Monday, July 17, 2017


The All-Star Game performances of Max Scherzer (Fort Worth) and Brandon Kintzler (St. Paul and Winnipeg) gave the American Association some nice bragging rights, but Wilmer Font's showing in the Triple-A contest the night after the major league game should not be overlooked.

Font, who is toiling in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system at Oklahoma City, got the start for the Pacific Coast League, and the right-hander who came out of Ottawa in the Can-Am League, needed only four pitches to retire the International League stars in that first inning.  Font has been leading the PCL in strikeouts.

Among other former Independent Players selected for All-Star Games were the following (*Indicates first pro game was in a non-affiliated league):

Southern League:  Pitchers *Aaron Wilkerson (Grand Prairie, American Association; Florence, Frontier League; Fort Worth, United League), Mike Kickham (Kansas City, American Association) and Ariel Hernandez (Frontier Greys, Frontier) and outfielder Edgar Corcino (El Paso, American Association, and Rockford, Frontier).  Note:  Hernandez is now with the parent Cincinnati Reds.

South Atlantic League:  DH *Boo Vazquez (Joliet and Lake Erie, Frontier).

Florida State League:  Pitchers Jeff Singer (Camden, Atlantic League) and *Trevor Richards (Gateway, Frontier).

Somerset Has Sent 10 to MLB Affiliates

The old fedora needs a big tip to the Somerset Patriots, who have had 10 players signed off their Atlantic League roster already this season by major league organizations.  The most recent departure was All-Star infielder Tyler Bortnick, who has joined Milwaukee's top farm club in Colorado Springs.

No Need for Confusion About Chris Smith

A couple of eyebrows may have been raised when Oakland called up right-hander Chris Smith recently because Toronto had promoted RHP Chris Smith to its major league roster a little earlier in the season.  They are, indeed, two different pitchers.

Oakland's guy has played for Sugar Land in the Atlantic League and Wichita in the American Association while the Blue Jays' Chris Smith, now back at Buffalo, has worked for Lake Erie, Traverse City and Washington in the Frontier League as well as White Sands of the Pecos League.

Simply Amazing

There is not another description to fit 45-year-old Kevin Millar batting one time for the St. Paul Saints (American Association) for the first time since 2010 and belting a two-run homer.  This was 24 years after he first appeared with the Saints on the way to the major leagues.

And how about the Quebec Capitales belting not one, not two, but three grand slams in one Can-Am League game.

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Friday, June 30, 2017


How times change!

It was only a little over one month ago when the roster of former Independent Baseball players in the major leagues only added up to 15 players on active rosters with an unusually high seven more disabled.

The active group now totals 24 (six more are disabled), with several new faces swelling the count.

Five first-time major leaguers (four are pitchers) have pumped new life into the situation this season.

The most recent player to become a first-time major leaguer is infielder Ildemaro Vargas, who made his debut with the Arizona Diamondbacks Thursday.  Vargas's contract was purchased by Arizona two years ago after playing 30 games for the Bridgeport Bluefish of the Atlantic League.  He got into his first game Thursday, going 0-for-1.

The native Venezuelan had gotten as high as Double-A in five years in the St. Louis farm system before landing in Bridgeport when he was only 23 and young by Atlantic League standards.  He was promoted from Triple-A Reno where the switch hitter was at .307 with six homers, 43 RBI and had scored 64 runs in 73 games.

Pitchers Austin Bibens-Dirkx (Texas), John Brebbia (St. Louis), Nik Turley (Minnesota) and Ariel Hernandez (Cincinnati) made their debuts earlier this season with all but Turley currently in the majors.

Bibens-Dirkx's case may be the most unusual in that the right-hander has been pitching professionally since 2006 with Independent Baseball stops at Victoria, British Columbia, in the long-departed Golden League in '09 and at Lancaster in the Atlantic League last season.

The 32-year-old rookie is 3-0 for his nine appearances (four starts) for the Rangers, with seven-inning performances in wins over Washington and the New York Yankees, allowing only one run each time.

"I'm trying to enjoy every moment," he told The Associated Press.  "I got to pitch in Yankee Stadium.  It was awesome."  He has a 3.68 earned run average for 36.2 innings.

Brebbia pitched for both Sioux Falls and Laredo in the American Association, Hernandez was with the traveling Frontier Greys in the Frontier League and Turley was with Somerset in the Atlantic League.

Right-hander Chris Smith returned to the major leagues with Toronto this week.  He has pitched for three Frontier League teams as well as for White Sands in the Pecos League.

One somewhat surprising major league promotion was that of Tanner Scheppers, who started his professional career with St. Paul in the American Association, but has had his major league career threatened by six trips to the disabled list in the last four seasons.  Scheppers has a 12-6 career record with three saves, mostly before the injuries got more severe.

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Monday, May 08, 2017

12-Year Wait Is Over For Texas Pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx

It never gets old to write about a long-striving baseball player who finally gets that major league call.

Think Daniel Nava.  Or Stephen Cardullo.  Or James Hoyt.

The newest entry in this it-can't-happen-but-it-finally-does category is right-handed pitcher Austin Bibens-Dirkx, who turned 32 ten days ago and now in his 12th professional season.  He was added to the Texas Rangers' major league roster Sunday.

"It's a blessing and a dream come true," Bibens-Dirkx told  It has been a grind.  I've seen a lot of highs and a lot of lows.  I'm extremely happy.  I can't put it into words."
Rangers manager Jeff Banister told the same site: "You see these stories over and over again. It never gets old.  It's real.  It's raw, so emotional...guy who spends that much time in the minors, winter ball and independent leagues, there are not enough superlatives and adjectives to describe how you feel."
The native of Salem, OR was a 16th round draft choice by Seattle in 2006, but after three seasons and not advancing above Class A he found himself with Victoria, BC in the now defunct Golden League. Four organizations later Bibens-Dirkx spent a chunk of last season back in Indy ball, this time with Lancaster, PA of the Atlantic League (3-3, 3.81 for 10 starts), before Texas bought his contract and sent him to Triple-A Round Rock.
"We had him in spring training a number of times (1.50 ERA for six appearances and the same number of innings only daily invitations from the minor league camp) and got a really good look at his stuff and got to know the guy," Banister said. "One of the great assets he showed is his overall instincts and moxie to get outs."
The next step?
"My goal was to get here, but the goal doesn't stop," Bibens-Dirkx explained. "The goal is to be successful and be here as long as I can,  do everything I can to make it a tough decision when it comes time to send people down."
He is the second Independent grad to taste the majors for the first time this season, joining another righty, Ariel Hernandez (Frontier League), who was with Cincinnati for a brief time.

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Monday, April 17, 2017

20 Indy League Vets In Majors

It is always nice to see the Independent leagues getting more players to the major leagues.

Sixteen onetime Indy players were active rosters on Opening Day last season with three more on disabled lists.  That number climbed to 20 in 2017, and still stands at that count with two players added recently although the DL list has grown to four and one health-challenged player recently was outrighted to Triple-A.

A record 45 players with Independent experience were in the majors at some time last season.

The roster at the start of this week including both the major league and Independent affiliations:

            Pitchers (14 + 3 on DL)--Tim Adleman, Cincinnati (New Jersey, Can-Am League, and Lincoln and El Paso, American Association); Craig Breslow, Minnesota (New Jersey, Northeast League); Luis Garcia, Philadelphia (Newark, Can-Am);  #Junior Guerra, Milwaukee (Wichita, American Association); Rich Hill, Los Angeles-NL (Long Island, Atlantic League); #Scott Kazmir, Los Angeles-NL (Sugar Land, Atlantic); Brandon Kintzler, Minnesota (St. Paul, American Association, and Winnipeg, Northern League); Vidal Nuno, Baltimore (Washington, Frontier League); *James Paxton, Seattle (Grand Prairie, American Association); *Tanner Roark, Washington (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Chaz Roe, Atlanta (Laredo, American Association); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, American Association);  #Bo Schultz, Toronto (Grand Prairie); *Robby Scott, Boston (Yuma, North American League); Josh Smoker, New York-NL (Rockford, Frontier); Tom Wilhelmsen, Arizona (Tucson, Golden League); Brad Ziegler, Miami (Schaumburg, Northern).

            Position Players (6+1 on DL)--OF-1B-Stephen Cardullo, Colorado (Rockland, Can-Am); #INF-Stephen Drew, Washington (Camden, Atlantic);   OF-Chris Marrero, San Francisco (Somerset, Atlantic); OF-Jose Martinez, St. Louis (Rockford); OF-1B*-Daniel Nava, Philadelphia (Chico, Golden); OF-David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association, and Rio Grande Valley, North American); C-Rene Rivera, New York-NL (Camden).

            *First professional game was in an Independent League
            #Is on disabled list

             Notes:  Adleman and Garcia have been added since Opening Day.  Breslow, Cardullo, Marrero, Nava and Wilhelmsen were non-roster invitees when spring training started.  Tanner Scheppers, Texas (St. Paul, American Association) was on the disabled list when the season started but has been sent outright to Triple-A.

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Monday, March 20, 2017

Indy Baseball Numbers For Spring Training And WBC

It is time to look at some numbers.  Amazing numbers, really, which both MLB and Independent Baseball should love.

**When spring training camps opened, a record 56 (one less than we originally reported) players who have been in Independent leagues were in major league camps.  Twenty-seven of them were on 40-man rosters; the other 29 were non-roster invitees.  The number has gone back with 27 with one recent addition.

**47 of them (as best we know) still are in major league camps two weeks from Opening Day.

**At least another 57 former Indy players now in major league organizations have been brought over from minor league camps for one or more major league games with more added virtually daily. Many of these players have gotten into Grapefruit or Cactus League games including former Independent Players of the Year (Baseball America) Balbino Fuenmayor (Quebec, Can-Am League, 2014) with Atlanta and Art Charles (New Jersey, Can-Am League, 2016) with Milwaukee.  Both are primarily first basemen, and both have hit a home run.  THIS MEANS AT LEAST 114 FORMER INDEPENDENT PLAYERS HAVE BEEN IN UNIFORM FOR MAJOR LEAGUE GAMES THIS SPRING.


IndyBaseballChatter has identified 48 onetime (some are current) Independent players who have been on active rosters for teams in the World Baseball Classic.  (It is possible others have been overlooked.)

Eleven of that group are scheduled for the semifinals starting Monday night at Dodger Stadium.  The list is dominated by seven with The Netherlands.  Six of those played in the American Association or are scheduled to do so this year.  Puerto Rico has three and the United States roster includes former Frontier League right-hander Tanner Roark of Washington, who is expected to start the championship game if the Team USA gets that far.  Roark threw his very first professional pitches for Southern Illinois.


The top candidates among players not already established in the major leagues to get Opening Day jobs would seem to include St. Louis outfielder Jose Martinez (Rockford, Frontier League) and Colorado first baseman-outfielder Stephen Cardullo (Rockland, Can-Am League).  Cardullo has hit three home runs, including two grand slams, and has been leading the Rockies in runs batted in while Martinez has shown steady power while hitting well above .300.

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