Independent Baseball Chatter by Bob Wirz
The Miami Marlins have been one of the most aggressive organizations at adding players from Independent Baseball ranks in the last year or so, and one of the players who likely will have them continuing this pursuit is right-handed pitcher Omar Bencomo (pictured), who only two years ago was putting together his first full season as a starter in the American Association.
The native Venezuelan was a combined 6-1with a 3.19 earned run average between Wichita and Laredo for his 22 starts in 2015, and that helped earn him his highest opportunity so far in a major league organization.
Miami signed Bencomo as a free agent early in February, he went off to the World Baseball Classic with his home country, and has been sharp ever since the regular season started. Working for Jacksonville in Class AA, the 28-year-old has only allowed four earned runs in five starts which translates into a 4-0 record with a sparkling 1.27 ERA. He shares the Southern League lead in wins and is fifth best in ERA. Bencomo has struck out 33 hitters (tied for third) in 28.1 innings while giving up 25 hits and five walks.
Bencomo’s longest outing may have been his best so far. He limited Birmingham to a run while striking out 10 in 7.1 innings.
Teammate Also Doing Well
One of Omar Bencomo’s teammates also spent productive time in the American Association.
Righty reliever Travis Ballew, who turned 26 Monday, has a 2.45 earned run average for nine outings, two with Jacksonville and seven with Class A Jupiter. The Texan was 1-0 with four saves and a 1.64 ERA in 10 outings for Fargo early last season before his contract was purchased by Miami.
Top ‘Prospect’ Wheat Getting On at .358 Clip
The transition has not been as easy in the early going for Dalton Wheat although the highly-touted outfielder is only 23 and in his first time in a major league organization.
Baseball America tabbed Wheat the best prospect in the Independent ranks during the offseason after he hit .391 at Division II Emporia (KS) State, then jumped to the Kansas City T-Bones and led them with a .335 batting average and a .414 on-base percentage. A left-handed batter, he is only hitting .176 for his first 13 games (10-for-44) with Miami’s Class A Greensboro club with a homer and eight RBI although he has a commendable .358 on-base average.
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.