By Bob Wirz
The American Association continues to lead all Independent leagues, easily as a matter of fact, in the number of players now on Major League 40-man rosters.
The league has 10 pitchers and Arizona outfielder David Peralta (Wichita and Amarillo) on 40-man rosters, while the Atlantic League ranks second among the Independent circuits with seven.
Junior Guerra in Key Role in NLCS
With relief pitching getting so much attention as Milwaukee and the Los Angeles Dodgers battle to see who will represent the National League in the World Series it should not have been shocking that onetime American Association standout Junior Guerra landed in the middle of the epic, five-hour, 15-minute 13-inning Game 4 that squared the best-of-seven series at two games apiece.
Brewers manager Craig Counsell knew all along that the 33-year-old Guerra could be a key because as a former starting pitcher he could work more than the one or two inning limit for most relievers.
Sure enough, Guerra was summoned when the game got into extra innings late Wednesday and most relievers had been used up. The box score shows the native Venezuelan was the losing pitcher in Los Angeles’s 2-1 victory, but only after he had thrown 51 pitches and gotten credit for 11 tedious outs to keep Milwaukee in the game. He gave up only two hits (zero walks) and struck out four. The only one of the game’s 16 pitchers who worked longer than Guerra’s 3.2 innings was Los Angeles starter Rich Hill.
It took a one-out broken-bat single by Manny Machado to get the winning rally started. With two outs, the superstar got to second when a pitch got away from catcher Erik Kratz. Guerra nearly picked Machado off second before yielding a 3-2 single to Cody Bellinger and Machado slid under the tag for the game-winner.
Guerra has been an interesting player ever since he came out his native country as a teen-aged catching prospect 15 years ago. Yes, a catching prospect. That was all he did the first three seasons (2003-05) after Atlanta signed him as a free agent. The Braves and later the New York Mets began to see pitching talent in Guerra although it was nothing but spotty relief work in rookie and Class A leagues until he landed in the American Association where Wichita gave him 39 starts during the ’11 and ’13 seasons.
He won 18 and only lost 7 in those two years, with mid-3.00 earned run averages before the Chicago White Sox and eventually Milwaukee gave Guerra opportunities at higher levels.
He was primarily a starter for the Brewers when in the majors the last two seasons although after he struck out eight hitters without allowing a walk or a run with added velocity (95+ MPH average on fastballs) in five September relief appearances the Brew Crew knew he could be valuable in a variety of ways.
Triple-A Next for Sioux City’s Nogowski?
First baseman John Nogowski spent a month of the 2017 season at Sioux City punishing American Association pitchers with a .402 average (.482 on-base percentage). He drove in 28 runs in his 34 games before St. Louis purchased his contract and eventually sent him to the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League.
The website vivaelbirdos.com, which tracks Cardinals farmhands, praised the 25-year-old’s recent season at Double-A Springfield, especially for his “extreme plate discipline”. The right-handed batsman hit .309 with a .392 on-base percentage and drew extra praise because he walked nearly twice as many times (41) as he struck out (22) in 83 games. Nogowski homered 12 times and drove in 61 runs.
“2018 should see him get a shot at AAA”, vivaelbirdos.com predicted.
Previously the chief spokesman for Baseball Commissioners Bowie Kuhn and Peter Ueberroth, Bob Wirz has been writing extensively about Independent Baseball since 2003. He is a frequent contributor to this site, has a blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com, and a book about his life, “The Passion of Baseball”, is available at Amazon.com (including Kindle copies), or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.