Monday, December 26, 2016

Spring Training Count Of Ex-Indy Players Likely To Top 2016

Most major league teams have not revealed the bulk of their non-roster invitees to spring training camps, but IndyBaseballChatter has been busy working through various sources and we can now say with confidence that the number of players who have been in independent leagues and will train with one of the 30 organizations almost certainly will top the 50 mark of last February.

We can identify 42 players already ticketed for major league camps in Florida or Arizona even though about seven weeks remain before we hear the happy cry of "pitchers and catchers", traditionally the first big-leaguers asked to report.

After last season's record of 45 onetime Indy players seeing action during the regular major league season, 26 players are currently on 40-man rosters, an increase of one over last spring training, and 16 players that we know of have been given non-roster invitations.  That means only nine more players need to be tabbed to top last season's total.  That number seems almost certain to be exceded, possibly by a fairly wide margin, once organizations return from an end-of-year break and more of them identify their non-roster invitation lists.

For starters in increasing the list, four established major leaguers still are free agents, beginning with right-handed pitcher Luke Hochevar and infielder Stephen Drew.  Tom Wilhelmsen and Jerome Williams also remain available to any team although their careers probably are considerably closer to the end than the beginning.

Pitchers dominate the ranks of players headed to spring training, as always.  Hurlers have 32 of the 42 spots already known by "Chatter" with three catchers, a similar number of infielders and four outfielders.  The American Association and Atlantic League continue to have the most players on the list.

Stay tuned.

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Friday, November 11, 2016

Although Different, Hernandez And Runzler Both Headed To MLB Camps

Ariel Hernandez and Dan Runzler could not be much different except that both are pitchers.

Hernandez is only 24, born in the Dominican Republic and is a right-hander who has not pitched above Class A, but is considered a major league prospect since he has averaged well over one strikeout per inning since his professional debut as an 18-year-old.

Runzler is 31, a California-born southpaw, who is trying to re-kindle a major league career that started back in '09.

Oh, both have spent a majority of their career in the San Francisco organization although neither is with the Giants now.  And, of course, they have relied on Independent Baseball for some of their recent opportunities.

What brings them together, in a sense, is that both will be in major league spring training camps thanks to recent developments.  Hernandez was promoted to Cincinnati's 40-man winter roster, the only former Indy player to earn this new distinction since the season ended.  Runzler is the first of an eventual 20 or so recent Independent players that we have identified to be a non-roster invitee to spring training, this time with Pittsburgh.

Runzler has been one of the most highly discussed potential major leaguers in any Indy league the last two seasons because of some dazzling bullpen efforts while with the Sugar Land (TX) Skeeters of the Atlantic League.  He had 0.52 and 1.95 earned run averages in these two seasons for Gary Gaetti's Skeeters, with some time at Triple-A for Arizona and Minnesota, respectively, in '15 and '16 without being able to duplicate the tiny ERAs.  The Pirates hope he might help their bullpen, at least matcting the 3.86 ERA he compiled in 89 games spread over four seasons for San Francisco, the last of which was four years ago.

Hernandez's time in the Frontier League was very brief (two relief appearances for the Frontier Greys in the '15 season), although it is not uncommon for these stints to pay off for a player who needs a change of scenery before moving to a new major league organization.  He did strike out five of the eight batters he faced early that season before Arizona picked him up.  He moved on to Cincinnati's farm system this season and after 74 strikeouts and only 29 hits in 62 innings during 43 appearances with two Class A teams the Reds had seen enough to know he needed to be protected at the highest level.  A combined 2.18 ERA appears to be only part of the impressive story.

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Wednesday, September 28, 2016

45 Former Indy Players In Major League Baseball

The story keeps getting better for Independent Baseball.

When Toronto Blue Jays added right-hander Chris Smith to its roster Wednesday the record number of former independent players to wear a major league uniform during the regular season climbed to 45. That is four more than the previous high established two years ago, according to records maintained by

Yes, two of the 45 are named Chris Smith and both are righties. The other Smith is with Oakland A's. Toronto’s Smith, a 28-year-old native of Louisville, started his professional career in the Frontier League in 2010. He is the second pitcher who threw his first professional pitch in a non-major-league-affiliated circuit to reach the majors in recent weeks. The other is Boston lefty Robby Scott.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2016

'Just A Great Feeling' For Can-Am Grads' First MLB Hit

If the Can-Am League had its own Hall of Fame, this would be a perfect souvenir for a player to donate.

Less than a year removed from All-Star status in the league for his play with the Rockland Boulders (Pomona, NY), Stephen Cardullo gave himself an ideal 29th birthday gift two days early when his pinch hit single landed in left field to give the new Colorado Rockies outfielder-first baseman his very first major league hit.  “Just a great feeling,” he told  That ball would make a nice treasure, although it apparently is going to Cardullo’s father.

It was Cardullo’s sixth plate appearance for the Rockies (he had an earlier walk), and the Coors Field crowd gave him a standing ovation.

Accolades for Cardullo on his first regular-season major league opportunity have poured in since last Thursday from the likes of coach Mike Martin, Jr. at Florida State, where the Hollywood, FL native went from walk-on status to an offensive power, and both general manager Shawn Reilly and field manager Jamie Keefe of the Boulders had great praise.  The right-handed hitter had spent four full seasons in Independent leagues before the Rockies signed him during the offseason, three in the Can-Am League and one in the Frontier (Florence, KY and London).  This is what Cardullo had to say to The Denver Post about the opportunity:

“Anyone playing Independent ball always has that slight chance to get a call to make a team and eventually make the major leagues.  You have to have that belief deep down that you can make it even given the opportunity, and I was fortunate enough to be given the opportunity.”


The expansion of rosters on September 1 likely will mean more former Indy players will join major league teams, but it has already been a banner few days.  Catcher Rafael Lopez, who played in the Atlantic League (Bridgeport, CT) earlier this season, was summoned to join Cincinnati on Saturday, becoming the 40th player with non-affiliated experience to reach The Show this season.
Southpaw Andrew Albers (Quebec, Can-Am, and Lancaster, PA, Atlantic) has re-joined Minnesota, right-hander Brandon Cunniff (Southern Illinois and River City, Frontier League) went back to Atlanta as did first baseman Brandon Snyder (Southern Maryland, Atlantic), righty Bo Schultz (Grand Prairie, TX, American Association) has returned to Toronto and outfielder Logan Schafer, signed earlier this season out of Lancaster, joined the Twins.  Cunniff has since been optioned back to Triple-A.

Get the independent minor league baseball trivia question of the day by clicking this link: Independent Minor League Baseball Trivia Questions

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Recent Indy Grads Impressing In MiLB

One constant in writing about Independent Baseball is the never-ending-opportunity to shed the spotlight on players who have not yet reached the major leagues, but are showing impressive strides after being signed out of the non-affiliated leagues and playing in the affiliated minors.

Today's stories are absolutely juicy.

One year ago Stephen Cardullo was an all-star outfielder in the Can-Am League, hitting .331 for the Rockland Boulders (Pomona, NY). Today, the soon-to-be 29-year-old can boast of hitting .308 with 26 doubles, 5 triples, 17 homers and 72 RBI for the Los Angeles Dodgers' top farm club in Albuquerque.

Omar Bencomo, a 27-year-old who had to fight his way back after gunshot wounds in his native Venezuela that kept him off the diamond for two years, rebounded through Italy and the American Association (Laredo, TX and Wichita, KS), and the right-hander has recently been promoted by Minnesota to the Twins' Triple-A club in Rochester, NY. He has split his first two starts for the Red Wings.   "I'm so proud to be here," he told The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle.  "A lot of things happened to me to get here.  I took a long time to get 100 per cent but I'm here."

Mike Zouzalik was a strikeout-per-inning reliever for the St. Paul (MN) Saints of the American Association last season (4-1, 2.06 in 39 appearances) before his contract was purchased by Baltimore.  He had split this season between Class A Frederick, MD and Double-A Bowie, MD until recently when he was promoted to Norfolk, VA.  In  his first appearance in Triple-A, the righty escaped one bases loaded jam and worked three scoreless innings.  "When I got released (Texas in 2014), I was really kind of relieved," he told The Norfolk Pilot.  "I was throwing, and I had no idea where it was going...I just wasn't really having fun.  When I played with Wichita (his first American Association team later that year) and we won the championship, that reminded me how much fun this game is.  That was huge for me."

Ross Vance got his initial professional opportunity this season in the first-year United Shore League (Utica, MI), but St. Louis came along early on and purchased the 24-year-old lefty.  He already has 47 strikeouts in a mere 34 innings for Johnson City, TN of the Appalachian League, winning all three of his decisions and posting a 2.38 earned run average in 13 appearances (two starts).

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Thursday, August 18, 2016

Record Likely For Number Of Indy Players

With more than six weeks remaining in the major league season it seems virtually certain a record is going to be established for the most players with time in Independent leagues reaching baseball's pinnacle in any one year.

The count has already reached 38, based on records maintained by, only three below the high-water mark reached two years ago. The final count last season was 37.

The confidence that a new mark will be established stems from the fact several more players could easily get the call. And there is always the chance of another Rich Hill situation of a player still laboring in an Indy circuit in August who could have his contract purchased and he could land at the game's highest level days later.

Here are some of the top candidates to reach active major league status this year.

Rehabbing veteran Tanner Scheppers seems likely to join the Texas Rangers when rosters expand September 1, and another possibility is RHP Aaron Wilkerson, now working in Triple-A for Milwaukee. Veteran lefty Joe Thatcher could join his new parent, the Chicago Cubs.


With Tim Adleman (New Jersey, Can-Am League, and El Paso and Lincoln, American Association) back in the majors with Cincinnati, 16 onetime Independent players are active on major league rosters.  The unusual aspect is that another nine, very likely a high-water mark, are on major league disabled lists.  Seven of those are pitchers.


On paper, Aaron Wilkerson seemed to have benefitted from the trade last month when he went from Boston's Triple-A Pawtucket farm club to the corresponding level in the Milwaukee chain at Colorado Springs.  And, he knows he owes his second chance at reaching the major leagues to time he spent in Independent Baseball after being out of the game for a couple of years and moving on with his life outside of the game.

"Independent ball was my way of doing a self-evaluation," the 27-year-old told The Colorado Springs Gazette recently.  "I was able to put up good numbers (at Florence, KY of the Frontier League and Grand Prairie, TX of the American Association) and another opportunity came my way."

The right-hander has struggled since joining Colorado Springs (1-5, 6.69 in eight starts) after a strong start to the season with Boston's top two farm clubs (6-3, 2.14) led to talk of a major league call-up, but he had an encouraging no-decision start Wednesday when he struck out 10 El Paso batters in six innings of three-run work.

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Monday, August 08, 2016

Astros' James Hoyt Latest To Make Independents Proud

It finally happened!

Strikeout machine James Hoyt, who pitched for three independent baseball teams before getting his first chance with a major league organization, has made his long-awaited major league debut with the postseason-hopeful Houston Astros.

The 29-year-old right-hander is the first player who started in a non-affiliated league to reach the majors since Ian Thomas did so. Both players were in Independent play as recently as 2012, and are the 42nd and 43rd players who started their pro career in an Indy circuit to climb all the way to the majors. Thirty of them have been pitchers.

The 6-foot-5 Hoyt was plagued by wildness during his last collegiate season at Centenary College, but after working on a sailboat in San Diego for a time the next year (2011) he hooked up with the Jose Canseco-managed Yuma (AZ) Scorpions of the North American League, then Edinburg, TX of the same league and finally the Wichita (KS) Wingnuts of the American Association in 2012.

He struck out 248 hitters in only 191 innings in the Atlanta and Houston farm systems between 2013 and last season, and he was enjoying a banner season with the Astros’ Triple-A club in Fresno, striking out batters at a rate of 15.1 for every nine innings. He had 84 whiffs in 50 innings, a 1.62 ERA and his 28 saves ranked as the second highest total in all of the affiliated minors. Baseball America tabbed him the top reliever in the Pacific Coast League in its recent “best tools” issue.

Hoyt has been in three games in the last five days since being called up, allowing one hit (an Edwin Encarnacion solo home run) while walking one and collecting four strikeouts in 2.2 major league innings.

Wichita Now Has Indy-Leading Four in Majors

The Wichita Wingnuts have a great deal to boast about these days. The American Association franchise has an independent baseball-leading four former players in the major leagues now that James Hoyt and changeup specialist Chris Smith of Oakland Athletics have been called up.

The ‘Nuts already had slugging Arizona Diamondbacks outfielder David Peralta (disabled list) and the surprising Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Junior Guerra in the majors.

Smith, 35, is back in the majors for the first time since making 20 starts (8-4, 3.55) for Wichita in ’13 and 12 appearances (eight starts) for Sugar Land, TX of the Atlantic League the next season before San Diego Padres purchased the right-hander’s contract and sent him to their top farm club in El Paso, TX. He won all six of his decisions and compiled a 2.15 ERA with Sugar Land.

The onetime University of California-Riverside hurler had 50 previous major league relief opportunities with Boston Red Sox and Milwaukee between 2008 and 2010.  Baseball America named Smith the pitcher with the best changeup in the Pacific Coast League for his work with the Athletics’ Nashville club this season.

Sugar Land ranks second among all Independent teams with three major leaguers, including the Los Angeles Dodgers Scott Kazmir and another southpaw, Hunter Cervenka, a rookie just obtained by Miami Marlins from the Atlanta Braves.

Get the independent minor league baseball trivia question of the day by clicking this link: Independent Minor League Baseball Trivia Questions

Monday, August 01, 2016

Reynolds, Sermo Capitalize On New Opportunities

Fortunes can change quickly in Independent Baseball.  Just ask Matt Reynolds and Jose Sermo, both enjoying triumphant returns to major league organizations.

From Lancaster to SF Giants in a Month

Matt Reynolds suddenly finds himself involved in the National League West pennant chase only a month and a few days removed from the Lancaster (PA) Barnstormers' bullpen in the Atlantic League.  The 31-year-old southpaw had relieved in 213 major league games for Colorado and Arizona between 2010 and 2015 when he suddenly found himself needing a new opportunity after the Diamondbacks released him in the last week of spring training.

"It's kind of been an interesting journey," the 6-foot-5 hurler admitted to, shortly after being promoted from Triple-A to the San Francisco Giants, for whom he made two appearances (1.0, 1 hit, 1 walk, 1 strikeout) over the weekend during their series against another division leader, Washington.  "I certainly wasn't expecting any of this."

Reynolds described his time with Lancaster, which only ended after a June 21 appearance, as a "fun opportunity", and the onetime Austin Peay starter shared one funny experience during his time with the Barnstormers, which included 26 relief outings and 32 strikeouts in 22 Atlantic League innings (1-0, 1.63).  He was getting ready to warm up for his first appearance, he told, when teammates told him to slow it up because the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs do a mid-game fireworks show.  “I was a little shocked and blown away,” he mused.

Giants manager Bruce Bochy says he plans to use Reynolds as a situational reliever for now.

Three-Homer Game Launches Sermo

Jose Sermo played half of last season and 29 games earlier in '16 with Gary, IN of the American Association before Boston purchased the infielder's contract and gave him a second opportunity in affiliated baseball following three years in the Milwaukee farm system.

He had shown some power early this summer at Gary, whacking five homers while hitting .311 with a sparkling .425 on-base percentage and 24 runs driven in.  Sermo admits things were not going that good for Salem, VA in the Carolina League until last Tuesday (July 26) when the switch-hitter recorded his first three-homer game.  He hit two right-handed and the last one as a lefty.

"I was struggling a little bit, but I kind of tried to relax," Sermo told  "(Coach Angel) Berroa was talking to me like 'just relax.  You look like you just want to hit already and you're not even close to being in the box.  Just relax.'"  Berroa may have been thinking back to when he was a star in the Independent game himself, mainly for Bridgeport, CT of the Atlantic League, where his number has been retired.

Sermo, 25, has been hot since that night, going 8-for-18 to lift his season average (29 games) to .245.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Frontier League's Smoker 'Won't Forget' His Innings In Majors

One can only hope that Josh Smoker will not become the latest Independent Baseball grad to spend a brief (usually one day) time on a major league roster and never get into a game. But even if it turns out that way, the 27-year-old southpaw pitcher admitted to it is "one I won't forget."

Smoker, who spent 2014 with Rockford, IL in the Frontier League before getting a second affiliated opportunity in the New York Mets organization, was added to the roster as the 26th man for the second game of their doubleheader against St. Louis Tuesday, and arrived in the sixth inning after flying with his Las Vegas 51s teammates to Fresno, CA, where he was told to fly to New York.
"That was a good wakeup call, definitely a good wakeup call," Smoker told after watching the final three innings of the 3-1 Mets win from the bullpen.

Chances are the Georgia native, who was Washington's first round draft choice nine years ago, will get more opportunities in the majors since he already was on New York's 40-man roster and had gotten 4.2 innings of experience during spring training. He had impressed Mets brass with 15 strikeouts and a 0.90 earned run average in his last 10 Pacific Coast League innings. He has an overall 4.73 ERA for 43 appearances this season. maintains a list of Independent players who have gone on to reach the major leagues (Smoker is No. 218) with pitchers Tim Bausher (Boston), Tom Cochran (Cincinnati), Julio DePaula (Baltimore) and Brian Mazone (Philadelphia) and catcher Jose Yepez (Seattle) the only others never to appear in a big-league contest.

(The entire list of 218 is available for a fee, with details available on this blog.)


Righty Jerome Williams, whose lengthy resume includes Independent stops with Long Beach, CA in the Golden League and Lancaster, PA in the Atlantic League, has joined the St. Louis Cardinals after making nine starts (5-3, 4.89) with Triple-A Memphis.  The 34-year-old averaged more than six innings each time out.


First baseman-outfielder Chris Colabello, whose climb to the major leagues after seven seasons in the Can-Am League has been well documented, is back in action with Toronto's top farm club in Buffalo after sitting out his lengthy suspension, but one cannot help wondering if his path back to the majors this season became more difficult when the Blue Jays obtained another right-handed bat in veteran outfielder Melvin Upton Jr. from San Diego.

Like Colabello, Joe Thatcher started his professional career in Independent play (Frontier League). The veteran left-handed reliever came off the free agent list recently when American League Central leader Cleveland signed him. One more longtime major league southpaw, Craig Breslow (New Jersey Jackals), also has a new home, signing with Texas after Miami released him.

Get the independent minor league baseball trivia question of the day by clicking this link: Independent Minor League Baseball Trivia Questions

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Big Numbers Posted By Indy Players Not In Majors

Since pitchers often dominate when onetime Independent Baseball stars break through--or even are on the verge of breaking through to the majors--it is refreshing to see what onetime Somerset, NJ (Atlantic League) first baseman-outfielder Chris Marrero is doing for Boston's top farm club in Pawtucket, RI.

It probably will be tough for the 28-year-old to break through to the Red Sox this season because of their big offensive roster, but he not only homered in the Triple-A All-Star Game but has 18 regular-season bombs for a share of second in the International League.  Marrero, who spent part of last season with the Patriots, also has 46 RBI and a .294/.352/.521 log.

The American Association's Wichita Wingnuts have gotten considerable attention this year because of Junior Guerra's terrific breakthrough with Milwaukee, and they also have potent (when healthy) outfielder David Peralta with Arizona. Now the Kansans have a trio of other pitching alums putting up big numbers.

Josh Lowey, who went 15-4 for the Wingnuts in 2012 (one of Guerra's years), is 13-3 with a 1.65 ERA in the Mexican League.  The 31-year-old, who came out of Mercer University in '08 and started a lengthy Independent run, has an amazing 61-21 record in the non-affiliated leagues without a sniff from the majors.  The right-hander also had a 14-8 year for Somerset and has spent considerable time with Windy City and River City in the Frontier League.

In bullpen duty, James Hoyt, another 2012 pitcher for part of the year at Wichita, leads the Pacific Coast League with 23 saves (4-3, 1.81) and continues to pile up strikeouts (78 in 44.2 innings) without getting called up by the parent Houston Astros.  He also worked in the North American League for Yuma, AZ and Edinburg, TX.  Derek Eitel, who pitched briefly for the Wingnuts last season, is 4-0, 2.91 with 52 strikeouts in 46.1 innings as a reliever for San Diego's top minor league team in El Paso, TX.

Lefty Andrew Albers (Quebec, Can-Am League, and Lancaster, PA, Atlantic) continues to do well at Rochester, NY, Minnesota's Triple-A affiliate, where his 8-3 record shares second for wins in the International League.  He has a 3.36 ERA.  And longtime Independent hurler Dustin Crenshaw is 8-2, 2.20 in Mexico.  Crenshaw won 14 of 16 decisions for the St. Paul (MN) Saints of the American Association last season.  The 6-foot-5 South Alabama product also has pitched for Sonoma County in the Pacific Association, Quebec and Gary, IN of the American Association.

Get the independent minor league baseball trivia question of the day by clicking this link: Independent Minor League Baseball Trivia Questions

Monday, July 11, 2016

With Success of Cuban Visit CanAm League May Do Again

Buoyed by the success of the three-week visit by the Cuban National Team to all of its six stadiums, the Can-Am League is hoping the experience can be repeated next year.

The league saw a “pretty significant” attendance increase everywhere, commissioner Miles Wolff pointed out. “We are talking about trying to do it again next year”, he added, while admitting a considerable amount of work goes into such an undertaking, including the obtaining of visas.

Rockland (Pomona, NY) had the largest single crowd for a game against the Cubans, Wolff said, and he used Ottawa as an example of the attendance jump with three consecutive crowds of more than 5,000 (a total of 16,386) compared to the Champions’ season average up to now of less than half that amount (2,483).

The Cuban team started slowly when it won only three of 10 games in the league’s three Canadian cities, but reeled off eight consecutive wins during its games in the three United States stadiums to finish 11-9 overall. (Shikoku Island from Japan went 8-12 at the same time.)

Speculation about the reason for the Cuban turnaround included the need to get accustomed to playing most every day as compared to only a few games a week when on its home island.


Aaron Hill drew most of the immediate attention in the recent Boston-Milwaukee trade because of how the veteran infielder could improve the Red Sox’s postseason hopes, but another Aaron in the deal also may benefit.

Right-hander Aaron Wilkerson had been picking up support for his first major league opportunity since the Independent Baseball grad had a combined 6-3, 2.14 record this season between Boston’s top two farm clubs in Portland, ME and Pawtucket, RI. In fact, the 27-year-old had gone 22-7 with a 2.52 ERA in 54 appearances (44 starts) since Boston purchased his contract from the American Association (Grand Prairie, TX) in 2014.

“In Aaron Wilkerson, we are adding a starting pitcher who has had tremendous success in the minor leagues and could be an asset to the major league team in the near future,” Brewers general manager David Stearns told “He’s just never given up (after Tommy John surgery in 2011), Stearns added to “The Red Sox did a good job of finding him and he’s really flown through that system since he signed.”

Wilkerson, who also pitched for Florence, KY in the Frontier League and Fort Worth in the United League, did not hurt his chances of getting called up in his first start for Triple-A Colorado Springs Sunday. He blanked Iowa (Cubs) on two hits and a walk in a four-inning stint.

It also may help that Milwaukee has seen recent success from another American Association grad, Junior Guerra. The onetime Wichita hurler has won six of eight decisions and posted a 3.06 ERA in 13 starts for the team that is 11 games under .500.

Get the independent minor league baseball trivia question of the day by clicking this link: Independent Minor League Baseball Trivia Questions

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Majors Picking Up Indy Players At Torrid Pace

While the track record over the past two decades shows it is going to happen, the pace of Independent Baseball players having their contracts purchased by major league organizations has been at a torrid pace this season.

Records maintained by the Independent Baseball Insider, believed to be the most complete anywhere, have recorded 42 such transactions since the end of major league spring training with 25 of them in the second half of June, probably in part to help fill out rosters after the free agent draft.

Two impressive facets of these signings are that 10 of the players started their professional career in an Indy league and some of them have come from the newer non-affiliated circuits, including the Pacific Association and the first-year United Shore League.

In no particular order, the native Independent players who have had their contracts picked up for a price by MLB organizations include RHP (and former infielder) Max Duval to Arizona, SS Josh Gardiner and RHP Tim Holmes to the New York Yankees, INF Christian Ibarra to Minnesota, RHP Trey Lambert to Washington, RHP Santos Saldivar to Milwaukee, INF Josh Silver to the Chicago Cubs, RHP Matt Solter to San Francisco, OF Boo Vazquez to Kansas City and LHP Ross Vance to St. Louis.

Vance came out of the three-team United Shore League which started its initial season on May 30.

In addition to the 42 players sold to major league organizations, numerous others have gone to leagues in Mexico, Taiwan and Japan.


Some of the recent signees, largely from the Atlantic League, went straight to Triple-A teams.  One player recently promoted to the top minor league level is infielder-outfielder Ryan Court, who was taken from Sioux City in the American Association.  Boston promoted him from Double-A Portland, ME to its top affiliate in Pawtucket, RI.

Court, 28, hit .331 with Sioux City's potent team last season, and followed that up by hitting .319 in 40 games for Portland.  He is at .300 (9-for-30) after eight appearances for Pawtucket.

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Along with Ziegler, York and Guerra Earn High Marks

Brad Ziegler's numbers are getting insane with a 0.61 ERA in save situations this season and 43 consecutive saves overall, but I also tip my hat very high among the new products out of the Independent leagues; Washington's Tanner Roark (Southern Illinois Miners, Frontier League) and Junior Guerra (Wichita Wingnuts, American Association) of Milwaukee.

Ziegler (Schaumburg, then in the Northern League) has been around for a while, in fact long enough that the Arizona side-armer's 564 career appearances are the most in the majors since 2008.

The Washington Post credits Roark's improved command of his two-seam fastball as the biggest reason the right-hander now owns one of the lowest earned run averages (3.14) on the potent Nationals' starting rotation and is now striking out nearly 8.1 hitters every nine innings.  He has a 6-4 record for 14 starts this season.

Guerra, the onetime catcher who really started getting pitching notice when he went 18-7 while working for Wichita in 2011 and 2013, had only three major league appearances--a non-descript four innings in relief for the Chicago White Sox last season--until the Brewers called him up from Triple-A Colorado Springs the first week of May.

The 31-year-old seems to have become a steady starter for Milwaukee with a 3-1 record and a 3.81 ERA for nine outings.  He has allowed only 46 hits in 54.1 innings and has 45 punchouts.

"He's certainly done his job," manager Craig Counsell told  "He's (gotten better as the game goes on) in a bunch of his starts.  He's getting to 90-100 pitches and still going strong, still going really good."

Get the independent minor league baseball trivia question of the day by clicking this link: Independent Minor League Baseball Trivia Questions

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Braves' Cervenka Latest To Make Majors After Time In Independent League

Want to guess what Atlanta rookie Hunter Cervenka and Kansas City’s Chien-Ming Wang have in common, other than being pitchers?

Wang, the veteran on the comeback trail, and 26-year-old southpaw Cervenka are the first two players to be on an active major league roster this season for the first time after seeing some action in Independent Baseball.

What may be most impressive it that it was only last season when they were in the Atlantic League, Wang at Southern Maryland (Waldorf) and Cervenka with Sugar Land, TX. In all, four of last season’s Atlantic Leaguers have now gotten to the majors, including current Oakland starter Rich Hill (Long Island, NY) and last September’s Tim Stauffer (Sugar Land) with the New York Mets.

Cervenka, called up by the Braves Monday for his first trip to the majors, is the 212th player to be active on a major league roster after playing in an Indy league since the non-affiliated leagues first played 23 years ago. Forty-two of those players started their pro career in an Independent circuit including six who are active today.

Cervenka gives the Indy leagues 16 active major leaguers today, with three more on the disabled list of big-league teams. The list with the team and the Independent affiliations in parenthesis:

Pitchers (12 + 3 on DL)

  • Craig Breslow, Miami (New Jersey, Northeast League)
  • Hunter Cervenka, Atlanta (Sugar Land, Atlantic League)
  • Jon Edwards (DL), San Diego (San Angelo, North American League, and Alpine, Pecos League)
  • Rich Hill, Oakland (Long Island, Atlantic)
  • Luke Hochevar, Kansas City (Fort Worth, American Association)
  • Scott Kazmir, Los Angeles-NL (Sugar Land)
  • Logan Kensing, Detroit (Bridgeport, Atlantic)
  • Vidal Nuno, Seattle (Washington, Frontier League)
  • Tanner Roark, Washington (Southern Illinois, Frontier)
  • Tanner Scheppers (DL), Texas (St. Paul, American Association)
  • Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth)
  • Bo Schultz (DL), Toronto (Grand Prairie, American Association)
  • Chien-Ming Wang, Kansas City (Southern Maryland, Atlantic)
  • Tom Wilhelmsen, Texas (Tucson, Golden League)
  • Brad Ziegler, Arizona (Schaumburg, Northern League).

Position players (4)

  • Chris Colabello, Toronto (Worcester and Nashua, Can-Am League)
  • Stephen Drew, Washington (Camden, Atlantic)
  • Daniel Nava, Los Angeles-AL (Chico, Golden)
  • David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association and Rio Grande Valley, North American)

NOTE: A complete list of the 212 players who have been on a major league roster after playing Independent Baseball is available for private use for $19.95 from

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Tuesday, March 29, 2016


Veteran lefty Wandy Rodriguez or power-pitching rookie James Hoyt?

That seems to be one of the remaining questions in the Houston Astros’ spring training camp less than one week before the major league season opens.

Hoyt has been exceptional for the second spring in a row for the Astros, but experience, especially from lefties, always seems to be a premium.

If the 29-year-old Hoyt does make it he will be among less than four dozen players since 1993 who started their professional journey in Independent leagues and without being drafted and reached The Show.

Eighteen strikeouts in only 9.2 innings this spring has been the eye-popping story for the right-hander, who fanned 66 Pacific Coast League hitters in 47 innings last year at Fresno. Hoyt has been touched for only four hits (has walked six) and has a 1.86 ERA in eight appearances.

He started his pro career in the defunct North American League at Yuma, AZ and Edinburg, TX in 2011-12, then went 2-0, 2.61 in 12 outings in the recognized American Association (Wichita, KS) before getting his first affiliated opportunity in the Atlanta farm system in ’13.


Rich Hill, a major league veteran who had to start rebuilding his reputation at Long Island, NY, of the Atlantic League late last season, went into spring training as the best new name to emerge after spending time in Independent Baseball, but the Oakland southpaw does not have that role entirely to himself.

Chien-Ming Wang (Southern Maryland, Atlantic) has been another feel-good comeback story during spring training and likely will start the season with the World Series champion Kansas City Royals.

Still others from the Independent ranks who appear to be continuing their fight for Opening Day jobs include infielder Robert Andino (Somerset, NJ, Atlantic) with Miami and reliever Logan Kensing (Bridgeport, CT, Atlantic) with Detroit.

The total count of players with Independent experience who will be on Opening Day rosters appears to be between 15 and 20. Thirty-seven such players were in the majors at least part of last season.

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Tuesday, March 08, 2016


Major league spring training has an abundance of intriguing storylines for Independent Baseball fans this year regardless of anyone's favorite league, but it is difficult topping what the Atlantic Eight brings to the table.

I have dubbed it the Atlantic Eight because of the fact eight players who were in the Atlantic League either for a long spell or for a cup of coffee last season are in major league camps fulltime, which may never have been accomplished by any league since the Independent frenzy started back in 1993.

The American Association has been out-pacing the Atlantic League in the pure number of former players in the majors in some recent times, but the Atlantic goes out of its way to declare its players "major league ready", and the league's argument is very strong right now.

Veteran right-hander Rich Hill, who made an important foray into the Atlantic League (Long Island, NY) last summer on the way to sizzling as a starter at Boston in September then signing a $6.1 million contract with Oakland in the offseason, is the only one of the Atlantic Eight on a 40-man roster although he is far from standing alone in representing the newest group of Atlantic Leaguers vying for regular-season jobs.

Minnesota has the strongest contingent in raw numbers and possibly the other top candidates to make it to Opening Day with outfielder Joe Benson (Sugar Land, TX) and southpaw relievers Dan Runzler (Sugar Land) and Buddy Boshers (Somerset, NJ. World Champion Kansas City has comeback-minded righty Chien-Ming Wang (Southern Maryland), Atlanta has Sugar Land lefty Hunter Cervenka, righty Tim Stauffer (Sugar Land) is with Arizona and infielder Robert Andino (Somerset) is making his comeback bid with Miami. All technically carry the tag non-roster invitee at the moment.

Hill, being counted on in the Athletics' rotation, struggled in his first start by walking three, giving up two hits and a run while only retiring four batters. Stauffer has not pitched, at least in a regular Cactus League game, but everyone else has put up decent numbers in the early going (through Monday). Boshers and Runzler, at least one of whom could land in the Twins' bullpen, both have had two scoreless outings of an inning apiece and Benson, getting action nearly every day in the Grapefruit League so far, has gone 2-for-8 with a walk, double, RBI and run.

Wang, at Southern Maryland briefly while trying to get his career back on track, has now worked three scoreless innings for the Royals, giving up two hits and collecting two strikeouts. Cervenka has two scoreless frames while Andino has gone 2-for-7 plus two walks and has scored twice in four appearances.

One other 2015 Atlantic League pitcher, Long Island lefty Donnie Veal, has gotten into a Cactus League game, coming from Texas's minor league camp for at least one day. He was touched for two runs in an inning of work.

Aside from this Atlantic League contingent, attention should be given to two other Independent players who are trying to find their way onto the 25-man roster of the reigning World Series-champion Royals. First baseman Balbino Fuenmayor, the 2014 choice of Baseball America as Independent Player of the Year for his breakout season at Quebec in the Can-Am League, is seeing solid playing time and has gone 2-for-9 with one run batted in during five appearances. He also has played for Laredo, TX of the American Association and the Frontier League Greys. Outfielder Jose Martinez (Rockford, IL, Frontier League), new to the 40-man roster, is 4-for-9 after four appearances.

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Monday, February 22, 2016


Fans of Independent Baseball are virtually guaranteed of an exciting lead-up to the major league season as well as to the Indy openers in April and May because another strong contingent of players who have spent time developing their talent in the non-affiliated leagues are wearing uniforms representing one of the 30 American and National League teams in spring training.

Records maintained exclusively by show exactly 50 onetime Independent players are official invitees to the camps spread throughout Arizona and Florida, with many of them totally dependent on the Indy leagues in order to get any momentum toward a big-league career and some using this route to rehab from an injury or develop new skills so they can re-energize their professional life. The 50-man contingent is evenly divided between 40-man roster players and non-roster invitees.

The Independent league graduates could take the field any given day as a unit since all positions are represented although, as usual, the top-heavy number–38 of the 50–are pitchers.

The complete roster, by position, with the major league team and the Independent affiliations in parenthesis. An asterisk indicates the player started his professional career in an Indy league while an “n” in front of the player indicates he is in spring training as a non-roster player competing to make a 25-man opening day roster.

Pitchers (38)–nTim Adleman, Cincinnati (New Jersey, Can-Am League, and El Paso and Lincoln, American Association); nDylan Axelrod, Miami (Windy City, Frontier League); nBuddy Boshers, Minnesota (Somerset, Atlantic League); nCraig Breslow, Miami (New Jersey, Northeast League); n*Greg Burke, Philadelphia (Atlantic City, Atlantic); nAngel Castro, Oakland (Lincoln); nHunter Cervenka, Atlanta (Sugar Land, Atlantic); n*Aaron Crow, Chicago-NL (Fort Worth, American Association); Steve Delabar, Toronto (Brockton, Can-Am, and Florence, Frontier); Jon Edwards, San Diego (San Angelo, North American League, and Alpine, Pecos League); Luis Garcia, Philadelphia (Newark, Can-Am); nJarrett Grube, Cleveland (Southern Maryland, Atlantic); Junior Guerra, Milwaukee (Wichita, American Association); Rich Hill, Oakland (Long Island, Atlantic); *Luke Hochevar, Kansas City (Fort Worth); John Holdzkom, Pittsburgh (Amarillo and Sioux City, American Association, and San Angelo, United League); n*James Hoyt, Houston (Wichita and Edinburg and Yuma, North American); Scott Kazmir, Los Angeles-NL (Sugar Land); nLogan Kensing, Detroit (Bridgeport, Atlantic); nBrandon Kintzler, Minnesota (St. Paul, American Association, and Winnipeg, Northern League); Vidal Nuno, Seattle (Washington, Frontier); *James Paxton, Seattle (Grand Prairie, American Association); nScott Rice, Arizona (York, Long Island, and Newark, Atlantic); *Tanner Roark, Washington (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Chaz Roe, Baltimore (Laredo, American Association); nDrew Rucinski, Chicago-NL (Rockford, Frontier); nDan Runzler, Minnesota (Sugar Land); *Tanner Scheppers, Texas (St. Paul); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth); Bo Schultz, Toronto (Sioux Falls and Grand Prairie, American Association); nJoe Thatcher, Cleveland (River City, Frontier); *Ian Thomas, Los Angeles-NL (York and Winnipeg, Northern and American Association); nChien-Ming Wang, Kansas City (Southern Maryland); nChris Smith, Oakland (Sugar Land and Wichita); Josh Smoker, New York-NL (Rockford); nTim Stauffer, Arizona (Sugar Land); Tom Wilhelmsen, Texas (Tucson, Golden League); Brad Ziegler, Arizona (Schaumburg, Northern).

Catchers (2) – Rene Rivera, Tampa Bay (Camden, Atlantic); nEddy Rodriguez, New York-AL (Sioux Falls and El Paso, American Association).

Infielders (4) –nSS-2B Robert Andino, Miami (Somerset); *1B-OF Chris Colabello, Toronto (Worcester and Nashua, Can-Am), *2B-SS Stephen Drew, Washington (Camden); n1B-3B Balbino Fuenmayor, Kansas City (Quebec, Can-Am; Laredo, American Association; Frontier Greys, Frontier).

Outfielders (6) —nJoe Benson, Minnesota (Sugar Land); Jose Martinez, Kansas City (Rockford); *Daniel Nava, Los Angeles-AL (Chico, Golden); David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita and Rio Grande Valley, North American); nAntoan Richardson, Pittsburgh (Schaumburg); nOF-1B Reynaldo Rodriguez, Minnesota (Yuma, Golden).

Scheppers, Pat Misch Already Scratched

The list of former Independent players slated for major league camps lost one hopeful as spring training was opening because southpaw Pat Misch, a former major leaguer who divided last season between the Miami farm system and Taiwan with a two-game pit stop at Lancaster, PA of the Atlantic League (1-0, 1.80), was granted a release from his agreement with Milwaukee in order to pitcher for the Orix Buffaloes in Japan.

While Texas reliever Tanner Scheppers is considered one of the 50 Indy players in major league camps, the veteran, who started his pro career with the St. Paul (MN) Saints of the American Association, has been ruled out until as least the All-Star Break because of a new knee injury. He is returning to the Metroplex area for surgery.

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Wednesday, February 03, 2016


The Caribbean Series always signals excitement for various reasons.

Countries involved have so much passion for baseball, and the series, this year being contested in the Dominican Republic, also leads the Baseball World into a brand new season.

Independent Baseball fans should find considerable enjoyment since a nice number of its former (and sometimes current) players are getting additional exposure.

While we likely will miss a few players, here are some of the Independent players on the current 28-man rosters with their major league affiliation (if any) in parenthesis.

Dominican: OF Lew Ford, Long Island, Atlantic League.

Mexico: 1B Cyle Hankerd, Amarillo, American Association, and Southern Maryland, Atlantic League.

Puerto Rico: LHP Andrew Barbosa (New York-NL) Long Island; RHP Chris Smith (Toronto) Lake Erie, Traverse City and Washington, Frontier League, and White Sands, Pecos League.

Venezuela: RHP Omar Bencomo, Laredo and Wichita, American Association; RHP Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Victoria, Golden League; RHP Marcus Walden (Minnesota), Lancaster, Atlantic League; OF Jose Martinez (Kansas City major league roster), Rockford, Frontier League; OF Teodoro Martinez, Rockford.

Cuba: None.


The first of four qualifying tournaments for next year's World Baseball Classic begins February 11 in Australia, and it also will have some Independent players. They include:

Australia: RHP Ryan Searle, Grand Prairie, American Association; C Allan de San Miguel, Southern Maryland, Atlantic League.

Philippines: 1B Angelo Songco (Los Angeles-NL), St. Paul, American Association.

South Africa: SS Anthony Phillips (Los Angeles-NL), St. Paul.

New Zealand rounds out this qualifier with only the championship team advancing to the WBC.


Former Atlantic League players Robert Andino of Somerset, an infielder, and LHP Pat Misch of Lancaster are the most recent additions among Independent players who have received invitations to major league spring training camps. Andino signed with Miami after the '15 season while Misch was inked by Milwaukee. We now can identify 46 former Independent players who will be in major league camps. We will post the entire roster before camps open.

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Wednesday, January 27, 2016


With the joyful start of major league spring training only three weeks away, it is time to get serious in tracking former stars of the Independent leagues who are now involved (or recently have been) with any of the 30 American or National League organizations.

Non-roster invitations are coming in at a good pace now, and we can report that 44 players who have been in Independent leagues are already ticketed for major league camps. Twenty-five of them are on 40-man rosters and the other 19 are invitees. The latter number almost certainly will grow, and it is possible more roster slots may be taken in the near future because steady major leaguers Craig Breslow, Aaron Crow and Jerome Williams still are free agents.

This is the only place where baseball people and fans are likely to get the entire roster of these two groups. We will post it before pitchers and catchers start camp.

60 Free Agents

Player personnel bosses will likely want to peruse our list of 60 onetime Independent players who have become free agents since last season and have not re-signed although a few of these people likely will retire, turn to coaching or are injured. The complete list maintained by the Independent Baseball Insider follows:

Right-Handed Pitchers (19): Austin Bibens-Dirkx, Derek Blacksher, Brian Broderick, Zach Cooper, Aaron Crow, Charles Fisher, Parker Frazier, Mark Hamburger, Jeff Howell, Chad James, Kenn Kasparek, Mike Lee, Marcel Prado, Edwin Quirarte, Mike Recchia, Cody Satterwhite, Robert Stock, Dakota Watts, Jerome Williams.
Left-Handed Pitchers (13): Andrew Albers, Mike Antonini, Sean Bierman, Craig Breslow, Matt Bywater, Aaron Dott, Trevor Lubking, Ronan Pacheco, Jhonathan Ramos, Dustin Richardson, Greg Smith, Caleb Thielbar, Fabian Williamson.
Catchers (6): Brandon Bantz, Jose Gil, Jose Gonzalez, Ralph Henriquez, Ryan Ortiz, J.T. Wise.
Infielders (14): Brock Bond, Brooks Conrad, Chris Curley, Allan De San Miguel, Jonathan Galvez, Luis Hernandez, Kevin Howard, Michael Johnson, Daniel Mayora, Brock Peterson, Jonathan Roof, Nate Samson, Hainley Statia, Justin Toole.
Outfielders (8): Jeremy Barfield, Brian Burgamy, Jose Constanza, Robert Garner, Teodoro Martinez, Burt Reynolds, Trayvon Robinson, David Sappelt.

We welcome any adjustments to this list, with the suggestion that those comments be sent to this writer at

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