Independent Baseball Chatter – by Bob Wirz
The most recent American Association player added to a spring training roster also seems to be one of the first-time major league hopefuls who really bears watching for getting to baseball’s promised land in 2017.
Milwaukee has invited right-handed pitcher Aaron Wilkerson to camp in Arizona, which should not be a major surprise because of the promise the 27-year-old showed last season and the praise heaped on him when the Brewers obtained him in a trade with Boston last July.
“In Aaron Wilkerson, we are adding a starting pitcher who has had tremendous success in the minor leagues and could be an asset to the major league team in the near future,” Brewers general manager David Stearns said in a statement at the time of the trade involving infielder Aaron Hill. “The Red Sox did a good job of finding him, and he’s really flown through that system since he signed”, the GM told MLB.com. “He’s just never given up.”
That was in reference to Wilkerson missing nearly two years after elbow surgery when he came out of Cumberland College in 2011 and nearly two years spent in a trio of Independent leagues, including parts of both ’13 and ’14 in the American Association, where he was 4-2 in 16 starts for Grand Prairie.
The 6-foot-3 hurler did struggle in 11 starts at Colorado Springs late last year although he struck out 57 Pacific Coast League hitters in 54.2 innings. Wilkerson was 2-6, 6.42 while adjusting to the high altitude and new organization although that followed a 6-3, 2.14 performance and the showing of a 95 mile-per-hour fastball with the Red Sox’s top two farm clubs earlier in the season.
Wilkerson brings the count of former American Association players ticketed for a major league camp to 15 with other possibilities still looming.
This Quartet in Caribbean Series
At least four former American Association players are ticketed for duty when the Caribbean Series begins this week.
Pitchers John Brownell (Grand Prairie) and Jarret Leverett (Wichita) will be with Puerto Rico, hurler Omar Bencomo (Wichita and Laredo) will represent Venezuela and third baseman C. J. Retherford (Fargo) will be with Mexico after helping his Mexicali team win the postseason championship. Pitchers Nestor Molina (Joplin) was part of the Venezuelan championship series although his Lara team did not advance. It was a similar fate for hurler Angel Castro (Lincoln) in the Dominican Republic. Cuba also is in the five-team competition.
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 in October.