Saturday, March 30, 2019

NINETEEN FORMER INDEPENDENT PLAYERS START SEASON IN MAJORS

         With pitchers continuing to dominate, 19 players who have played in one or more Independent leagues started the season in the major leagues, an increase of two over one year ago.  This includes southpaw Rich Hill, who is on the Los Angeles Dodgers' Injured List but likely will return to the starting rotation when he is activated.

         Only three position players are in the group, including Arizona infielder Ildemaro Vargas (Atlantic League), who was recalled from Triple-A at the last minute.

         The American Association contributed eight of the 19 with the Frontier League next with five and the Can-Am League third with a trio of pitchers.  The Frontier contingent includes Miami right-hander Nick Anderson, in the majors for the first time after starting his pro career in Rockford, IL.  He is one of six players on the list who played their first game in an Indy league.

         Thirty-seven Indy players were in the majors at some time last year.

         The entire list, including the major league team and the Independent affiliations: 

         Pitchers (15 + 1 IL)--*Nick Anderson, Miami (Frontier Greys and Rockford, Frontier League); John Brebbia, St. Louis (Sioux Falls and Laredo, American Association); Jon Edwards, Cleveland (Alpine, Pecos League, and San Angelo, North American League); Wilmer Font, Tampa Bay (Ottawa, Can-Am League); Luis Garcia, Los Angeles-AL (Newark, Can-Am); Junior Guerra, Milwaukee (Wichita, American Association); #-Rich Hill, Los Angeles-NL (Long Island, Atlantic League); D. J. Johnson, Colorado (Traverse City, Frontier); Brandon Kintzler, Chicago-NL (St. Paul, American Association, and Winnipeg, then Northern League); *Chris Martin, Texas (Grand Prairie, American Association); *James Paxton, New York-AL (Grand Prairie); *Trevor Richards, Miami (Gateway, Frontier); *Tanner Roark, Cincinnati (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Chaz Roe, Tampa Bay (Laredo); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, American Association); Robert Stock, San Diego (New Jersey, Can-Am).

            Position Players (3)--OF-1B Jose Martinez, St. Louis (Rockford); OF David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association; Rio Grande Valley, North American); INF Ildemaro Vargas, Arizona (Bridgeport, Atlantic).

            *First professional game was in an Independent league.

            #Is on the injured list.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

FRONTIER LEAGUE FIND TREVOR RICHARDS HAS HOT HAND WITH MARLINS

             The Frontier League may get pushed to the background at times since other Independent leagues cater more to older, more experienced players, but it is a huge mistake to overlook the oldest Indy circuit--this is Year 26--for its production of major leaguers.

            This is the case right now, barely a week before all 30 major league teams start playing for keeps, as another of the Frontier League's pitchers makes major noise with Miami with a second right-hander not far behind, also with the youthful Marlins.

            It is not easy for new faces to squeeze their way onto 25-man Opening Day rosters, but this pair among the 51 onetime Independent players in major league spring training camps may be exceptions.  Nearly a dozen of the 51 only needed to stay healthy to retain their jobs at baseball's top level while the other three dozen or so really had to impress in spring training to win a position.

            The Frontier League already has Cincinnati pitcher Tanner Roark (Southern Illinois) and St. Louis first baseman-outfielder Jose Martinez (Rockford) well established in the bigs.  Trevor Richards could easily come next with another hurler, Nick Anderson, in the mix.  Like Roark, this pair are especially meaningful to the Independent leagues since they played their very first professional games without benefit of a major league organization behind them.

            The 25-year-old Richards broke into the majors last season, only two summers after being signed out of the Frontier League (Gateway), and started 25 times for the youthful Marlins (4-9, 4.42).  He has really stepped it up in the past month.

            As veteran MLB.com writer Joe Frisaro put it:  He (Richards) "has been lined up as the fifth starter.  But the way he's thrown in spring training he's making a case to move up to No. 2."         

            The masterpiece on his Florida log came last Sunday when he threw six no-hit innings against the Cardinals, bringing his spring earned run average to 1.86 with 20 strikeouts while limiting batters to eight hits and four walks in 19.1 innings.  The batting average against him is a measly .125.

            "It's been happening (for Richards) all spring," manager Don Mattingly told MLB.com.  "We've seen adding the (new) pitches and what it can do for him.  It's trending in the right direction."

            Richards said "we'll go mainly fastball, curveball, changeup, and we're toying with a fourth one, but we'll see how that one comes along."  The change has been his bread and butter, with a .165 average against it last season.

            Anderson learned the pitching ropes in the Frontier League between 2012 when he came out of North Dakota's Mayville State and 2015, toiling first for Rockford, then for the travel team, the Greys, and climbed the minor league ladder with Minnesota, including 88 strikeouts in only 60 Triple-A innings last season (8-2, 3.30).  He moved into the major league picture when he joined Miami and the Marlins added him to their 40-man roster, a feat achieved by zero other Independent players not already at that level during the offseason.

            He has done just fine in spring training, striking out nine without walking anyone in 6.1 innings while posting a 4.26 ERA.

            The Marlins have still two more onetime Independent hurlers in camp and doing well although it may not be good enough to make the Opening Day roster.  They are southpaws Mike Kickham (Kansas City, American Association) and Brian Moran (Bridgeport, Atlantic League).  Kickham has a 1.50 ERA after six appearances (6.0 innings) and Moran is at 2.45 after five outings, allowing only one hit in collecting eight outs.

Some Other Hopefuls


            Other former Independent players making solid bids for major league jobs include relievers Marcus Walden of Boston and Eric Yardley of San Diego and infielders Emilio Bonifacio of Tampa Bay and Ildemaro Vargas of Arizona.  Yardley spent time with Trinidad and Taos of the youth-oriented Pecos League while the others were in the Atlantic League.  Walden was at Lancaster, Vargas at Bridgeport and Bonifacio at Long Island, the latter just last season.


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Friday, February 15, 2019

INDEPENDENT LEAGUES CONTRIBUTE 49 PLAYERS TO MAJOR LEAGUE CAMPS

          The contributions of Independent leagues to major league organizations is never more evident than the annual compilation by IndyBaseballChatter.com of the players who have had experience in these leagues and are in major league spring training camps

That total is 49 as of today although it still could grow.

Twenty-three of the players are on 40-man major league rosters while the other 26 are non-roster invitees.  Both totals are down slightly from one year ago when 26 players were on rosters and 32 players received special invitations.

Pitchers continue to dominate, with 39 hurlers in the 30 camps compared to 10 position players.

Nine players received their initial professional experience in an Indy league although many of the others would not be wearing major league uniforms without the experience gained outside of the 30 big-league organizations, often taking advantage of a second-chance opportunity after being drafted but failing to advance with their original team.  Approximately another 165 former Independent players are currently in major league farm systems.

Those in major league camps with their current organization followed by their stop(s) in Independent leagues:  

          Pitchers (39)--NR-Tyler Alexander, Oakland (Fargo-Moorhead, American Association, and Sussex, Can-Am League); *Nick Anderson, Miami (Frontier Greys and Rockford, Frontier League); NR*Ryan Atkinson, Arizona (Evansville, Frontier); NR-Jeremy Bleich, Philadelphia (Somerset, Atlantic League); NR-Ryan Bollinger, San Diego (Windy City, Frontier; Trois-Rivieres, Can-Am; St. Paul and Winnipeg, American Association); NR-Buddy Boshers, Cincinnati (Somerset); John Brebbia, St. Louis (Sioux Falls and Laredo, American Association); NR-Hunter Cervenka, St. Louis (Sugar Land, Atlantic); NR-Tim Dillard, Texas (Lancaster, Atlantic); Jon Edwards, Cleveland (Alpine, Pecos League, and San Angelo, North American League); Wilmer Font, Tampa Bay (Ottawa, Can-Am); Luis Garcia, Los Angeles-AL (Newark, Can-Am); Junior Guerra, Milwaukee (Wichita, American Association); NR-Ariel Hernandez, Texas (Frontier Greys); NR-Tyler Higgins, San Diego (New Britain, Atlantic); Rich Hill, Los Angeles-NL (Long Island, Atlantic); NR*James Hoyt, Cleveland (Wichita; Edinburg and Yuma, North American League); D. J. Johnson, Colorado (Traverse City, Frontier); NR-Mike Kickham, Miami (Kansas City, American Association); Brandon Kintzler, Chicago-NL (St. Paul and Winnipeg, then Northern League); *Chris Martin, Texas (Grand Prairie, American Association); NR-Brian Moran, Miami (Bridgeport, Atlantic); NR-Vidal Nuno, Washington (Washington, Frontier);  NR-Edward Paredes, Philadelphia (York, Atlantic); *James Paxton, New York-AL (Grand Prairie); NR-Alex Powers, Cincinnati (New Jersey, Can-Am); *Trevor Richards, Miami (Gateway, Frontier); *Tanner Roark, Cincinnati (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Chaz Roe, Tampa Bay (Laredo); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, American Association); NR-Bo Schultz, Baltimore (Grand Prairie); Robby Scott, Arizona (Yuma, North American); NR-Tayler Scott, Seattle (Sioux City, American Association); NR*Chris Smith, Detroit (Lake Erie, Traverse City and Washington, Frontier; White Sands, Pecos League); NR-Josh Smoker, Los Angeles-NL (Rockford); Robert Stock, San Diego (New Jersey); Marcus Walden, Boston (Lancaster); *Aaron Wilkerson, Milwaukee (Grand Prairie; Florence, Frontier; and Fort Worth, United League); NR-Eric Yardley, San Diego (Trinidad and Taos, Pecos).

            Catchers (3)--Rafael Lopez, Atlanta (Bridgeport); NR-Rene Rivera, San Francisco (Camden, Atlantic); NR-Josh Thole, Los Angeles-NL (New Britain).

            Infielders (5)--NR-Emilio Bonifacio, Tampa Bay (Long Island); NR-Ryan Court, Chicago-NL (Sioux City); NR-Peter Mooney, Colorado (New Jersey); NR-Brandon Snyder, Washington (Southern Maryland, Atlantic); Ildemaro Vargas, Arizona (Bridgeport).

            Outfielders (2)--Jose Martinez, St. Louis (Rockford); David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association; Rio Grande Valley, North American).

            *First professional game was in an Independent league.

            NR-Non-roster invitee.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Where Are All The Position Players? Pitchers Dominate Non-Roster Invitations

A few major league teams have yet to announce their invitees for spring training, but pitchers continue to dominate when we look at all of the former Independent Baseball players who will be reporting to camps throughout Florida and Arizona on non-roster invitations this month.  In fact, hurlers dominate even more than in the past.

Nine of the 32 Indy non-roster invitees one year ago were position players.  Only one player is in this category today among the 18 hopefuls IndyBaseballChatter.com has tracked who have been tabbed so far by one of the 30 major league teams.

Emilio Bonifacio, hardly the typical Independent player in that he has played in 831 major league games in a career that started back in 2003, is the lone position player.  The 33-year-old is headed for the Tampa Bay camp after spending much of last season playing shortstop and center field for the Long Island Ducks in the Atlantic League where he hit .348 with 20 stolen bases in 70 games.

Bonifacio last appeared in the majors two years ago with Atlanta.

The 17 hurlers with non-roster invitations, including their major league team and the team(s) and league (s) where they got their Independent experience:

*Ryan Atkinson, Arizona (Evansville, Frontier League); Jeremy Bleich, Philadelphia (Somerset, Atlantic League); Ryan Bollinger, San Diego (Windy City, Frontier; Trois-Rivieres, Can-Am League; St. Paul and Winnipeg, American Association); Hunter Cervenka, St. Louis (Sugar Land, Atlantic); Tim Dillard, Texas (Lancaster, Atlantic); Ariel Hernandez, Texas (Frontier Greys, Frontier); Tyler Higgins, San Diego (New Britain, Atlantic); *James Hoyt, Cleveland (Wichita, American Association; Edinburg and Yuma, North American League); Mike Kickham, Miami (Kansas City, American Association); Brian Moran, Miami (Bridgeport, Atlantic); Vidal Nuno, Washington (Washington, Frontier);  Edward Paredes, Philadelphia (York, Atlantic); Alex Powers, Cincinnati (New Jersey, Can-Am); Bo Schultz, Baltimore (Grand Prairie, American Association); Tayler Scott, Seattle (Sioux City, American Association); *Chris Smith, Detroit (Lake Erie, Traverse City and Washington, Frontier; White Sands, Pecos League); Eric Yardley, San Diego (Trinidad and Taos, Pecos).

*First professional game was in an Independent league.

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Tuesday, December 04, 2018

Lefty Regnault Latest From Indy Ranks to Find Financial Rewards in Japan

With an abundance of good holiday cheer already served up for Independent Baseball, it is difficult to cite any one happening as the pinnacle although Kyle Regnault certainly stands tall.

Have not heard of Kyle?  The 6-foot-2 left-hander is typical of those who make the Indy game what it is in that he was not drafted when he came out of the University of Rhode Island, but made his mark during three seasons in the Can-Am League (Quebec and Worcester) before the New York Mets gave him an opportunity in their farm system.

He has pitched at every level in their minor league organization during the last four seasons with a 4.10 earned run average and well over a strikeout per inning in Triple-A.  The only major league looks have come during brief spring training stints, but now the Rhode Island native has become the latest Indy product to turn overseas for a lucrative opportunity.

News reports indicate Regnault, who turns 30 on December 13, is getting a $125,000 signing bonus, a $400,000 base salary and the opportunity to earn more in incentives for Japan's Hiroshima Carp.

Go to work, Kyle, and more of your Indy brothers likely will get nice deals.

Major League Coaching Jobs Abound

It seems like more and more people who have proven themselves in Independent leagues are getting new or better major league coaching opportunities even without significant success at that level as players.

This list may be incomplete, but over recent weeks Andy Haines has moved from being assistant hitting coach for the Chicago Cubs to hitting coach with Milwaukee, Anthony Iapoce has taken on top hitting coach duties for the Cubs after being in a similar role at Texas, J. R. House has been named third base and catching coach for Cincinnati, Stubby Clapp has joined St. Louis's coaching staff and Shawn Wooten has become assistant hitting coach for the Los Angeles Angels.

Iapoce and Haines never reached the majors as players while the others reached that level but were far from becoming household names.

Some of the Independent ties of the quintet date back a number of years.  Clapp and Iapoce were in the old Northern League, Haines in the Frontier League, Wooten in the defunct Prairie League and briefly in the American Association and House was in the Atlantic League.




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