My Favorite Minor League Stars 2016
Everyone who reads my blog regularly knows that I love to write about players who have used the Independent A leagues as a spring board to professional baseball success after their careers in the MLB system looked over. Here are a few players I’ve been following for the last couple of seasons as they work their ways through interesting baseball careers
Josh Lowey. One of the Atlantic League’s best pitchers in 2013, Lowey has been the best pitcher in the Mexican League the last year and half. He is currently leading the Mexican League in wins (10) and strikeouts (99 in 77.2 IP) and second in ERA (1.51). Lowey is 31 this season, and it’s time for a team in South Korea’s KBO or Taiwan’s CPBL to sign him and give him a chance to earn some real money.
Jose Contreras is at least 44 this year, and I thought his professional career was over when he made only nine starts in the Mexican League last year all of them before the end of May. However, he’s back in the Mexican League in 2016 with a new team and is currently 3-4 with a respectable 3.79 ERA and 55 Ks (tied for 6th best) in 57 innings pitched while walking only 17 batters. The Mexican League is a great place for older Latino players who are determined to keep playing (and making a modest living at) the game they love.
Cyle Hankerd. Hankerd is another 31 year old, and he’s currently leading the Mexican League with a 1.044 OPS. Like Lowey, this is the year for an Asian team to give Hankerd a shot, while he’s still got something left. However, KBO and CPBL teams prefer pitchers.
Meanwhile, former San Francisco Giant catcher Eliezer Alonzo is, at age 37, second in the Mexican League with a 1.038 OPS.
Mike Loree. Loree was the best pitcher in the Atlantic League in 2011. He remains the best starting pitcher in Taiwan’s four-team CPBL in 2016. After a couple of rough outings, his ERA is 4.13, which is still 2nd best in an extreme hitters’ league, he’s tied for the league lead with seven wins and leads the league outright with 79 Ks.
Jon Velasquez. The other top starter in the Atlantic League in 2013, Velasquez got his shot back in the MLB system in 2015. He pitched extremely well in AA ball, but then got hit pretty hard in AAA, although his ratios were better than his ERA. He’s back in the Independent-A American Association this year, and not pitching particularly well, so at age 30 this season, his shot of moving up may now have passed.
Blake Gailen, Paul Oseguera and Brock Bond all appear to have retired. They are all over 30, an age at which if you don’t see a clear path to MLB or at least a high paying gig in Asian baseball, you have to give serious consideration to moving on with your life. Oseguera was at least able to make a little money playing in Japan a couple of seasons.
Karl Galinas’ nine year run as the ace of the Quebec Capitals of the Can-Am League may also be over. He made two starts for the Capitals this season and went 1-0, but he had an ugly 6.96 ERA, allowing 17 hits in 10.1 innings pitched while striking out only five. He’s no longer on the Capitals’ roster, so he’s either hurt, was released or decided to retire.
A couple of new guys I’m keeping my eye on are the Atlantic League’s Telvin Nash and Jack Snodgrass. I wrote about Nash a few weeks ago, and since then he’s cooled off a bit, as his current .947 OPS is now only third best in the Atlantic League among players with at least 100 plate appearances. Nash strikes out too much and isn’t a .300 hitter, but he’s got loads of power and he’s still only 25 years old.
Jack Snodgrass is another former San Francisco Giants’ farmhand (he reached AAA Sacramento last year), and he is probably the Atlantic League’s best pitcher so far in 2016. His 3.14 ERA is 6th best in the league and his 61 Ks (in 51.2 IP) is second most. At age 28, Snodgrass may not get another shot from an MLB team, but is still young enough to eventually work his way to Asian baseball.
Meanwhile, former major leaguer Lew Ford, who turns 40 in August, is once again leading the Atlantic League with a .348 batting average as a I write this. One has to think that once Ford is finally no longer to continue playing himself, he will become a coach for a professional team somewhere, because he obviously cannot leave the game behind.