How lofty does it sound when you hear 103 players who have been in one or more Independent leagues wore a major league uniform during spring training?
Fifty-eight were either on 40-man rosters or had non-roster invitations to one of the 30 camps in Arizona and Florida. At least another 45 were brought over from minor league camps to suit up with the big guys for one or more games. We may have missed a few more, but can identify the 103.
Sixteen of the 58 full-time trainees were on Opening Day rosters, although that number is down from 20 of one year ago.
The only totally new player among the 16 is Boston reliever Marcus Walden, who was with the Lancaster Barnstormers in the Atlantic League virtually all of 2015, posting a 2-4 record, 15 saves and a 2.95 earned run average in 48 appearances. The right-hander spent last season as a combo starter-reliever for Triple-A Pawtucket (10-6, 3.92) in the Red Sox system, then had a terrific spring training as a non-roster pitcher.
Catcher Raffy Lopez (Bridgeport, Atlantic League), who spent part of last season at Toronto, also went from non-roster status to San Diego's Opening Day roster although he went back to Triple-A during the first weekend without getting into a game for the Padres.
The American Association is the most decorated of the Independent leagues with six major leaguers plus Houston reliever James Hoyt, who started the season the disabled list.
The Independent players who were on 25-man rosters when the season kicked off March 29 with their current major league and their Independent affiliations:
Pitchers (12): Wilmer Font, Los Angeles-NL (Ottawa, Can-Am League), Luis Garcia, Philadelphia (Newark, Can-Am), Rich Hill, Los Angeles-NL (Long Island, Atlantic League), Brandon Kintzler, Washington (St. Paul, American Association and Winnipeg, Northern League), Chris Martin, Texas (Grand Prairie, Association), James Paxton, Seattle (Grand Prairie), Tanner Roark, Washington (Southern Illinois, Frontier League), Chaz Roe, Tampa Bay (Laredo, Association), Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, Association), Josh Smoker, Pittsburgh (Rockford, Frontier), Marcus Walden, Boston (Lancaster, Atlantic) and Brad Ziegler, Miami (Schaumburg, Frontier).
Position Players (4): C Raffy Lopez, San Diego (Bridgeport, Atlantic), 1B-OF Jose Martinez, St. Louis (Rockford), OF David Peralta, Arizona (Wichita and Amarillo, Association, and Rio Grande Valley, North American League) and C Rene Rivera, Los Angeles-AL (Camden, Atlantic).
Hoyt pitched for Wichita plus the North American cities of Edinburg and Yuma.
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Monday, April 02, 2018
Former chief spokesman for Major League Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth. Six years as publicity director for the Kansas City Royals, and a background in newspaper, radio and television. Started Wirz & Associates, a sports PR and consulting firm, in 1985. Has written extensively on Independent Baseball since 2003.