Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz
Another day and another player who has benefitted by spending time in the American Association.
This time it is youthful outfielder Dexter Kjerstad, who went from being released by Kansas City less than 18 months ago to playing his back side off for a 45-game stint in Amarillo to getting a renewed chance in the Miami Marlins system and earning an opportunity to be in the prospect-laden Arizona Fall League now.
“With me coming out of High-A in the Carolina League (before being released by the Royals), guys in Texas (American Association) were throwing a lot more off-speed and guys knew how to pitch, they weren’t just going to keep feeding me fastballs”, the 24-year-old Kjerstad told Knuckleball.com. “It was kind of an eye-opener, but it was actually a breath of fresh air at the same time, because the stats at the end of the day actually meant something.” He hit .300 with 11 homers in those 45 games in his hometown of Amarillo, which brought the Miami contract last December.
“It’s a really good feeling (being in the AFL)”, he told the website. “But I just kept working hard, and I let the chips fall where they may, and I ended up here” following a 15-home run summer in the Florida State League. Kjerstad has found the going tough with the Mesa Solar Sox, hitting just .148 with two homers and five runs batted in while being errorless for 14 contests, but there is no reason to believe this will slow him down because of the way he has overcome previous obstacles.
“Honestly, it almost makes me even hungrier to be here, because I’m getting rewarded for a number of things: my character, how I play the game when times are tough, the hard work I’ve been putting in every day,” Kjerstad said. “It’s inspiring to know that someone believes in me, so I take it as a sign to keep working hard, knowing that I am doing the right thing.”
One Hot Bat in Venezuela
One of the more intriguing names among the many minor league free agents this fall has to be Balbino Fuenmayor, who it may surprise a lot of teams because of his years in the spotlight does not even turn 27 until later this month.
“The Great Balbino”, as some call the Laredo corner infielder of 2013 who Baseball America tabbed as Independent Player of the Year one season later, is trying to turn heads of would-be suitors in the Venezuelan League. Fuenmayor is hitting .350 after 11 games with two homers, 12 runs batted in and a .409 on-base percentage.
Fuenmayor did not make it up to the Kansas City Royals this season after missing the second half of the 2015 campaign because of knee surgery. The native Venezuelan hit an impressive .358 with 17 homers, 28 doubles and 66 RBI in only 89 games for the Royals’ top two farm clubs one year ago before tearing his anterior cruciate ligament. His power dipped to six home runs in 358 at-bats for Omaha this season although he had 23 doubles, drove in 42 runs and hit .291 with a .325 on-base percentage.
A’s Give Former Wingnut Smith Another Contract
Chris Smith‘s season at Wichita when he was a not-so-young 32 three years ago, is still paying dividends. The right-hander, who already had experienced the major leagues with Boston and Milwaukee before joining the Wingnuts in an attempt to re-energize his career, has signed a new minor league contract with Oakland.
He posted a 2.92 ERA in 13 relief appearances for the parent Athletics in 2016, and served as a starter for Triple-A Nashville the rest of the season.
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 October 5.