By Bob Wirz
Ryan Court, who did everything but shine manager Joe Maddon’s shoes last spring training and still could not win a spot on the Chicago Cubs’ regular season roster as an infielder, is getting another opportunity with the National League powerhouse. Add in fresh starts with new organizations for right-hander Bo Schultz and infielder Taylor Featherston, and one begins to get the picture that another string of former American Association players should be getting decent looks from major league teams in spring training.
(Photo Credit: Sioux City Explorers)
This trio added to the dozen AA alums already assured of spots in major league training camps will give the league a lot to look forward to when baseballs start flying throughout Florida and Arizona in another month.
Schultz and Featherston, both with previous major league experience, should be well positioned since they will be with Baltimore and Kansas City, respectively, two teams certain to welcome any pleasant surprises since their fortunes do not seem as bright as those of teams being tabbed as divisional favorites.
The Cubs re-signed Court from the minor league free agent pool one year after Sioux City’s 2015 shortstop led the ’18 team in spring training appearances, hit .360 (18-for-50) and posted a .458 on-base percentage while playing all over the diamond at their Mesa, AZ base. While the new deal is a minor league contract it is difficult to imagine the 30-year-old will not get exposure once again in the major league camp.
Court hit .262 with 11 homers, 62 runs batted in and had a .362 on-base percentage in 114 games at Triple-A last season, and is currently hitting a torrid .372 with a .468 OBP for 21 games with Escogido in the Dominican Republic.
Schultz, who spent most of 2011 at Grand Prairie (4-3, one save, 4.13 in 37 games), also has a minor league deal with Baltimore, but if the 33-year-old has fully recovered from an assortment of injuries including elbow surgery which cost him all ’16 and found him rehabbing in the Pittsburgh farm system one year ago he could add experience to the Orioles, who are trying to recover from a disastrous season.
The Northwestern University product has 51 games of major league experience (0-3, 4.57), mostly with Toronto. To give everyone encouragement, Schultz, who had been a high-90s radar man with a good slider, had 10 scoreless innings (only two hits) at Bradenton last summer, then had a 2.00 ERA and converted all three of his save opportunities in 27 innings in Triple-A. He did not give up a home run with either team although he did not pitch after July 1.
Featherstone, 29, is listed in Kansas City’s farm system since signing this month as a free agent, but because he has 137 games of major league experience between the Angels and Phillies he gives the Royals some nice depth. He has been bounced around in the last year, starting ’18 with Minnesota’s top farm club, then playing shortstop for the eventual American Association champion Kansas City T-Bones (.202-5-15 in 25 games) and having his contract obtained by Cincinnati for the final few weeks of the minor league system.
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.