland (Texas, American Association) and Travis Snider, Arizona (Long Island).  These 15 plus 25 players on 40-man rosters (presuming Brandon Kintzler will sign soon) give the Indy leagues 40 players, and that number seems certain to grow when more teams unveil their non-roster guys.

--Several Indy favorites have signed new minor league contacts and while they are not (yet) listed as non-roster invitees some of them will be on the list of players brought over from minor league camps for one or more major league exhibitions:  This group includes pitchers Justin DeFratus, Los Angeles-NL (Southern Maryland, Atlantic); Alex Powers, Cincinnati (New Jersey); Hunter Cervenka, Baltimore (Sugar Land, Atlantic) and Ross Detwiler, Chicago-AL (York, Atlantic); utilityman Conrad Gregor, Tampa Bay (New Jersey and Rockland, Can-Am, and Lancaster); and infielders T. J. Rivera, Philadelphia (Long Island) and Cody Asche, Minnesota (Sugar Land).

--Several former Indy managers, coaches and players have gotten non-playing major league or affiliated minor league opportunities although they have not all been announced.  One of the more significant is Antoan Richardson, who played for Schaumburg when it was in the Northern League.  He has jumped to a major league coaching role with San Francisco.  It was Richardson who scored the winning run on new Hall of Famer Derek Jeter's last game at Yankee Stadium.  Onetime major league pitcher Dylan Axelrod (Windy City, Frontier) has joined the Los Angeles Angels as pitching coordinator.

Watch this space for the full list of Independent players expected in major league spring training camps in the days ahead.

How About This Contract?

Any time an Indy leaguer gets some type of major league opportunity it is automatic that his paycheck will have more zeroes on it.  Even so, the $22 million Tanner Roark will receive
in his two-year pact with Toronto has to get the attention of everyone in a non-affiliated league.  He started out in the Frontier League (Southern Illinois) for three appearances back in 2008.



Get the independent minor league baseball trivia question of the day by clicking this link: Independent Minor League Baseball Trivia Questions