The 2021 season is going down in history with regard to the involvement of players who have played in at least one Independent league during their career and have later earned major league time.
In both 2016 and 2017 an all-time high 45 Indy players appeared with one of the 30 major league teams. The total was obliterated--destroyed or wiped out also would work--in the season ending this week. In records compiled exclusively by IndyBaseballChatter.com, a whopping 54 players made it to the majors.
Some of them will be in the post-season starting next week.
The count jumped somewhat this year because a strange sequence of events during COVID-19-infested 2020 when some one-time-only Independent leagues sprung to life. Otherwise, the depth of talent in Independent circuits today and the current MLB mindset of constantly shuffling of roster spots between the majors and handy Triple-A teams both contributed to the growth.
Regardless of the reasons, for 54 players from non-affiliated leagues to play in the major leagues in one summer shows just how far the Indy circuits have come from their early days in the 1990s when the leagues were often put down or made fun of by those in baseball's top tier operations.
Thirteen of the 54 made their major league debut this season, with pitchers Tommy Nance of the Chicago Cubs and Kaleb Ort of the Boston Red Sox perhaps the most prized duo since their first professional games were in Independent leagues. Both emerged from the Frontier League. Nance played at Windy City, not far from Wrigley Field, and gave up only two hits and no runs in his first 12 big league appearances covering 11.1 innings. It has not been as easy of late and Nance has a 1-0 record and a 7.07 earned run average heading into the final week. Ort, also starting near Chicago at Joliet, got only a brief look for the contending Red Sox.
Thirty-five onetime Indy players were on major league rosters as of September 28 although 10 of them were on the injured list. This includes veteran first baseman-outfielder Jose Martinez who has been on the New York Mets' IL the entire season, which kept him from increasing the season's active count to 55.