I can now identify five players who were in Independent leagues as recently as last summer and will be in major league spring training camps next month.
Think about it; this is quite a jump. And don't think for a minute that all of these players are coming off injuries or getting a new start in Indy leagues. Three of the five do not have a single game of regular-season major league baseball experience on their resume.
The most interesting case may be that of American Association Player of the Year Lee Cruz.
The 28-year-old outfielder was a 10th round draft choice of the Chicago White Sox in 2006, but he never advanced beyond Class AA in four seasons. He tore the cover off the baseball while playing 17 games in the Golden League (Yuma, AZ) in 2010, which got him some additional affiliated time.
Cruz, a right-handed hitter, was back in Independent Baseball last season, hitting 38doubles, 18 home runs and driving in 94 runs while playing in every one of the 100 games for Amarillo, TX of the American Association. Baltimore signed the native Floridian recently, and has Cruz among only a handful of non-roster invitees identified by the media so far.
The other four 2011 Indy players all came out of the Atlantic League. Jerome Williams was at Lancaster, PA and could be in the rotation for the Los Angeles Angels
this season. Williams also played at Long Beach, CA of the Golden League earlier in his career. He and Logan Kensing are the two with previous major league experience. Kensing, coming off elbow problems, started last year with the Bridgeport (CT) Bluefish, and will battle for a job with Pittsburgh.
Lefty Scott Rice and right-hander Mike DeMark both spent part of '11 with eventual Atlantic League champion York, PA. Rice, who also has pitched in the league for Long Island, NY, and Newark, NJ, will be with the Los Angeles Dodgers. DeMark will go to spring training with the Arizona Diamondbacks.
Our total count of onetime Indy players with non-roster invitations to major league camps has jumped from the 13 we reported in last week's Independent Baseball Insidercolumn to 22. Another 17, including Williams, are on 40-man rosters.
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