Independent Baseball Chatter – By Bob Wirz
It was only a few days ago when the head count of former American Association players headed to major league spring training camps totaled 16. Two additions have been locked in place since, both potentially exciting stories.
First, Players 17 and 18.
Aaron Crow‘s future seemed unknown since he was out all of last season with injury, but the right-hander, who started his pro career when Fort Worth was in the league in 2008-09 and quickly climbed to the majors with Kansas City, has signed with the new National League powerhouse Chicago Cubs.
Injury also struck down the power bat of Balbino Fuenmayor for the second half of last season, but the World Champion Royals pronounced him ready for action and handed the onetime Laredo corner infielder a non-roster invitation.
“The Great Balbino”, as he is often called, reported several days ahead of the official start for position players after finally getting medical clearance from the torn anterior cruciate ligament injury (knee) he suffered last season.
So the Royals’ top brass will finally get to see the 26-year-old who they signed after the 2014 season when Baseball America tabbed him Independent Player of the Year. Fuenmayor, who first tasted the Indy game for 18 games (.262-2-13) as a 23-year-old at Laredo the year before, drove in 99 runs in 95 games along with pounding 23 homers, 30 doubles and hitting .347 for Quebec of the Can-Am League in his breakout season.
The 6-foot-2 right-handed-hitter did not disappoint in his first season in the Kansas City chain, hitting .358 with 17 homers, 28 doubles and 66 RBI in 89 games between Double-A Northwest Arkansas and Triple-A Omaha before the knee injury shut him down in July shortly after he had played in the Futures Game during the All-Star break.
All signs point to the Venezuelan native, if fully healthy, breaking into the majors any day now, so it seems certain both the Royals and scouts from other organizations will keep a watchful eye on Fuenmayor.
- n-Tim Adleman, Cincinnati (El Paso 2012, Lincoln 2012)
- n-Angel Castro, Oakland (Lincoln 2010)
- n-Aaron Crow, Chicago Cubs (Ft. Worth 2008-09)
- n-Junior Guerra, Milwaukee (Wichita 2011, 2013);
- *Luke Hochevar, Kansas City (Fort Worth 2006)
- John Holdzkom, Pittsburgh (Sioux City 2013, Amarillo 2013-14)
- n-James Hoyt, Houston (Wichita)
- n-Brandon Kintzler, Minnesota (St. Paul 2009)
- *James Paxton, Seattle (Grand Prairie 2010)
- Chaz Roe, Baltimore (Laredo 2012)
- *Tanner Scheppers, Texas (St. Paul 2009)
- *Max Scherzer, Washington (Fort Worth 2006)
- Bo Schultz, Toronto (Grand Prairie 2011)
- n-Chris Smith, Oakland (Wichita 2013).
- Ian Thomas, Los Angeles Dodgers (Winnipeg 2009-11)
Position Players (3)
- 1B n-Balbino Fuenmayor, Kansas City (Laredo 2013)
- OF David Peralta, Arizona (Wichita 2012, Amarillo 2013);
- C n-Eddy Rodriguez, New York-AL (El Paso 2009, Sioux Falls 2010).
Scheppers, Crow Will Miss Early Action
Both Crow and another righthander who grew up with him in the Kansas City system, Tanner Scheppers, are going to have to be content with a late start to this season because of injuries. Scheppers, another hurler who threw his first professional pitches in the American Association (St. Paul, 2009), will miss at least the first half of the season for surgery to his left knee.
“All winter long I saw him at the ballpark, and he had energy and a great look on his face,” Texas manager Jeff Banister told MLB.com of the reliever, who went 4-1, 5.63 in 42 relief appearances despite other injuries with the Rangers last season. “He woke up a few days ago and the knee was a little puffy,” Rangers general manager Jon Daniels said. “He can’t think of a moment where he tweaked it.”
Banister said “there is a competitor inside Tanner that will find a way to push through this. He’ll come back and find a way to be competitive.”
Meanwhile, Crow, who had a 3.43 ERA over four seasons (2011-14) with the Royals only to suffer an elbow injury shortly before the start of the 2015 season when he was training with Miami, could give the Cubs’ bullpen a significant lift.
“The best-case scenario is sometime around June,” Crow told The Chicago Tribune of his potential return to the major leagues after his rehabilitation from reconstructive elbow surgery.
“I just have to stay focused on me,” Crow said. “These guys (teammates) are throwing bullpens every other day, and right now I’m every four days. Those extra days in between, you can always do something to get better. As cliché as it sounds, the little stuff helps.”
Fuenmayor photo: Minda Haas
Previously the chief spokesman for 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 as well as writing his own blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com.