By Bob Wirz
It is not exactly new for a relief pitcher to mature in the American Association and not too much later find himself getting a major league opportunity. Prime examples among current major leaguers include St. Louis’s John Brebbia (Sioux Falls and Laredo), Atlanta’s Chris Martin (Grand Prairie) and Tampa Bay’s Chaz Roe (Laredo).
The newest intriguing story is that of another right-hander, Trey McNutt, who spent the entire 2017 and 2018 seasons with Fargo-Moorhead before returning to the major league-affiliated minors last season in the Oakland farm system.
Alabama-born McNutt has just joined his fourth MLB organization, San Francisco, where he appears to be a decent prospect under the watchful eye of the Giants’ Matt Daniels, whose title of Coordinator of Pitching Analysis fits.
MLBTradeRumors.com points out Daniels tracked McNutt through his RedHawks days and that “he seems to believe in the righty’s ability to continue to improve” even though he turned 30 in August. McNutt’s nearly four-to-one strikeouts to walks ratio (80/22) last season with Oakland’s top two farm clubs certainly did not hurt, and the 22 strikeouts to four walks on his resume in the current Mexican League season may have done the same toward getting him off the free agent list.
McNutt is really standing out at Hermosillo with a 0.57 earned run average plus a league-leading 11 saves and a victory in 14 appearances. He was a combined 7-5, 5.12 with two saves in 45 appearances at Las Vegas and Midland last summer. The 6-foot-4 hurler was a relief pitcher at Fargo-Moorhead his first season there and started all 20 of his appearances the next summer. He had not advanced past Class AA in the Chicago Cubs and San Diego Padres organizations before going into the American Association.
Milwaukee’s Valera Has Sizzling Bat
A trio of Venezuelan natives who have found opportunities in the American Association, including 2019 Milwaukee infielder Cesar Valera, have returned home this offseason only to find themselves starring in the Venezuelan League.
Valera, who also played at Laredo in ’16 and Lincoln the next two seasons, has a sizzling bat for Anzoategui. Now listed at shortstop, the 27-year-old leads the league in hits (31-for-73), his .425 average is fourth and he ranks third with 43 total bases. His terrific on-base percentage of .488 is fourth. Valera only hit .218 in 57 games for Milwaukee.
Ramon Garcia, 28, is a league-leading 4-0 in the early part of the season. Garcia, who played at both Grand Prairie and El Paso, has the third best earned run average (1.27) and easily has the league’s best WHIP at 0.61. Nestor Molina (Joplin) has won all three of his decisions and is second in the league in innings pitched (23) with a 2.35 ERA.
Dominican native Denis Phipps, who played at both Laredo and Texas, is dominating the Venezuelan league in the power department. The outfielder is tops in both homers (6) and runs batted in (21) while hitting a robust .344 with a .494 OBP for 19 games.
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 or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.