Word is getting around. Quickly.
Perhaps it was the emergence of Wichita’s Junior Guerra as a top-flight starter in Milwaukee or maybe the fact the Wingnuts’ James Hoyt broke into the major leagues in Houston and Tim Adleman of Lincoln and El Paso debuted with Cincinnati. And, maybe it is merely the continued maturation of the 15-year-old American Association, which played a major role as a record 45 players with experience in Independent leagues were active on major league rosters during last season.
Whatever the reasons, 21 of the 30 major league organizations have signed one or more American Association players since the calendar turned to 2016. This represents a significant increase from the 15 clubs that obtained players from the league one year earlier.
Twins Invite Eddy Rodriguez to Spring Training
The latest American Association grad to receive a non-roster invitation to major league spring training is catcher Eddy Rodriguez, who will train with the Minnesota Twins in Fort Myers, Fla.
Rodriguez, an everyday backstop at El Paso in ’09 and at Sioux Falls the next season, appeared to have settled into an organizational role with the New York Yankees the last two years before signing a free agent contract with the Twins. A solid defensive catcher, Rodriguez hit .214 with three homers and 13 RBI in 153 plate appearances at Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season.
Now 31, the Cuban native has been a frequent major league spring training presence in recent years, averaging more than 10 games with San Diego in 2013, Tampa Bay the next year and the Yankees the last two seasons. His only regular-season major league opportunity was for two games and one dramatic home run with the Padres in 2012.
Rodriguez joins pitcher Chris Smith of Oakland, a former Wichita player, as the two non-roster invitees announced so far. Another 10 American Association grads also will be in major league camps by virtue of their 40-man roster status. Veteran hurler Luke Hochevar (Fort Worth) still is a free agent.
New Organizations for This Duo
Two onetime American Association infielders have changed major league organizations. Shortstop K. C. Serna (Amarillo ’13) has moved from the Philadelphia farm system to Miami, where he was given a Triple-A contract to play in New Orleans. Second baseman Noah Perio, signed out of Sioux City last season, has moved from the Los Angeles Dodgers to San Diego, which has assigned him to Class AA San Antonio.
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 his book, “The Passion of Baseball”, was introduced in October.