The dust is just beginning to settle as major league organizations do a shakedown of their minor league rosters, and I can tell you I have not seen any certain winners so far from within the ranks of players who either started in or have played in Independent leagues.
The promotion of players to the coveted 40-man rosters has taken place over the last few days with what appears to be an average of four to five players per organization getting the good news. Indy players have been shut out although 22 of them still have 40-man holdover slots.
If there has been a winner so far it would appear to be Chris Jakubauskas, who Pittsburgh claimed off waivers from Seattle. The 30-year-old right-hander had a solid major league debut with the Mariners in '09, going 6-7 with a 5.32 ERA over 35 appearances, including eight starts.
The Pirates have said Jakubauskas will be given a chance of winning a spot in the bullpen where they seem to see him as a parallel to Jeff Karstens, who has been designated for assignment. Karstens was out of options and Jakubauskas has options, which means he could be sent to the minors without being lost to the club if he does not measure up in spring training.
Jakubauskas is one of eight pitchers on major league rosters who got their start in an Independent league. The onetime Oklahoma Sooner broke in with Florence, KY of the Frontier League in 2003-04, moved on to Ohio Valley in that league in 2005, then really put it together while with Fullerton, CA (now Orange County) of the Golden League in '06 and Lincoln, NE of the American Association two years ago. He needed only a year and a half in the Seattle system to win a major league job.
Dozens of former Indy players annually become six-year free agents at this time of year, and this season is no exception, although we know of four who already have been re-signed to Triple-A deals, an indication of some strength for those individuals.
Philadelphia has kept Jason Anderson, who played Indy baseball for Somerset, NJ of the Atlantic League, and another right-hander, Steve Bray (Bridgeport, CT, Atlantic), is back with Seattle. Catcher Jose Yepez (Pensacola, FL, American Association, and Gary, IN, Northern League) also signed once again with Seattle, and southpaw R. J. Swindle, who has gotten a little major league experience, inked with Tampa Bay, who had his rights for all of a day in mid-season. Swindle's Indy experience was with Schaumburg, IL of the Northern League and Newark, NJ of the Atlantic League.
It seems a safe bet at least some of the quartet will get an invitation to major league spring training.