Tuesday, October 29, 2019

THE MERGER AND OTHER HIGHLIGHTS OF 2019

With the World Series winding to a conclusion and the outcome hinging partly on the shoulders--the back, actually--of onetime Fort Worth (American Association) stud Max Scherzer's availability to take the mound for the Washington Nationals, everyone in both the major leagues and Independent Baseball starts diving into the next part of the calendar:  The Offseason.

The biggest Indy news is the merger of the Frontier League and the Can-Am League under the Frontier banner.  The best part of this, one can easily argue, is it keeps all but one (Ottawa) of the six Can-Am franchises active.  The league did not seem to have other ready options so some 125 players still have jobs.

While one cannot pretend that all is rosy in the Independent world (i.e. losses of such franchises as Ottawa, River City of the Frontier and New Britain of the Atlantic League being primary), the 27th season since Miles Wolff created the Northern League and the Frontier started there were any number of highs this summer, such as:

--Thirty-nine players who have Indy playing experience got part or full-time action in the majors--an increase of two over one year ago.  Nine of these players made their debut, including Nick Anderson (Frontier to Miami and Tampa Bay), Randy Dobnak (United Shore League to Minnesota) and Eric Yardley (Pecos League to San Diego) who got their initial professional opportunity outside of major league organizations.

--Anderson and Dobnak seem to have bullish futures, joining the solid major league ranks of Indy grads that already includes the likes of Scherzer, James Paxton (Grand Prairie, American Association and New York Yankees), John Brebbia (Sioux Falls and Laredo, American Association, and St. Louis) and Tanner Roark (Southern Illinois, Frontier, and Oakland).

--Those six (Roark had Oakland gotten past the American League wild card game) plus Chris Martin (Grand Prairie and Atlanta), Rich Hill (Long Island, Atlantic League and the Los Angeles Dodgers), Junior Guerra (Wichita, American Association and Milwaukee), Chaz Roe (Laredo and Tampa Bay), Jose Martinez (Rockford, Frontier and St. Louis) gave the Independent leagues an unusually strong contingent for major league postseason play.

Those Who Served

It always is heart-warming to see those who have been determined as players but perhaps a little short on lasting talent getting opportunities on the big stage of the postseason.  Such is the case of 5-foot-8 Stubby Clapp, St. Louis's first base coach.  The 46-year-old utility man only got into 23 major league games, but he seems to be a baseball lifer who played two full seasons in the Northern League (Edmonton) and wore Team Canada uniforms for years after he collected his only big-league RBI for the Cardinals way back in 2001.

Early Free Agents

A bevy of players, including some who were in the majors this season, will become free agents shortly after the World Series ends.  Right-handers Luis Garcia (Newark, Can-Am League and the Los Angeles Angels) and D. J. Johnson (Traverse City, Frontier and Colorado) have gotten a jump on others.  Johnson was let go by the Rockies so he could sign with the Hiroshima Carp in Japan.


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Tuesday, October 01, 2019

IT IS A BANNER POSTSEASON; 12 ONETIME INDY PLAYERS SET FOR PLAY

While a handful of former Independent Baseball players usually take part in major league baseball's postseason party it appears more than twice that amount and most likely an even dozen will have that opportunity this autumn.  Seven of the 12 actually played their initial professional games in an Indy league.

The American Association earns the top bragging rights with six of its grads lined up to participate while the Frontier League has four.  The Atlantic League and the United Shore League have one apiece.

The players in position for such honors although official rosters do not need to be posted until it is time for each team to play.  An asterisk (*) indicates which players started in an Indy league.

Atlanta:  *RHP Chris Martin (Grand Prairie, American Association)
Los Angeles Dodgers:  LHP Rich Hill (Long Island, Atlantic League)
Milwaukee:  RHP Junior Guerra (Wichita, American Association)
Minnesota:  *RHP Randy Dobnak (Utica, United Shore)
New York Yankees:  *LHP James Paxton (Grand Prairie)
Oakland:  *RHP Tanner Roark (Southern Illinois, Frontier League)
Tampa Bay:  *RHP Nick Anderson (Frontier Greys and Rockford, Frontier); * RHP Trevor     Richards (Gateway, Frontier); RHP Chaz Roe (Laredo, American Association)
St. Louis:  RHP John Brebbia (Laredo and Sioux Falls, American Association); 1B-OF Jose             Martinez  (Rockford)
Washington:  *RHP Max Scherzer (Fort Worth, American Association)

Houston is the only team among the 10 in postseason play without any Independent players on its roster.




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Thursday, September 26, 2019

TWINS' DOBNAK TOPS DOZEN FORMER INDY HURLERS HEADED TO POSTSEASON

Barring a collapse by the amazing Tampa Bay Rays in the final weekend of the regular season, Independent Baseball is in position to send out joyous messages bragging about no less than 12 of the non-major-league-affiliated leagues former pitchers being in line to take part in major league baseball's postseason. 

Any way it is sliced, that is a very impressive number.

The most intriguing of the dozen has to be Minnesota right-hander Randy Dobnak, who threw his first major league pitch on August 9.

Dobnak, who started his professional career in the young United Shore League only two years ago, is making news both on and off the diamond.  After his best outing yet--six innings of one-hit work as the Twins clinched the American League Central title Wednesday night--the 24-year-old is being given a rare couple of days off right before the playoffs to get married.  After all, the wedding date was set two years ago when the South Park, PA native had barely gone from the United Shore's Utica Unicorns and worked in six games in the lower ranks of the Twins' minor league system.

How could anyone have guessed he would have been able to finish at Division II Alderson-Broaddus College in Philippi, WV in the 2017 season, work six games in the United Short (Utica, MI) that same summer and zip from Class A all the way to the majors this season.

But there he was Wednesday, making the longest of his nine major league appearances--fifth start--and stifling the Detroit Tigers with a measly unearned run and six strikeouts (no walks) in the pressure of a division-clinching game.  There is talk that Dobnak not only will be on the postseason roster with his 1.59 earned run average and hard sinker but he might also get a start when division play begins.

It is stories like Dobnak's that continues to give the Indy leagues quality attention.


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Wednesday, August 21, 2019

IT IS MAGIC TIME AS THESE INDEPENDENT GRADS REACH THE MAJORS

Could it be that this is turning into one of Independent Baseball's most magical years for getting players to the major leagues?

Thirty-seven onetime Indy players were active on major league rosters all of last season.  The count for 2019 already has climbed to 35 with several weeks to go, including the September opportunity with expanded rosters still to play out.

Even if the count does not get much bigger because of the challenge of finding open spots on 40-man rosters, the year has considerable magic.  Check out these reasons:

1.  Eight players have made their major league debut this season.
2.  Three of them are greater prizes since they started their professional career in an Independent league.
3.  Three others already have experienced the rarity of playing in an Indy circuit and then in the majors in the same season.

Oh, and it is not just the Fab Four of established leagues (Atlantic, American Association, Can-Am, Frontier) getting the thrill of seeing their players reach The Show.   The United Shore, Pacific Association and Pecos League all have contributed.

The Pecos League could smile once more today when right-handed pitcher Eric Yardley, who turned 29 only three days ago, got his first major league call to join the San Diego Padres.  Yardley came out of Seattle University in 2013, and when offers did not come along from a major league organization the Richland, WA native joined Taos and Trinidad for three and four-game stints, respectively.  The Padres made him part of their organization later that season, and the 6-foot hurler started making his way up thru the farm system where he toiled every season.  His debut Wednesday afternoon became a struggle when he was charged with three runs (only one was earned) in one-third inning of relief in which he was tabbed with the 4-2 loss to Cincinnati, but he now will be listed in every future Baseball Encyclopedia regardless of what the rest of the season involves.

Righty Randy Dobnak took a similar route from Division II Alderson-Broaddus College in West Virginia to the Utica Unicorns of the young United Shore League two seasons ago, and the 24-year-old progressed through three levels of Minnesota's farm system this season to join the postseason-likely Twins for a short time this month.  He got into only one major league game before being optioned to Triple-A Rochester, but with four scoreless innings against rival Cleveland it would seem he will be back before long.

The third--and most successful of the three who started in Independent play and debuted in the majors this season--is still another right-hander, Nick Anderson, who started with Miami before being dealt to Tampa Bay at the trade deadline.  He now ranks highly in the Rays' prized bullpen, which may well pitch them into the American League playoffs.  Anderson appeared in his 54th game Wednesday afternoon, working a scoreless inning for his ninth hold as the Rays edged Seattle by a run.  Anderson has gaudy strikeout numbers with 87 in 52.2 innings while compiling a 4-4 record and 3.25 ERA for the season.  The Frontier League was his launch site as he worked for the traveling Frontier Greys as well as for Rockford.

The others making major league debuts this season have been infielder Ryan Court and pitchers Zac Grotz, Parker Markel, Chris Mazza (San Rafael, Pacific Association, in addition to Southern Maryland of the Atlantic League) and Tayler Scott.

Court and pitchers Tim Melville and Ross Detwiler have made the climb from the Atlantic League to the majors this season.  Court was with Sugar Land, Detwiler with York and Melville joined Colorado after earlier playing for Long Island.

Melville, who has five previous major league appearances in other seasons with three other teams, appeared well on his way to his first career victory as this post was being written.  He had given up only one run and two hits in seven innings and also had driven in two runs as the Rockies were winning handily at Arizona, 7-1.


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Monday, July 01, 2019

NEW MAJOR LEAGUERS DETWILER AND MAZZA HAVE TAKEN DIFFERENT PATHS

For similarities, Ross Detwiler and Chris Mazza are pitchers who have been added to active major league rosters in the last few days after working for Independent league teams.

But the similarities end at this point, and not only because Detwiler is a southpaw and Mazza a righty.  Detwiler is a 33-year-old returning to the majors where he already had 191 career appearances, including 84 starts, spread over 12 seasons (2007-2018).  Mazza is 29 without any previous trips to the majors.

Here are some details:

For a little chuckle since baseball often produces oddities, Detwiler could not win in the Atlantic League this season, yet his first time to the mound for the Chicago White Sox--his seventh major league team--resulted in a win, his 25th in the big time although his first since '16 when he won twice for Oakland.

Detwiler held the Minnesota Twins, owners of one of the game's top offenses, to two runs and six hits over five innings to help the White Sox end a seven-game losing streak to their American League rival, 6-4, in the Windy City.

"This was awesome, especially to do it here in Chicago," Detwiler told MLB.com.  "It just feels great to be here.  Been back to the minors a little bit, Indy ball.  It's been a tough road, but we're here."

He has received a trip back to the majors for two consecutive years (Seattle in '18) after working for the York Revolution in the Atlantic League.  He was the Opening Day starter for York this season, and had made three starts (0-0, 2.81) before the White Sox purchased his contract and sent him to Triple-A Charlotte.

Mazza had pitched in the minor leagues since 2012 without getting an opportunity in the majors.  His stops included time in both the Pacific Association (San Rafael) and Atlantic League (Southern Maryland) last year, before he was taken by Seattle in the Rule 5 draft, then shuttled to the New York Mets, who gave the 6-foot-4 hurler an opportunity this season.

His first major league opportunity came against National League East-leading Atlanta last Friday, and he did not disappoint.  Mazza allowed only one run and five hits (no walks) in four innings.  What a feeling.

"To finally get here, it's like an overwhelming excitement," he told MLB.com.

Mazza, who was a combined 3-5,3.59 in a dozen starts between the Mets' top two farm clubs before his call came, and he was watching the National League team on television when Syracuse manager Tony DeFrancesco called with the long-awaited news.

"I'm trying to hold back tears as I'm trying to listen to instructions of what I've got to do", he recalled.  "That was a pretty emotional roller-coaster.  After that, I just called my dad and let it out a little bit."

Why not? Well deserved.


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Tuesday, June 11, 2019

EXCITING TIMES AS MAJORS REACH HEAVILY INTO INDEPENDENT RANKS AND FIRST SOUTH AFRICAN PITCHER DEBUTS

The highlight so far in the relatively young Independent season has to be the run by major league organizations to grab an abundance of talent, especially from the Atlantic League and the American Association.  It reinforces--if that is needed--just how much the majors look these days to the non-affiliated leagues for players who have escaped their watchful eyes or need a renewed opportunity to prove that they can play at a high level.

But I must admit another of the joys of doing this blog and writing about Indy players is seeing new barriers reached.

This happened again in this month of June when 27-year-old right-handed pitcher Tayler Scott became the very first native of South Africa to pitch in a major league game.

Scott, who spent a sizeable part of 2016 pitching for the Sioux City Explorers, did not have much upper level impact in the major league system until he had been in the American Association.  One season after he turned in his tidiest earned run average (1.88) in his 23 games for Steve Montgomery's club he reached Triple-A for the first time for the Texas Rangers.

Now, two years later the 6-foot-3 Johannesburg native has "major leaguer" by his name, even though the baptism for Seattle saw him give up three earned runs in 2.2 relief innings against the Los Angeles Angels.

"It's been a big accomplishment to be the first pitcher from South Africa (in the majors)", he told that country's The South African newspaper.  "It's pretty amazing".

Infielder Gift Ngoepe is the only other South Africa native to make it to the majors, playing for both Pittsburgh and Toronto and a current Philadelphia minor leaguer. 

"When he first signed, he (Ngoepe) was 16 so I was (two years) younger", Scott told the newspaper.  "It kind of opened my eyes that you were able to do that and go play baseball in America.  We came up to a baseball camp when I was 15, and from then on, I realized that's what I wanted to do".

Three players from the Independent ranks have played in the majors for the first time so far this season with another Sioux City pitcher, Parker Markel, also debuting with the Mariners.  A third right-hander, Nick Anderson, who broke into pro baseball in the Frontier League (Rockford and the traveling Frontier Greys), has been with Miami all season.  He is 2-2, 4.39 for 27 appearances.

Hectic Pace of Signings by Majors

An unofficial count shows 21 players with time in the Atlantic League and 13 with American Association experience have had their contracts purchased by major league organizations since the end of March with the Frontier and Can-Am Leagues also contributing to the impressive list.




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Saturday, March 30, 2019

NINETEEN FORMER INDEPENDENT PLAYERS START SEASON IN MAJORS

         With pitchers continuing to dominate, 19 players who have played in one or more Independent leagues started the season in the major leagues, an increase of two over one year ago.  This includes southpaw Rich Hill, who is on the Los Angeles Dodgers' Injured List but likely will return to the starting rotation when he is activated.

         Only three position players are in the group, including Arizona infielder Ildemaro Vargas (Atlantic League), who was recalled from Triple-A at the last minute.

         The American Association contributed eight of the 19 with the Frontier League next with five and the Can-Am League third with a trio of pitchers.  The Frontier contingent includes Miami right-hander Nick Anderson, in the majors for the first time after starting his pro career in Rockford, IL.  He is one of six players on the list who played their first game in an Indy league.

         Thirty-seven Indy players were in the majors at some time last year.

         The entire list, including the major league team and the Independent affiliations: 

         Pitchers (15 + 1 IL)--*Nick Anderson, Miami (Frontier Greys and Rockford, Frontier League); John Brebbia, St. Louis (Sioux Falls and Laredo, American Association); Jon Edwards, Cleveland (Alpine, Pecos League, and San Angelo, North American League); Wilmer Font, Tampa Bay (Ottawa, Can-Am League); Luis Garcia, Los Angeles-AL (Newark, Can-Am); Junior Guerra, Milwaukee (Wichita, American Association); #-Rich Hill, Los Angeles-NL (Long Island, Atlantic League); D. J. Johnson, Colorado (Traverse City, Frontier); Brandon Kintzler, Chicago-NL (St. Paul, American Association, and Winnipeg, then Northern League); *Chris Martin, Texas (Grand Prairie, American Association); *James Paxton, New York-AL (Grand Prairie); *Trevor Richards, Miami (Gateway, Frontier); *Tanner Roark, Cincinnati (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Chaz Roe, Tampa Bay (Laredo); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, American Association); Robert Stock, San Diego (New Jersey, Can-Am).

            Position Players (3)--OF-1B Jose Martinez, St. Louis (Rockford); OF David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association; Rio Grande Valley, North American); INF Ildemaro Vargas, Arizona (Bridgeport, Atlantic).

            *First professional game was in an Independent league.

            #Is on the injured list.

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Tuesday, March 19, 2019

FRONTIER LEAGUE FIND TREVOR RICHARDS HAS HOT HAND WITH MARLINS

             The Frontier League may get pushed to the background at times since other Independent leagues cater more to older, more experienced players, but it is a huge mistake to overlook the oldest Indy circuit--this is Year 26--for its production of major leaguers.

            This is the case right now, barely a week before all 30 major league teams start playing for keeps, as another of the Frontier League's pitchers makes major noise with Miami with a second right-hander not far behind, also with the youthful Marlins.

            It is not easy for new faces to squeeze their way onto 25-man Opening Day rosters, but this pair among the 51 onetime Independent players in major league spring training camps may be exceptions.  Nearly a dozen of the 51 only needed to stay healthy to retain their jobs at baseball's top level while the other three dozen or so really had to impress in spring training to win a position.

            The Frontier League already has Cincinnati pitcher Tanner Roark (Southern Illinois) and St. Louis first baseman-outfielder Jose Martinez (Rockford) well established in the bigs.  Trevor Richards could easily come next with another hurler, Nick Anderson, in the mix.  Like Roark, this pair are especially meaningful to the Independent leagues since they played their very first professional games without benefit of a major league organization behind them.

            The 25-year-old Richards broke into the majors last season, only two summers after being signed out of the Frontier League (Gateway), and started 25 times for the youthful Marlins (4-9, 4.42).  He has really stepped it up in the past month.

            As veteran MLB.com writer Joe Frisaro put it:  He (Richards) "has been lined up as the fifth starter.  But the way he's thrown in spring training he's making a case to move up to No. 2."         

            The masterpiece on his Florida log came last Sunday when he threw six no-hit innings against the Cardinals, bringing his spring earned run average to 1.86 with 20 strikeouts while limiting batters to eight hits and four walks in 19.1 innings.  The batting average against him is a measly .125.

            "It's been happening (for Richards) all spring," manager Don Mattingly told MLB.com.  "We've seen adding the (new) pitches and what it can do for him.  It's trending in the right direction."

            Richards said "we'll go mainly fastball, curveball, changeup, and we're toying with a fourth one, but we'll see how that one comes along."  The change has been his bread and butter, with a .165 average against it last season.

            Anderson learned the pitching ropes in the Frontier League between 2012 when he came out of North Dakota's Mayville State and 2015, toiling first for Rockford, then for the travel team, the Greys, and climbed the minor league ladder with Minnesota, including 88 strikeouts in only 60 Triple-A innings last season (8-2, 3.30).  He moved into the major league picture when he joined Miami and the Marlins added him to their 40-man roster, a feat achieved by zero other Independent players not already at that level during the offseason.

            He has done just fine in spring training, striking out nine without walking anyone in 6.1 innings while posting a 4.26 ERA.

            The Marlins have still two more onetime Independent hurlers in camp and doing well although it may not be good enough to make the Opening Day roster.  They are southpaws Mike Kickham (Kansas City, American Association) and Brian Moran (Bridgeport, Atlantic League).  Kickham has a 1.50 ERA after six appearances (6.0 innings) and Moran is at 2.45 after five outings, allowing only one hit in collecting eight outs.

Some Other Hopefuls


            Other former Independent players making solid bids for major league jobs include relievers Marcus Walden of Boston and Eric Yardley of San Diego and infielders Emilio Bonifacio of Tampa Bay and Ildemaro Vargas of Arizona.  Yardley spent time with Trinidad and Taos of the youth-oriented Pecos League while the others were in the Atlantic League.  Walden was at Lancaster, Vargas at Bridgeport and Bonifacio at Long Island, the latter just last season.


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Friday, February 15, 2019

INDEPENDENT LEAGUES CONTRIBUTE 49 PLAYERS TO MAJOR LEAGUE CAMPS

          The contributions of Independent leagues to major league organizations is never more evident than the annual compilation by IndyBaseballChatter.com of the players who have had experience in these leagues and are in major league spring training camps

That total is 49 as of today although it still could grow.

Twenty-three of the players are on 40-man major league rosters while the other 26 are non-roster invitees.  Both totals are down slightly from one year ago when 26 players were on rosters and 32 players received special invitations.

Pitchers continue to dominate, with 39 hurlers in the 30 camps compared to 10 position players.

Nine players received their initial professional experience in an Indy league although many of the others would not be wearing major league uniforms without the experience gained outside of the 30 big-league organizations, often taking advantage of a second-chance opportunity after being drafted but failing to advance with their original team.  Approximately another 165 former Independent players are currently in major league farm systems.

Those in major league camps with their current organization followed by their stop(s) in Independent leagues:  

          Pitchers (39)--NR-Tyler Alexander, Oakland (Fargo-Moorhead, American Association, and Sussex, Can-Am League); *Nick Anderson, Miami (Frontier Greys and Rockford, Frontier League); NR*Ryan Atkinson, Arizona (Evansville, Frontier); NR-Jeremy Bleich, Philadelphia (Somerset, Atlantic League); NR-Ryan Bollinger, San Diego (Windy City, Frontier; Trois-Rivieres, Can-Am; St. Paul and Winnipeg, American Association); NR-Buddy Boshers, Cincinnati (Somerset); John Brebbia, St. Louis (Sioux Falls and Laredo, American Association); NR-Hunter Cervenka, St. Louis (Sugar Land, Atlantic); NR-Tim Dillard, Texas (Lancaster, Atlantic); Jon Edwards, Cleveland (Alpine, Pecos League, and San Angelo, North American League); Wilmer Font, Tampa Bay (Ottawa, Can-Am); Luis Garcia, Los Angeles-AL (Newark, Can-Am); Junior Guerra, Milwaukee (Wichita, American Association); NR-Ariel Hernandez, Texas (Frontier Greys); NR-Tyler Higgins, San Diego (New Britain, Atlantic); Rich Hill, Los Angeles-NL (Long Island, Atlantic); NR*James Hoyt, Cleveland (Wichita; Edinburg and Yuma, North American League); D. J. Johnson, Colorado (Traverse City, Frontier); NR-Mike Kickham, Miami (Kansas City, American Association); Brandon Kintzler, Chicago-NL (St. Paul and Winnipeg, then Northern League); *Chris Martin, Texas (Grand Prairie, American Association); NR-Brian Moran, Miami (Bridgeport, Atlantic); NR-Vidal Nuno, Washington (Washington, Frontier);  NR-Edward Paredes, Philadelphia (York, Atlantic); *James Paxton, New York-AL (Grand Prairie); NR-Alex Powers, Cincinnati (New Jersey, Can-Am); *Trevor Richards, Miami (Gateway, Frontier); *Tanner Roark, Cincinnati (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Chaz Roe, Tampa Bay (Laredo); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, American Association); NR-Bo Schultz, Baltimore (Grand Prairie); Robby Scott, Arizona (Yuma, North American); NR-Tayler Scott, Seattle (Sioux City, American Association); NR*Chris Smith, Detroit (Lake Erie, Traverse City and Washington, Frontier; White Sands, Pecos League); NR-Josh Smoker, Los Angeles-NL (Rockford); Robert Stock, San Diego (New Jersey); Marcus Walden, Boston (Lancaster); *Aaron Wilkerson, Milwaukee (Grand Prairie; Florence, Frontier; and Fort Worth, United League); NR-Eric Yardley, San Diego (Trinidad and Taos, Pecos).

            Catchers (3)--Rafael Lopez, Atlanta (Bridgeport); NR-Rene Rivera, San Francisco (Camden, Atlantic); NR-Josh Thole, Los Angeles-NL (New Britain).

            Infielders (5)--NR-Emilio Bonifacio, Tampa Bay (Long Island); NR-Ryan Court, Chicago-NL (Sioux City); NR-Peter Mooney, Colorado (New Jersey); NR-Brandon Snyder, Washington (Southern Maryland, Atlantic); Ildemaro Vargas, Arizona (Bridgeport).

            Outfielders (2)--Jose Martinez, St. Louis (Rockford); David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association; Rio Grande Valley, North American).

            *First professional game was in an Independent league.

            NR-Non-roster invitee.

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Wednesday, February 06, 2019

Where Are All The Position Players? Pitchers Dominate Non-Roster Invitations

A few major league teams have yet to announce their invitees for spring training, but pitchers continue to dominate when we look at all of the former Independent Baseball players who will be reporting to camps throughout Florida and Arizona on non-roster invitations this month.  In fact, hurlers dominate even more than in the past.

Nine of the 32 Indy non-roster invitees one year ago were position players.  Only one player is in this category today among the 18 hopefuls IndyBaseballChatter.com has tracked who have been tabbed so far by one of the 30 major league teams.

Emilio Bonifacio, hardly the typical Independent player in that he has played in 831 major league games in a career that started back in 2003, is the lone position player.  The 33-year-old is headed for the Tampa Bay camp after spending much of last season playing shortstop and center field for the Long Island Ducks in the Atlantic League where he hit .348 with 20 stolen bases in 70 games.

Bonifacio last appeared in the majors two years ago with Atlanta.

The 17 hurlers with non-roster invitations, including their major league team and the team(s) and league (s) where they got their Independent experience:

*Ryan Atkinson, Arizona (Evansville, Frontier League); Jeremy Bleich, Philadelphia (Somerset, Atlantic League); Ryan Bollinger, San Diego (Windy City, Frontier; Trois-Rivieres, Can-Am League; St. Paul and Winnipeg, American Association); Hunter Cervenka, St. Louis (Sugar Land, Atlantic); Tim Dillard, Texas (Lancaster, Atlantic); Ariel Hernandez, Texas (Frontier Greys, Frontier); Tyler Higgins, San Diego (New Britain, Atlantic); *James Hoyt, Cleveland (Wichita, American Association; Edinburg and Yuma, North American League); Mike Kickham, Miami (Kansas City, American Association); Brian Moran, Miami (Bridgeport, Atlantic); Vidal Nuno, Washington (Washington, Frontier);  Edward Paredes, Philadelphia (York, Atlantic); Alex Powers, Cincinnati (New Jersey, Can-Am); Bo Schultz, Baltimore (Grand Prairie, American Association); Tayler Scott, Seattle (Sioux City, American Association); *Chris Smith, Detroit (Lake Erie, Traverse City and Washington, Frontier; White Sands, Pecos League); Eric Yardley, San Diego (Trinidad and Taos, Pecos).

*First professional game was in an Independent league.

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