Wednesday, December 23, 2015


While it has become customary for at least a couple dozen players who have been in Independent leagues recently to receive non-roster invitations to major league spring training camps, the early pace of these opportunities is something I cannot remember in my writing about the unaffiliated leagues since 2003.

No less than 11 such spring training invitations have crossed this desk in the last two weeks, with many more virtually certain to come when organizations start releasing their full roster of invitees in January and early February. With 23 former Indy players, including seven who started out in the unaffiliated leagues, currently on 40-man rosters, this means we know of 34 players with Indy experience who will report to major league camps.

Free agents Craig Breslow, Aaron Crow, Stephen Drew, Scott Kazmir and Jerome Williams will almost surely be added along with quite a few players who are on Triple-A rosters or still are minor league free agents.

The most impressive announcements among the invitees at this point probably are left-handed pitchers Dan Runzler and Buddy Boshers since both finished the '15 season in the Atlantic League. Minnesota signed this pair as the Twins seek left-handed bullpen help. Runzler pitched at Sugar Land, TX and Boshers was with Atlantic League champion Somerset, NJ. Another southpaw, Rich Hill, who pitched briefly for Long Island, NY in the Atlantic League last season, signed at $6 million contract with Oakland earlier in the fall. He is on the major league roster.

The other non-roster invitees we know of so far, including their position, organization and their Independent teams: RHP Tim Adleman, Cincinnati (New Jersey, Can-Am League; El Paso, TX and Lincoln, NE, American Association); RHP Dylan Axelrod, Miami (Windy City, Crestwood, IL, Frontier League); OF Joe Benson, Minnesota (Sugar Land); RHP Greg Burke, Philadelphia (Atlantic City, NJ, Atlantic League); RHP Jarrett Grube, Cleveland (Southern Maryland, Atlantic); RHP Logan Kensing, Detroit (Bridgeport, CT, Atlantic); RHP Brandon Kintzler, Minnesota (St. Paul, MN, American Association, and Winnipeg, Northern League); 1B-OF Reynaldo Rodriguez, Minnesota (Yuma, AZ, Golden League); LHP Joe Thatcher, Cleveland (River City, O'Fallon, MO, Frontier).


Should anyone believe signings by major league organizations out of Independent leagues have diminished of late, they should think again. Records maintained by show 82 of these signings just since the end of last spring training, and that only includes players currently in major league systems and those who became free agents at the end of the season. Other players were signed in this span of time and later released.

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