Friday, December 23, 2022


Independent Baseball's contributions to the major leagues continue to impress as evidenced by a second consecutive season in 2022 of equaling the record number of the players who were in The Show during the season.  Two recent stories give a head start for more of the same for next season.

Before getting into the newest stories, a review seems appropriate. recorded 58 players who either started their professional career in an Independent league or got a second chance after playing somewhere in the Indy universe and wore the uniform of one of the 30 major league teams in '22.  That equaled the count in '21, which stomped on the previous high of 45 in both 2016 and 2017.

While most of those who were in the majors last season are still around, Oakland and Washington have inked players out of the limelight of late.

The biggest of the new old faces is right-hander Drew Rucinski who got a major league contract from the Athletics after four seasons in the Korean Baseball Organization.  Rucinski, who had a full year in the Frontier League (Rockford, IL) a decade earlier (2012), was so stout in the KBO that Oakland seems likely to give the soon-to-be 34-year-old (December 30) some opportunity to be in its starting rotation when the '23 campaign starts.

Rucinski went 53-36 in Korea with a 3.06 ERA in 121 starts and struck out 194 batters in 193.2 innings last season. He has worked in 41 major league games in his career (4-4, 5.33), the most recent with Miami in 2018.

Washington is bringing back another 34-year-old, first baseman-designated hitter Matt Adams, as a non-roster invitee.  Adams pounded 27 home runs and drove in 85 runs in only 80 games for the Kansas City Monarchs of the American Association last season.  The lefty hitter, who started his major league career with St. Louis in 2012, was a key bench player for the Nationals in their '19 World Series championship season when he hit 20 homers in only 333 plate appearances.  He has had only brief major league opportunities since with Atlanta and Colorado.

Friday, January 07, 2022


News about established major league baseball players is not easy to find these days because of the lockout, but when one digs, especially in the ranks of former Independent players, stories are plentiful.  Transactions at the Indy level are not taboo, as IndyBaseballChatter will prove with this writing.

Promotions to major league rosters, spring training invitations, free agent signings and departures for such destinations as Japan and Korea all have transpired in recent times.

Nothing can be much more exciting for a onetime Independent player than being notified his contract has been added to the parent club's 40-man roster.  It sends a clear signal the player is considered a legitimate future major league talent, as well as guaranteeing a spot in a major league spring training camp. 

This action took place for two former Indy stars recently.  All they need now is for the labor issues between ownership and Players Association to be settled, thereby certifying there will be spring training in both Arizona and Florida.

The fortunate duo is second baseman Kody Clemens, yes, the son of former major league standout Roger, and right-handed pitcher Adam Oller.  Clemens's non-affiliated time was in the Constellation Energy League which was created two summers ago after COVID-19 first reared its ugly head and shut down all of the regular professional leagues.  Clemens is with the Detroit Tigers while Oller, who came out of Windy City in the Frontier League, will get his shot with another newly-energized franchise, the New York Mets.

Precious Non-Roster Invitations

While we probably won't see a great many non-roster invitations identified until the lockout ends, we can pass along a few of these cherished opportunities to be a part of major league spring training and prove a player is on his organization's radar for a possible major league job at some point during the season.

Righty Andrew Balletti (Sugar Land, Atlantic League), who got some time with Miami last season, was signed off the free agent list and invited to spring training with Philadelphia.  The Phils also have issued an invitation to another right-hander, Michael Kelly, who played in the Atlantic for Southern Maryland.  Outfielder Dillon Thomas (Texas, American Association), who got some playing time with Seattle, has a new opportunity with the Los Angeles Angels including a spring training invitation.

It seems logical first baseman John Nogowski (Sioux City, American Association) will get an invitation after signing with the World Champion Braves.  The same for infielder Ildemaro Vargas (Bridgeport, Atlantic) who is back with the Chicago Cubs.

Back in the Bigs

Numerous onetime Independent players, including several with extensive major league time, remain unsigned during the work stoppage, but Boston hopes to get value out of free agent starters Rich Hill (Long Island, Atlantic) and James Paxton (Grand Prairie, American Association).  Veteran reliever Luis Garcia (Newark, Can-Am League) signed as a free agent with San Diego.

New Minor League Pacts

Among minor league free agents who have signed new agreements are RHP Zack Weiss (Kansas City, American Association, and Long Island and Sugar Land) who is now with the Angels as is lefty Brian Moran (Bridgeport) while first baseman Ryan Casteel (Lancaster, Atlantic) is in the Atlanta system.

Making Money Abroad

A trio of right-handers with some major league experience have landed jobs overseas, where the pay is better for them than the uncertainty of opportunities at home.  Drew Rucinski is wonderful example.

He threw his first professional pitch in the Frontier League, and spent the equivalent of two full seasons with the Rockford (IL) RiverHawks before landing a regular opportunity with a major league organization.  That led to 54 innings and one start in the majors spread among three teams.  He will be starting his fourth season in Korea (NC Dinos) where he has won 43 games (43-24), and now has a $1.9 million deal plus incentives for 2022.

Jee-ho Yoo of South Korea's Yonhap News Agency says the guaranteed deal ties Rucinski for the second largest salary of any foreign player in the KBO and brings his four-year take in the league to $5.7 million, not including any incentive payouts.

 Robert Stock (Normal, Frontier, and New Jersey, Can-Am) is headed to Korea (Doosan Bears) where he is said to be receiving $500,000 plus incentives.  Aaron Wilkerson (Grand Prairie plus Florence of the Frontier and Fort Worth of the United League) will get his first experience abroad in Japan (Hanshin).

Bob Wirz, onetime chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, has been writing about Independent Baseball since 2003.  This post is from his blog,  He has published a book ("The Passion of Baseball") about his life.  It is available at or with an autographed from