Independent Baseball Insider by Bob Wirz
With a standout like Max Scherzer leading the way and new closing ace Brandon Kintzler or relative newcomers like Tim Adleman and James Hoyt grabbing attention, baseball scouts are paying attention to what American Association pitchers have to offer.
Aaron Wilkerson ranks on the league’s list of major league hopefuls at this time, and the right-hander, who turns 28 on this very day (May 25), is doing his best to reach the top despite a disappointing assignment from the parent Milwaukee Brewers coming out of spring training.
Wilkerson, like Washington ace Scherzer threw his first professional pitches in Independent Baseball, is the Class AA Southern League’s reigning Pitcher of the Week after a seven-inning, one-hit (a homer), season-high nine-strikeout performance for the Brewers’ farm club in Biloxi, MS. He followed up with a second consecutive seven-inning start Monday, this time surrendering five hits and three runs in a no-decision effort that left his season log at 3-2, 3.53 with an impressive 47 K’s in 43.1 innings. Wilkerson has not allowed more than three earned runs in any of his starts.
“At first, the Brewers’ decision to have me start the year at Double-A was a kick in the gut,” the Hewitt, TX native admitted to MiLB.com, especially since he made 20 appearances (19 starts) at Triple-A last season between Boston’s top farm club in Pawtucket, RI and Milwaukee’s team in Colorado Springs after a trade between the organizations. “But after seeing what the organization’s intention behind the decision was, I accepted it. I’m just proud to be here because there are millions of guys who’d want to be in my shoes.”
Wilkerson, who was in the American Association (Grand Prairie) in 2013-14, drew praise from Shuckers manager Mike Guerrero for his last start. “He gave us an opportunity to win the ballgame,” Guerrero told MiLB.com. “Anytime a pitcher throws seven innings and allows three runs you have an opportunity to win.”
Presumably, the Brewers’ top brass also is taking note.
Hoyt’s Star on Rise
James Hoyt‘s status with the American League West-leading Houston Astros continues to rise.
“The swing-and-miss component of his game makes me feel really comfortable when I bring him in with guys on base in the middle of innings,” manager A. J. Hinch told The Houston Chronicle. “He can escape some things without contact.”
Striking out 18 of the first 32 major league batters he faced after his recall from Triple-A will build that confidence. The 30-year-old, who spent part of 2012 with the Wichita Wingnuts, now has 15 strikeouts in only 8.1 innings during seven outings in May with a season record of 1-0, 1.64 with 20 whiffs (three walks) in 11 innings.
Eddy Rodriguez, Court Hot
Elsewhere among American Association grads, catcher Eddy Rodriguez is continuing to show he is more than a defensive contributor with the New York Yankees’ top farm club in Scranton/Wilkes-Barre, hammering four homers and driving in 10 runs in his last nine appearances. The onetime Sioux Falls and El Paso receiver has hit .303 (10-for-33) in that stretch to lift his season average to .236 with five doubles, the four homers and 14 RBI in 89 at-bats.
Relief pitcher Ben Heller praised Rodriguez after his two-homer game May 17, but mostly for his catching. “(Eddy) was great,” he told The Scranton Times-Tribune. “To me, he is so good at calling pitches behind the plate and as a pitcher, that just gives you peace of mind not having to think a whole lot. Just kind of going with him. He does so much homework on the hitters.”
Former Sioux City infielder Ryan Court needed only two weeks to recover from his foot injury before returning to the lineup at Pawtucket. The Illinois State product, who turns 29 on May 28, has hit safely in all 10 games since his return with an active 11-game streak. Court is hitting .296 with a .381 on-base percentage.
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”, came out in October and is available at traditional book-buying sites, or at www.WirzandAssociates.com.
Photo Credit: Biloxi Shuckers