Independent Baseball Chatter – By Bob Wirz
It is a big dose of encouragement for American Association players to see what the league’s former stars are doing in the major leagues with New York Yankees reliever Chris Martin a prime example this season. But come Opening Night on May 21 virtually all attention will turn to those on the 2015 rosters.
There seems to be no shortage of possible standouts.
Lincoln recently added last season’s United League batting champion, Ryan Lashley. He hit a rousing .369 for Fort Worth, an average 30 points higher than anyone else in the southern-based Independent league. He had 22 doubles, six homers and 45 runs batted in while only playing 53 games, and was a mere 23 years old and in his second professional season at the time. The Florida native jumped his average by 128 points from his rookie year in the Frontier League.
Defending champion Wichita and league newcomer Joplin also have picked up marquee players with offensive skills and considerably more experience.
The Wingnuts have added vast experience in 33-year-old outfielder Luis Montanez, once the No. 3 selection in the entire major league free agent draft, who has 129 games in the big leagues (Baltimore, Chicago Cubs) and more than 1,400 in various minor leagues. Montanez remains productive as shown by 17 homers and 74 RBI in 130 games in the full-season Atlantic League (Somerset, NJ) last season.
Joplin joins the array of teams from the majors on who are looking for production out of a Cuban. Outfielder Yasser Gomez has a career .331 average and imposing .407 on-base percentage with much of his time as the centerfielder for the Cuban National team. He was part of a silver medal team in the 2000 Olympics.
The Blasters also have added a veteran talent in pitcher Robinson Tejeda, who has spent at least part of seven different seasons in the major leagues with a career record of 23-27 and a 4.42 earned run average. “He is someone that the rest of the staff can learn from with his major league experience,” said general manager Shawn Suarez.
Martin, meanwhile, continues to earn key innings as part of the New York Yankees’ bullpen. The 28-year-old, who started his professional career with Grand Prairie in 2010, has worked in 10 games, allowing only six hits and a walk in nine innings while posting a 3.00 ERA.
Bo Schultz Strong, Holdzkom Struggles
Bo Schultz, who got his first major league experience with Arizona last season, is an American Association product (Grand Prairie) doing well in Triple-A with three saves and a win in five appearances for Toronto’s top farm club in Buffalo. He has a 3.68 ERA.
One who is trying to find himself is John Holdzkom (Amarillo, Sioux City), a big story last season when he went all the way from the American Association to the Pittsburgh Pirates. The 6-foot-10 righty has been struggling with control, walking nine in 6.2 innings (10 strikeouts), and has a 6.75 ERA to go along with one save for the Pirates’ top farm club in Indianapolis.
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 blog, www.IndyBaseballChatter.com.