By Bob Wirz
Photo via St. Paul Saints
At the rate major league organizations are dipping into the American Association’s juicy talent pool, managers and anyone else involved in acquiring new players for the 12 teams had better keep their cell phones charged.
Nearly two players per team–21 in all–have already had their contracts picked up by one of the 30 major league operations since the calendar turned to 2019.
The normal channels for finding new talent include scanning the list of players released by major league farm systems, tryout camps which take place prior to a new season, networking with lower tier Independent leagues, listening to agents and searching for top college seniors who do not get selected in the annual June free agent draft.
Social media also is playing a role.
Former Gary and St. Paul right-hander Matt Solter, who is enjoying a very nice early season in the Cleveland Indians farm system, explained to The Akron Beacon Journal the route he took to gain his second time in a major league organization.
Like President Trump, Solter used Twitter.
“It’s definitely different now where you don’t have to be well known or have a ton of connections,” he told the newspaper. “You can just put it (video) up there (on Twitter) and they’ll retweet it and you’ll get thousands of views on it. You never know who is going to watch. (The Indians called because) they wanted some (more) info and over the course of a couple days, they made me an offer and here I am.”
The original tweet supposedly was posted by Eric Cressey, who is the owner of Cressey Sports Performance, the Jupiter, FL gym at which Solter has been training since he was a junior at Furman University.
Solter, who turns 26 on June 4, started his pro career with Gary in 2015, pitched in the San Francisco chain the next two seasons and returned to the American Association (St. Paul) last year where he made 15 starts (3-5, 4.73). After four starts at Double-A Akron this season (1-0, 2.57) he has settled in with Class A Lynchburg where he has won all three starts with a fancy 1.02 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning.
Guerra Big for Brewers
If the major league’s postseason was starting now, the American Association would be well represented in three bullpens because of onetime Wichita starter Junior Guerra with Milwaukee, former St. Paul hurler Brandon Kintzler with the Chicago Cubs and Laredo’s Chaz Roe with Tampa Bay in addition to Grand Prairie starter James Paxton in a similar role with the New York Yankees.
The biggest surprise may be Guerra, who only started transitioning to the bullpen late last season. Milwaukee’s strong relief staff is led by Josh Hader, who started this week with an exceptional .503 opponent OPS (on-base plus slugging percentage). Guerra was right behind at .513 to go along with the 34-year-old’s 2.79 earned run average, a 2-0 record and two saves in 24 appearances.
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.