Tuesday, July 28, 2020


Only five days into the major league season and the tally of former Independent players on active major league rosters has improved to 24, with four new additions to the Alternate Training Site rosters including one player who started his professional career in an unaffiliated league.

One of the additions to active duty was an oversight in our Opening Day report in that we overlooked veteran utilityman Emilio Bonifacio, who is with the 2019 World Series champion Washington Nationals.  The 35-year-old Bonifacio, who plays both the infield and outfield, is a longtime major leaguer although he played 70 games with the Long Island Ducks of the Atlantic League two years ago.  The switch-hitter was leading the Atlantic League when his contract was sold to Milwaukee, hitting a robust .348 with 95 hits and 34 runs batted in.

Toronto has added its third pitcher with Indy experience, activating right-hander Wilmer Font (Ottawa, Can-Am League) off the 10-day injured list.

The count of Independent players in the Alternate Training Camps is up to 18 with Boston adding hurler Robert Stock (New Jersey, Can-Am League, and Normal, Frontier League) after he was designated for assignment by Philadelphia.  He is on the Red Sox's 40-man roster.

Oakland added righty Ben Bracewell (River City, Frontier), southpaw Fernando Abad (Long Island) is now in the New York Yankees second tier camp after being released by Washington and veteran free agent outfielder Travis Snider (another former Long Island player) signed with Miami and was invited to the Marlins' camp.  Snider was a non-roster invitee with Arizona during spring training.

Bracewell deserves special credit in that he broke into the professional game with River City in '14, the same season he finished a two-year stint at Mississippi State.  The 29-year-old native of Alabama made four starts (1-0, 7.56) with the Rascals before joining the Oakland farm system where he has been ever since.  At 6-foot, Bracewell spent most of last season at Triple-A Las Vegas, posting a 3.13 ERA (1-3 record, two saves) in the often offensive-minded Pacific Coast League.  All but one of his 41 appearances were in relief and he struck out 70 PCL hitters in 72 innings.  He was a non-roster invitee to the Athletics' major league spring training camp.

Congratulations to the Atlantic League

It was announced today (Tuesday) that Gastonia, NC, which previously had an affiliated minor league team, will become part of the Atlantic League next season when the city opens a new 5,000-seat stadium.  The league already has another North Carolina-based team (High Point). 

Friday, July 24, 2020


The major leagues' so-called Summer Camp turned out to be a bonanza for at least five players with Independent Baseball playing experience, with the American Association's bounce-back lefty Tyler Matzek topping the list.

Matzek, who pitched for the Texas AirHogs for significant time each of the last two years in his quest to overcome wildness and other issues and return to the majors for the first time since the '15 season, backed up his terrific spring training during Summer Camp to earn a spot on the Atlanta Braves' 30-man Opening Day roster.

Matzek was one of five onetime Indy players who began the re-start of training without a spot on the coveted 40-man roster who is on an active major league roster for the official start to the 2020 season.  The others making the grade are pitchers Ross Detwiler with the Chicago White Sox, Brian Moran with Toronto, Pittsburgh's Nik Turley and catcher Rene Rivera with the New York Mets.  All four of the hurlers throws left-handed and the entire group has at least a little major league experience.

Another 17 Indy grads also are on active rosters while right-handers John Brebbia of St. Louis and Wilmer Font of Toronto are on the injured list.  An additional 15 players with non-affiliated experience, including injured hurler Parker Markel of the Los Angeles Angels, remain on the alternate list and could get promoted as needed.

The complete list of 22 players active in the majors with their current affiliation and their Independent teams and leagues follows:

PITCHERS (18):  *Nick Anderson, Tampa Bay (Rockford and Frontier Grays, Frontier League); Ross Detwiler, Chicago-AL (York, Atlantic League); *Randy Dobnak, Minnesota (Utica, United Shore League); *Zac Grotz, Seattle (Bridgeport and York, Atlantic League, and Washington, Frontier); Junior Guerra, Arizona (Wichita, American Association); Rich Hill, Minnesota (Long Island, Atlantic); Brandon Kintzler, Miami (St. Paul, American Association, and Winnipeg, then in Northern League); *Chris Martin, Atlanta (Grand Prairie, American Association); Tyler Matzek, Atlanta (Texas, American Association); Brian Moran, Toronto (Bridgeport); *James Paxton, New York-AL (Grand Prairie); Trevor Richards, Tampa Bay (Gateway, Frontier); *Tanner Roark, Toronto (Southern Illinois, Frontier); Chaz Roe, Tampa Bay (Laredo, American Association); *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth, American Association); Nik Turley, Pittsburgh (Somerset, Atlantic); Marcus Walden, Boston (Lancaster, Atlantic); Eric Yardley, Milwaukee (Trinidad and Taos, Pecos League).

POSITION PLAYERS (4): 1B-OF Jose Martinez, Tampa Bay (Rockford); OF David Peralta, Arizona (Amarillo and Wichita, American Association, and, Rio Grande Valley, North American League); C Rene Rivera, New York-NL (Camden, Atlantic); INF Ildemaro Vargas, Arizona (Bridgeport). 

*First professional game was in an Independent league

ON Deck

Yermin Mercedes did not make the Chicago White Sox Opening Day roster, but the rookie catcher, who matured largely while in the Pecos (Douglas and White Sands) and United Leagues (San Angelo), seems to have the respect of General Manager Rick Hahn, who told MLB.com "the debate (between Zack Collins or Mercedes for the third catcher on the team) was we were probably going to be fine either way, but in the end, we felt Zack's left-handed bat and a little bit more experience and familiarity with the arms in the big leagues gave him the advantage.  If in the end, for whatever reason, we had to get Yermin active on the big league level, we feel real good with where he's at right now.  Certainly, an impressive bat."

Veteran southpaw Caleb Thielbar (St. Paul) seems to have barely missed his first major league opportunity since 2015.  Minnesota lists the 33-year-old as one of two pitchers on their "taxi squad".

Not Such Good News

Philadelphia has designated for assignment righty Robert Stock (New Jersey, Can-Am, and Normal, Frontier).  He entered camp on the Phils' 40-man roster.  Baltimore released southpaw Hunter Cervenka (Sugar Land, Atlantic).  He had been in camp as a non-roster invitee in February.

Wednesday, July 22, 2020


With the so-called Summer Camp about over, we should know by Friday how many of the 41 players with Independent league experience will be on the expanded 30-man active rosters of major league teams when the season begins.

Durable Rene Rivera appears to have become the first player who did not start Summer Camp on a 40-man roster to earn an Opening Day job.  The well-traveled catcher was awarded a 40-man slot with the New York Mets, somewhat of an early birthday present for Rivera, who turns 37 July 31.

Rivera is in his second stint with the Mets ('16-'17), and has played for eight other major league teams during his professional career which started back in 2001.  He played 22 games for Camden, NJ in the Atlantic League a decade ago (7-19-.280) before returning to a major league organization.  A backup with strong defensive credentials for most of his career, Rivera has a lifetime major league average of .221 with 41 home runs in his 515 appearances.

Lefty Fernando Abad (Long Island, Atlantic League) has not been so fortunate, being released by reigning World Series champion Washington.  Three other pitchers are on the Injured List, St. Louis veteran John Brebbia (Sioux Falls and Laredo, American Association), Toronto's Wilmer Font (Ottawa, Can-Am League) and the Los Angeles Angels' Parker Markel (Sioux City, American Association).

Nunn Loses Job

Southpaw Chris Nunn, who was a spring training non-roster invitee with Atlanta in February, has been released by the Braves.  He had pitched for St. Paul (American Association) and Evansville (Frontier League).  The 29-year-old has topped out at Triple-A so far.

Friday, July 10, 2020


Kansas City T-Bones (American Association) lefty Mike Kickham and Southern Maryland (Atlantic League) catcher Allan deSanMiguel have been added to Spring Training 2.0 rosters, giving Independent Baseball 40 of its graduates with an opportunity to be on major league rosters when the 2020 season finally opens July 23.

Added in recent days as teams fill gaps in their 60-man training camp rosters and gear up for the 60-game schedule, both Boston's Kickham and deSanMiguel of Kansas City may have benefitted from unfortunate absences of star major leaguers.  The Royals have temporarily lost All-Star backstop Salvador Perez while the Red Sox are currently without 19-game winner and projected opening day starter Edwardo Rodriguez.

Kickham, 31, has not seen any regular-season major league duty since he appeared in 14 games for San Francisco in 2013-14, but he put together a 5-5 record and 4.27 earned run average in Triple-A for Miami last season and was a non-roster invitee to Boston's regular spring training camp earlier this year.  He was a starter for the T-Bones in '16, with a 3-5 record and solid 2.83 ERA.

deSanMiguel, a 5-foot-9 right-handed hitter, has been playing professionally since 2005 but has yet to play in the major leagues.  The Australian native turned 32 in February.

More Releases

Veteran right-hander Chris Smith, who got to the majors after starting his pro career in a non-affiliated league, and lefty Casey Crosby, who was in Triple-A with the Los Angeles Dodgers organization, were among several more onetime Independent players handed their releases recently.  Smith, let go by Detroit, pitched in the Frontier League for Lake Erie, Traverse City and Washington and also was at White Sands of the Pecos League.  Crosby's Indy time was spent with Lincoln and Chicago in the American Association and Lancaster in the Atlantic League.  He has returned to Butch Hobson's Chicago Dogs.

Veteran outfielder Blake Gailen was released by the Dodgers.  He played for both Lincoln and Wichita in the American Association, Lancaster, Chico in the Golden League and Anderson in the South Coast League.  Former Lincoln hurler Ricky Knapp also was released by the Dodgers while another righty, Garrett Mundell, was dropped by Milwaukee.  He had pitched at Trois-Rivieres of the Can-Am League.