It gets crazy trying to keep up with all of the former American Association players packing their bags for major league spring training camps.
The major leagues. Baseball’s Mount Rushmore. That is a big deal, right?
The number climbed to 17 with three additions in recent days and at least eight of the 30 big-league teams have yet to officially disclose their non-roster invitations so chances are the number may jump equal to or beyond last year’s count of 18.
It is difficult to think the managers and talent sleuths seeking players for this season’s 12 American Association rosters need more ammunition when they talk up the Independent league’s virtues against any other baseball-playing opportunity.
Sioux City can take a major bow with two of the latest major league invitees having played for the Explorers, bringing the team’s total to four and all of group have exhibited their talent at Lewis & Clark Park since 2015. That is just three years ago, a very short span for players to go from a non-affiliated league to major league training camp status.
The new names IndyBaseballChatter.com has confirmed for major league camps are versatile infielder Ryan Court and reliever-turned-starting pitcher Jose Flores (pictured), both part of Steve Montgomery’s powerhouse ’15 team. They join hurlers Tayler Scott from the ’16 Explorers and James Needy, who went from Sioux City late last May to the Miami Marlins farm system, then to the Arizona Fall League and finally to the Floridians’ 40-man roster. That is one mighty rapid climb.
Court will be with the Chicago Cubs where CBSSports.com in its report said he would add depth at first base although the belief here is that if he makes it to the regular season roster this year–or in the near future–it will be because of his ability anywhere on the infield. Flores will train with the San Francisco Giants and Scott with Texas.
By the way, now that right-hander Cody Satterwhite has re-signed with Washington he will almost certainly get some major league spring training appearances, whether as an official non-roster invitee (the Nationals have not divulged their entire list) or on those increasingly popular one-day visits to the major league camp. This one-time Explorer has gotten 11 of those opportunities with other teams in recent years.
That is just Sioux City’s story, with some of the other American Association bragging rights nearly as juicy. The other recent addition to a major league camp is that of righty Bo Schultz (Sioux Falls) with his new team, the Pittsburgh Pirates, where he will continue his comeback effort from Tommy John (elbow) surgery.
Lincoln’s Caughel Learns a Lot
Lindsey Caughel is anything but a household name, even after four years of pitching at Stetson University and being in the Los Angeles Dodgers farm system another four summers.
But this 27-year-old right-hander bears watching because of a two-year surge that started in Lincoln (2016). It was with the Saltdogs when he was starting to come back from a very painful shoulder surgery which led the Orlando, Fla., native to think about just getting on with his life outside of baseball since he already had his college degree.
He stuck with the idea of pitching, though, and has gotten an advanced degree in the last two seasons, which has him on a Triple-A roster (Tacoma) and only one more step from the majors.
He talked on a recent podcast (Lookout Landing) that he learned while going 6-3 with a 2.09 earned run average as a starter in Lincoln, that “Independent ball was a lot more about winning (than just developing players)…that was cool and I appreciated it”.
And he learned a great deal more when his contract was picked up by Seattle and he logged a 10-10 season in the Texas League last year. This time it was more mental than purely mechanical, he explained. Caughel told the podcaster he leaned on Seattle’s mental skills coach David Franco and that helped his earned run average at Arkansas (Little Rock) drop from 5.91 the first half of last season to 2.08 the second half.
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 www.WirzandAssociates.com.