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