With Another 84 Contracts Sold and Some Postseason Players, Indy Game Continues to Produce for Majors
While the next few months before most Independent teams throw a pitch that counts is certain to bring a ton of headlines about franchises struggling and some welcome news on emerging markets, league executives can continue to boast about what a strong source the non-affiliated operations are in providing talent for major league organizations.
At least 84 Independent players had their contracts purchased by one of the 30 big-league units since the end of the Grapefruit and Cactus Leagues in late March. At least another 26 who signed after the close of the 2010 Independent season still have major league-organization contracts, according to records maintained by the Independent Baseball Insider. These numbers do not include many others whose contracts were sold to teams in Taiwan or Mexico.
The most visible players are the record-tying 40 who wore major league uniforms for all or a portion of this season, some of whom were still playing Independent Baseball early this summer. But individual Indy franchises can boast of their contributions because there were some impressive totals. It would start with the Lancaster (PA) Barnstormers of the Atlantic League who surrendered 10 players, then five came from the Lincoln (NE) Saltdogs of the American Association and four pitchers were taken from the staff of the Frontier League’s Washington (PA) Wild Things. Many Independent teams were involved in the sales.
Scherzer Leads Indy Contingent Into Postseason
Onetime Fort Worth (TX) Cats (American Association) fireballer Max Scherzer appears to have the most prominent role among former Independent players who will be in major league baseball’s high octane Octoberfest, but he will not stand along.
Scherzer, who was at Fort Worth for a time in 2007 before he signed a bonus contract with Arizona, will be Detroit‘s Game 3 starter in the American League Division Series against the New York Yankees after winning 15 games (15-9, 4.43) for the Tigers. He will be joined in the eight-team playoff spotlight by Brad Ziegler of Arizona, who once pitched for Schaumburg, IL in the Northern League, and is an important part of the Diamondbacks’ bullpen.
While some Indy players had their hopes of the postseason dashed in recent days or by Wednesday night’s histrionics and rosters do not have to be finalized until just hours before the first game, indications are Can-Am League graduate Raul Valdes (New Jersey Jackals and Nashua, NH) will be the second left-hander in the Yankees’ bullpen.
It also is possible veteran lefty Alberto Castillo may be in Arizona’s pen, while right-hander Dane De La Rosa has some chance of being on the Tampa Bay staff.
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David Espinosa Not Surprised by ‘Roomie’ Curtis Granderson
Like many other Independent players who have spent a chunk of their time in major league organizations, David Espinosa has some very personal reasons for an interest in the postseason.
The infielder, who recently finished a fourth season starring for American Association champion Grand Prairie, TX and was in the Atlantic League playoffs with Southern Maryland, spent five years in the Detroit farm system with such teammates as Justin Verlander, Ryan Raburn and Curtis Granderson.
“I grew up with him (Granderson)”, Espinosa told me with obvious fondness for the centerfielder coming off an exceptional season with the New York Yankees. They were roommates in both Erie, PA and Lakeland, FL, and still stay in contact. “I’m not surprised”, Espinosa told me of Granderson’s power, which resulted in 41 home runs this season. “He didn’t have BP (batting practice) power; he had game power, and is very mentally strong. You could never tell even if he was struggling.”
(This is an excerpt from the column Bob Wirz writes year round on Independent Baseball. Fans may subscribe at www.WirzandAssociates.com, enjoy his blogs, www.AtlanticLeagueBaseball.com and www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, or comment to RWirz@aol.com. The author has 16 years of major league baseball public relations experience with Kansas City and as spokesman for two Commissioners and lives in Stratford, CT.)