Thursday, December 10, 2020


While so much still is to be determined before the (presumed) 2021 Independent Baseball season unfolds, two right-handed pitchers who started their professional career in the Frontier League and a third who also played in that circuit have new major league organizations to look forward to joining in the year ahead as the result of being selected in Thursday's Rule 5 draft.

Matt Wivinis, who started at Evansville in the Frontier League, was the second of 56 players whose name was called in the Triple-A phase of the draft, which was held in virtual fashion since the annual Winter Meetings were not held in the normal way because of COVID-19.

Wivinis moves from the New York Yankees farm system to that of Tampa Bay for the Triple-A price of $24,000.

Boston selected Kaleb Ort, who started at Joliet, also from the Yankees.  The third onetime Independent player who changed uniforms is Jordan Brink, who went from St. Louis to Tampa Bay.  He had pitched for both River City and Southern Illinois in the Frontier League as well as with Pittsburg of the Pacific Association.

It would have cost $100,000 for any team to select a former Indy player in the major league portion of the draft.

New Contracts for Several

The shrinking of the major league-affiliated minors has taken its toll on any number of players, including quite a few former Independent league guys, in recent months, but some of those who have escaped the pink slip have actually been rewarded with new contracts.

This group includes the following, with their affiliation and their previous Indy locations:  Pitchers Kevin McCanna of Arizona (Sioux City, American Association, and Lightning, Constellation Energy League); Mickey Jannis, Baltimore (Long Island, Southern Maryland and Bridgeport, Atlantic League, and Lake Erie, Frontier); Nick Duron, Seattle (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Ian McKinney, Seattle (Sioux City); Jayson McKinney, Seattle (Southern Maryland and Lightning); and third baseman Brandon Snyder, Washington (Southern Maryland).

Right-hander Jason Creasy came off the free agent list by re-signing with Atlanta.  He has pitched for Long Island and Southern Maryland along with St. Paul of the American Association.

Players released in recent weeks have included former major league hurlers Aaron Wilkerson of Milwaukee (Grand Prairie, American Association; Florence, Frontier; and Fort Worth, United League) and Parker Markel of San Diego (Sioux City).  Righty Ben Bracewell, who like Wilkerson had started pitching professionally in an Independent circuit and was a non-roster invitee with Oakland last spring training, was released by the Athletics.  His first pro play was with River City in the Frontier League. 


Thursday, October 22, 2020


Tampa Bay reliever Nick Anderson is the only player with Independent Baseball experience in the World Series. He would have been joined by two other pitchers, Chris Martin and Tyler Matzek, had Atlanta been able to get past the Dodgers in the final game of the NLCS. 

Anderson is a more than worthy candidate to carry the flag for the 270 other Indy grads (Source: IndyBaseballChatter) who have made it to active major league rosters.  

The 6-foot-4 bearded right-hander was declared the winning pitcher Wednesday night when the Rays evened the World Series against Los Angeles at one win apiece for stopping a potentially devestating fifth inning rally. 

But his standing on behalf of all those who toiled before him in non-affiliated league play is greater because Minnesota native truly came up through the ranks. He spent his first three seasons as a professional after coming out of unheralded Mayville (ND) State and dealing with alcohol and anger-management issues in the longest-tenured active Independent League. 

He was a struggling 6-14 with earned run averages of 7.71 and 6.42 at Rockford, IL of the Frontier League in 2012 and 2013. After a summer of only amateur baseball play, he re-emerged in '15 and proved himself as a reliever (2-0, 13 saves and a 0.65 ERA plus well over a strikeout per inning) for the road-only Frontier Greys so well that the Minnesota Twins purchased his contract for the last month of the season even though he had already turned 25 and had dealt with his personal issues. 

Anderson barely started a game after that (four times with Triple-A Rochester in '18) as he worked his way through the Twins farm system as a big-time strikeout artist, topping it off with 88 K's and only 49 hits allowed in 60 innings for the Red Wings. 

He was traded in the offseason and broke into the majors with the Miami Marlins when the 2019 campaign started, then really started drawing raves after moving to the Rays in a trade-deadline deal. His ERA with Miami was a decent 3.92, but it dipped to 2.11 with Tampa Bay, followed by a tiny 0.55 in 19 regular-season outings this year. By season's end, he had struck out 136 batters and only walked 21 in 81.1 career major league innings. 

Anderson did surrender a solo homer in the sixth to Will Smith, but by that time Tampa Bay had a 6-2 lead and the now 30-year-old had more than earned his keep by striking out Justin Turner to end the previous inning when the Dodgers power guy represented the tying run. That inning had started with what appeared to be a giant 5-0 lead the Rays could not afford to get away and dump them into a two-game deficit. 

From all indications, Anderson will continue to be one of the main keys--if not THE primary one--in Tampa's deep bullpen for the remainder of the World Series. 

The story has a nice ring to it, especially for the Independent Baseball world.

Wednesday, October 07, 2020


Both the NL Division Series between Atlanta and Miami and the ALDS tussle featuring Tampa Bay and the New York Yankees are terrific showcases for the type of relief pitchers Independent Baseball can brag about these days. 

The Braves and Marlins both have a pair of bullpen stars with Indy experience. With Atlanta holding the upper hand entering play Wednesday, southpaw Tyler Matzek and righty Chris Martin are key pieces for getting crucial outs. Matzek was with the Texas AirHogs in the American Association as recently as last season, harnessing his control and preparing for a comeback in the majors after a five-year absence. He struck out three in a row in a key spot for Atlanta in its Game 1 win after being among baseball's busiest relievers during the regular season. 

The same is true for the 6-foot-8 Martin, who started his professional career in the same location although the team was known in those days as the Grand Prairie AirHogs. 

On the suddenly impressive Marlins, Brandon Kintzler (St. Paul, American Association, and Winnipeg when the Goldeyes still were in the Northern League) is the closer. Another right-hander, James Hoyt, has finally started earning important innings after previously struggling to get enough outings during stints with Houston and Cleveland. He also pitched in the American Association (Wichita) although his pro career started in another Indy circuit, the North American League. 

The third reliever in the postseason who got his very first professional opportunity in a non-major league-affiliated league is looking like he could become the best of the group. Right-hander Nick Anderson is being called on whenever the Tampa Bay Rays face their toughest challenges regardless of the inning. Such was the case in Tuesday's second game against the Yankees when the Rays virtually had to win. 

Anderson entered the game with the tying run at the plate in the top of the seventh and promptly struck out Gary Sanchez, DJ LeMahieu and Aaron Judge. He also pitched a 1-2-3 eighth in the 7-4 victory. 

He was a Frontier League find, pitching for the road-only Frontier Greys as well as Rockford, IL.  

Umpire, Broadcaster Also Step Up 

The Independent Leagues have contributed others to the postseason including umpire Will Little and TV broadcaster Adam Amin. The latter, who gets important play-by-play roles regularly in both football and basketball for ESPN, spent years learning his trade with the Somerset (NJ) Patriots of the Atlantic League. He called Game 1 between Atlanta and Miami.

Friday, September 25, 2020


This is truly a moving target because several teams are on the edge toward earning major league baseball postseason berths and roster changes are still being made daily. But as of late Friday, IndyBaseballChatteris tabbing nine former Independent Baseball players as likely eligibles for next week's first round of the 16-team playoffs. Here are those most likely participants by team with the Independent connections in parenthesis: 

ATLANTA--RHP Chris Martin (Grand Prairie, American Association) and LHP Tyler Matzek (Texas, American Association). Note: Matzek was in the American Association last season. 

MIAMI--RHPs Brandon Kintzler (St. Paul, American Association, and Winnipeg, when it was in the Northern League) and James Hoyt (Yuma and Edinburg, North American League, and Wichita, American Association. RHP Brett Eibner was designated for assignment earlier this week. 

MINNESOTA--LHP Rich Hill (Long Island, Atlantic League) and Caleb Thielbar (St. Paul). RHP Randy Dobnak (Utica, United Shore League) has been a starter most of the season, but currently is in the alternate training site. 

TAMPA BAY--RHP Nick Anderson (Frontier Greys and Rockford, Frontier League). RHP Trevor Richards (Gateway, Frontier League) has been shuttling between the Rays and their alternate training site, where he is at present. RHP Chaz Roe is on the disabled list. 

CHICAGO-NL--1B Jose Martinez (Rockford). INF Ildemaro Vargas is on the injured list, but could return. 

 TORONTO--RHP Tanner Roark (Southern Illinois, Frontier League). RHP Wilmer Font was designated for assignment earlier this week.   

Other Possibilities--RHP Chase DeLong (Sugar Land, Atlantic League, and Team Skeeters, Constellation Energy League, was returned to Houston's alternate training site recently. If Milwaukee slips into the playoffs, it should bring RHPs Eric Yardley (Trinidad and Taos, Pecos League) and Justin Topa (Rockland, Can-Am League) into action. 

The Chicago White Sox designated LHP Ross Detwiler for assignment this week after being with the team all season. Another lefty, James Paxton, is on the New York Yankees' 60-day injured list. 

Anderson, Hoyt, Martin, Paxton, Roark, Richards and Yardley all started their professional career in Indy leagues. 

Among the nine most likely postseason eligibles five played in the American Association and three in the Frontier League.

Monday, August 17, 2020


Pitchers almost always seem to dominate when discussing the former Independent Baseball players who have made it to the major leagues.  That could easily be the case today, too, but the hurlers must step aside for moment because the newest player to reach baseball's pinnacle is a hitter.

The new man in the spotlight--the 266th on the distinguished list maintained by IndyBaseballChatter--is St. Louis Cardinals first baseman John Nogowski.  The 27-year-old, a combo who throws left but hits right-handed and debuted with a 1-for-4 game in the Cards' 7-2 loss to the Chicago White Sox Sunday, dominated the American Association (Sioux City) in May and June of 2017 to get St. Louis's attention.  He hit .402 and had a .482 on-base percentage in 34 games for the Explorers, driving in 28 runs in that span.

Nogowski, who played in college at Florida State, hit .295 in Double-A the rest of '17 season, .309 one year later and .295 for Triple-A Memphis one year ago.

In the meantime, Indy grads have been posting some very imposing numbers on the mound in the majors.  Randy Dobnak broke into the pro ranks in the United Shore League (Utica), and he has won four of five decisions for Minnesota with a 1.42 earned run average for his first five starts of the season.  Among relievers, Ross Detwiler (York, Atlantic League) has not allowed an earned run in 11.1 innings for the Chicago White Sox (1-0, only 4 hits), the Pecos League's Eric Yardley (Trinidad and Taos) has a win and a 0.96 ERA in 9.1 innings for Milwaukee and Tyler Matzek (Texas, American Association) has won 2 of 3 decisions for Atlanta and had not given up any runs in spring training or the regular season until the New York Yankees got him for two tallies last week.  His ERA is 1.64. 

Detwiler and Matzek were in their Independent leagues for part of the last two seasons.

Recent Promotions

Three pitchers were promoted back to the majors in recent days.  Chris Mazza (Southern Maryland, Atlantic League) started for Boston Sunday night at Yankee Stadium, Brian Moran (Bridgeport, Atlantic) is with Miami and Trevor Richards (Gateway, Frontier League) is with Tampa Bay.

Summer League Signees

The newly-created leagues that are filling gaps during this COVID-19 time period while some of the regular Independent leagues are not operating are producing new opportunities with major league organizations.

The most recent of at least five players who have gotten fresh opportunities is former major league hurler Dietrich Enns.  Tampa Bay inked Enns Sunday and sent him directly to the Rays' alternate training team, from which he could be promoted to the American League team.

Emms had gone 2-0 with a 0.72 ERA and 42 strikeouts in 25 innings while doubling as pitching coach for the Tully Monster team managed by onetime major leaguer Scott Spiezio in the City of Champions Cup organized by the Frontier League's Joliet (IL) Slammers.

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