Archive for the ‘Mexican League’ category

Venezuelan Pro Baseball Takes a Hit

November 8, 2019

Venezuela’s Winter League started this week, and I, for one, was interested to see how the new American sanctions regime would affect this year’s rosters.  Indeed, it looks like there are not only no American-born players playing in Venezuela this winter, but no active MLB-system minor leaguers either.  Engelb Vielma and Luis Ysla both played in the affiliated minors in 2019, but both are currently free agents whose future MLB-system prospects do not look encouraging.

There are still a few foreign (to Venezuela) players in the VWL this winter, including Brazilian Tiago Da Silva, Cuban Yadir Drake and a number of Dominicans including Welington Dotel and Denis Phipps.  Da Silva and Drake played in the Mexican League this past summer, and Dotel and Phipps played in the Indy-A Atlantic League.

By way of comparison, as recently as last season the VWL featured among others, Willians Astudillo, Franklin Barreto and former MLB star Delmon Young.

Needless to say, even aside from the sanctions, the deaths of former major leaguers Luis Valbuena and Jose Castillo — they were murdered by attempted car-jackers/highway robbers while traveling to their home city after an away-series during the 2018 VWL season — had to have discouraged a lot of foreigners from playing there in the future.  The fact that the VWL still has some foreign players says a lot about how much those players need the $10,000 to $15,000 in total they make playing there for the winter season.

Venezuela produces so many baseball players, that even relying heavily on over-the-hill Venezuelan players who are years removed from the MLB system and no longer good enough to hold a job in the Mexican League, the VWL can still put a professional-level product on the field, even if not a very good one.  In fact, with the league loaded for bear with washed-up Venezuelans this season, it is probably costing the Venezuelan government less money to keep play going than it did only a year ago.  $2,000 or $3,000 a month in today’s Venezuela at least puts food on the table and then some.

I saw this article on line today.  It says that the price of two tickets, two beers and two hot dogs “easily costs $15” in the VWL this season, which is roughly twice the minimum wage most Venezuelans earn each month.  The VWL is thus a privilege for the few remaining relatively well-off people in Venezuela and for those who are “gifted” free tickets from the government as a reward for their continued loyalty to the regime.  The article contains a photo of a couple of Venezuelan hotties sitting in what appears to be the front row — I’d guess they are either girlfriends of the relatively well-paid ballplayers or the girlfriends of wealthy men connected to the regime.

Meanwhile, I also read an article about how the “special police” called the FAES created in 2017 have been accused by United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights and former Chilean President Michelle Bachelet of engaging in extra-judicial killings of regime opponents in Venezuela’s slums.  Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro says Bachelet is lying, but I know which of the two I believe.  You can’t keep control of a country in its fourth year of economic free fall without murdering a few hundred dissidents to keep everyone else in fear and in line.

God, what a way to run a country!  That said, if the current administration’s sanctions regime simply turns Venezuela into another Cuba, which is still a Communist state as U.S. sanctions against that regime enter their 60th year, I’m not sure what will be accomplished other than making millions of Venezuelans suffer even more and further de-stabilizing the rest of Latin America.

Ubaldo Jimenez Sighting And Other Winter League Notes

October 17, 2019

It looks like Ubaldo Jimenez is starting a comeback in the Dominican Winter League this month.  He lost his first start, but allowed only one run in five innings and struck out five.  Before this start on October 12th, Jimenez appears not to have pitched anywhere since his final season with the Orioles in 2017.

Whether Jimenez is intent on pitching again in the MLB system, or more likely the Mexican League given that he’ll be 36 in January, remains to be seen.  Jimenez is Dominican so his goal may only be to pitch in front of his home fans and make good money for 2.5 months of play that comes with his status as a former major league star.

I noticed that Evan MacLane is back for another winter in the Dominican Republic at age 36 (he turns 37 on November 4th).  This is his 12th season in the DWL, the last 11 with the Estrellas (Stars) de Oriente.  Interestingly, MacLane appears not to have played summer baseball anywhere since 2015, with the exception of an unsuccessful three-game trial in the Mexican League in 2018.

Typically, a player of Evan MacLane’s talent level and experience will play summers in one of the top three Independent-A leagues, often doing double duty as a pitching or hitting coach in order to earn a living wage and to keep one’s skills sharp for better paid Winter League play.  At MacLane’s age, he apparently doesn’t need to play in the summer to continue to be successful in the Dominican Winter League.  I’d guess that MacLane earns his living in the States coaching baseball somewhere during the summer and is thereby free to continue pitching in the Dominican Republic each winter.

MacLane got a cup of coffee with the St. Louis Cardinals in 2010 and played parts of two seasons with the Orix Buffaloes of Japan’s NPB in 2011-2012.  He hasn’t made a lot of money or succeeded at the pro game’s highest levels, but he’s put together a nice little career as an Estrellas’ ace.

Another of my favorite minor league players, John Nogowski, is also playing in the Dominican Republic this winter.  So far, so good: after three games, he’s 3-for-8 with a double and four walks.

Nogowski had a good year with the AAA Memphis RedBirds, slashing .295/.413/.476 in 463 plate appearances.  Unfortunately, he turns 27 in January and hasn’t yet played in the Majors, so his window is closing fast.  I’m hoping he can get some major league playing time in 2020, and then if he hasn’t established himself as a major league player by the end of the 2020 season, go to Asia.  We’ll see…

Meanwhile, now 40 year old Chris Roberson has opened up his ninth season with the Aguilas (Eagles) de Mexicali and his 15th in the Mexican Pacific League (LPM) overall.  He slashed .338/.405/.512 this past summer in the Mexican League, but injuries limited him to 72 games played.

Interestingly, both Evan MacLane and Chris Roberson played baseball at Feather River Community College in remote Quincy, California.  MacLane is originally from Chico and Roberson is from Oakland, so they’re both Northern California boys.  Feather River CC apparently has a pretty good baseball program, as it has produced three major leaguers including MacLane and Roberson (the third is Cody Anderson who pitched briefly for the Indians this summer), and 12 players drafted by MLB organizations.  They probably did not attend the school at the same time, and I don’t know if they’ve ever had the opportunity to face each other professionally.

The Best Foreign Pitchers in the History of Taiwan’s CPBL, Post-2019 Season Update

October 5, 2019

This is the post-2019 season update on an article I first published two years ago.  I have not published a piece on foreign hitters because no foreign position player has played enough in any relatively recent CPBL season to qualify for the batting title.

WINS

1.      Osvaldo (Ozzy) Martinez  108-85     MiLB, WiL Stats and more MiLB Stats

2.     Mike Loree                84-50     MiLB, Indy-A stats

3.     Jonathan Hurst        76-52     MLB, NPB, MiLB Stats

4.      Jose Nunez                62-30*     MLB, NPB, KBO, etc Stats

5.      John Burgos             58-34     MiLB, Indy-A Stats

6.      Mark Kiefer             55-27     MLB, MiLB, KBO stats

7.      Don August               52-48*   MLB, MiLB Stats

8.     Joe Strong                  47-33     MLB, MiLB, Indy-A Stats

9.     Orlando Roman       44-28     MiLB, NPB Stats, WiL

10.     Gabriel “Gab” Ozuna     43-39     MiLB Stats

Martinez, Loree and Hurst are the only long-term veterans among pitchers I could find in my search of the CPBL website.  Martinez pitched nine seasons, while Loree and Hurst each pitched seven with Loree likely to return for an eighth season in 2020.  Burgos had a terrific 4.5 seasons, Kiefer had four terrific seasons, and Nunez had an even-better-than-either three seasons.  Kiefer won 34 KBO games over three seasons later in his career.

Mike Loree is the most successful foreign pitcher currently pitching in CPBL or since Oswaldo Martinez’s and Jonathan Hurst’s CPBL careers ended after the 2005 season.  After missing the first month of the 2019 season with an abominal strain, the same injury that caused him to miss about the same amount of time at the beginning of the 2017 season, Loree was once again the CPBL’s best starter.  While his 12-9 record wasn’t particularly impressive (but still tied for second most wins), he led the circuit with a 2.78 ERA and finished second with 167 strikeouts.  Loree passed Jonathan Hurst on the all-time wins list this season, but still has about two more full seasons at his current performance level to catch up to Ozzie Martinez.

Joe Strong was a 37 year old MLB rookie in 2000 for the Florida Marlins, but he pitched better in the Show in limited use in 2001.  He pitched professionally through his age 41 season.

* Jose Nunez and Don August both later pitched a season in Taiwan’s other major league, the Taiwan Major League (TML).  Don August only won 18 games in the CPBL, but he then went went 34-30 in the TML, the same as his career MLB major league record.  The CPBL counts TML stats for purposes of career records, but unfortunately does not publish the TML records on its website, making it very difficult for a non-Mandarin speaker to obtain these records.  Thanks to Rob over at CPBL STATS for providing the TML stats necessary to make this year’s edition of this post as accurate as possible.

ERA   (650 IP)

1.      Jose Nunez             2.18

2.     Jonathan Hurst        2.56

3.     Joe Strong               2.71

4.     Mark Kiefer              2.82

5.     John Burgos             2.84

6.     Gab Ozuna               3.16

7.     Mike Loree              3.19

8.     Osvaldo Martinez    3.20

8.     Enrique Burgos     3.20     MLB, MiLB Stats 

10.  Don August              3.49

11.    Orlando Roman     3.78

I set the 650 IP limit because I wanted to include Jose Nunez (687 CPBL innings, but he topped 700 with TML innings included) and Orlando Roman (691).  Nunez won 56 games over three seasons, before moving on to greener Japanese NPB pastures.  As mentioned above, he returned to pitch in the TML in 1998, during that competitor league’s six-year history before it folded/merged into the CPBL after the 2002 season.

In this extreme hitter-friendly era of the CPBL, Mike Loree’s and Orlando Roman’s higher ERAs are at least equivalent to what the best foreign pitchers accomplished in different, less offensive eras than today.  I base this claim on their W-L records, the fact that Loree has been arguably the league’s best pitcher in each of his six full CPBL seasons, and the fact that Roman used the CPBL as a springboard to a four-year NPB career, where he won a total of 18 games and saved another six, before returning to CPBL in 2016.  Alas, Roman’s CBPL career ended after the 2017 season, but he was still around to pitch in three Puerto Rican Winter League games last winter as he approached his 40th birthday.

STRIKEOUTS

1.     Ozzie Martinez      1,286

2.     Mike Loree             964

3.     Jonathan Hurst      779

4.     Enrique Burgos      736

5.     Michael “Mike” Garcia      651     MLB, MiLB, KBO etc Stats

6.     Orlando Roman    564

7.     Jose Nunez            545

8.     John Burgos          541

9.     Mark Kiefer           532

10.    Gab Ozuna           508

Enrique Burgos had some of the best strikeout stuff CPBL had ever seen, but it didn’t translate into his W-L record.  He finished his CPBL career an even 36-36.

SAVES

1.     Mike Garcia             124

2.     Ryan Cullen           70     MiLB, Indy-A, WiL Stats

3.     Brad Thomas        59     MLB, NPB, KBO etc Stats

3.     Brandy Vann         59     MiLB, Indy-A Stats

5.     Alfornio (“Al”) Jones     50     MLB, MiLB Stats

6.   Dario Veras           49     MLB, MiLB, KBO etc Stats 

6.   Tony Metoyer       49     MiLB, Indy-A Stats

Mike Garcia is far and away the best foreign closer in CPBL history, and certainly one of the best in league history overall, second only in career saves to Yueh-Ping Lin.  He pitched five seasons in Taiwan (1996-1998, 2004-2005) in between which he was a 31 year old MLB rookie for the 1999 Pittsburgh Pirates.  His career CPBL ERA is an even 2.00.  He last pitched professionally at age 39.

Ryan Cullen pitched 3+ seasons in Taiwan, saving a then record-setting 34 games for the Brother Elephants in 2010 and recording a career CPBL ERA of 1.60.  Cullen is best remembered for his final CPBL game, when he threw a pitch, felt pain in his throwing shoulder, and walked off the mound and off the field without motioning to the dugout and waiting for the manager to take him out of the game.  He was released the next day.

Cullen said he didn’t intend to disrespect anyone, but it does not appear that he ever played professional baseball again.  Since he was only 32 and still pitching effectively at the time of his release, I suspect that he either just decided that he’d had enough of pro ball or the injury he suffered that caused him to walk off the field was more serious than it looked in the video of it I’ve seen.

Brad Thomas is an Aussie who pitched professionally in at least seven countries on four continents, concluding his baseball odyssey with 2.5 seasons in Taiwan.  Tony Metoyer pitched parts of seven seasons in the CPBL, where he was used as both a closer and spot starter.

Brandy Vann was a former 1st round MLB draft pick by the Angels.  He had good stuff, but not enough command to reach the MLB majors.  He pitched three years in the CPBL, followed by two more in the TML.  Vann may well be the first foreign player signed by a CPBL team out of an Independent-A league, something that happens all the time today.

Unfortunately, the CPBL doesn’t hire foreign relievers much any more.  Werner Madrigal saved 16 games for the 7-11 Uni-Lions as recently as 2015, and in 2014 Miguel Mejia saved a record-setting 35 games and posted a 1.24 ERA for the Lamigo Monkeys, although that record was bested in 2017 by Chen Yu-Hsun, who recorded 37 saves for a Lamigo Monkeys team that set a league record for wins in a season.  Today, though, CPBL teams have decided that starting pitchers are just too valuable for their three available foreign player roster spaces, even though there are almost always some good relievers in the Mexican League to choose from.

It’s hard for a foreign player to have a long career in the CPBL.  If the player has a bad year or even a bad half-season (most foreigners initially receive half-season contracts), he’s too expensive to keep around and too easily replaced.  There are a lot of players of the age and talent level to whom the CPBL salary scale is highly appealing, so CPBL teams can pick and choose their foreign players.  For example, Brian Woodall entered 2019 appearing ready and able to make his way onto my lists by the end of the season, but he was ineffective and released well before the 2019 season ended.

If a foreign player has a great full season or two, he typically moves on to NPB, KBO or back to MLB AAA.  However, a lot of departing foreign players have come back to the CPBL a few years later for another go ’round when it was their last best chance to make a substantial wage playing summer baseball.

In its early days, the CPBL appears to have recruited heavily among Latin American players who put up successful seasons in the winter leagues, which makes a lot of sense, since the Latin American winter leagues are pretty good and pay accordingly.  However, with the CPBL season now longer (it has climbed from an initial 90 game season to 120 games today), fewer Latin players seem willing in playing in Taiwan, because it interferes with their ability to play a full season of winter league ball in their home countries.  However, this trend didn’t prevent the Lamigo Monkeys from inking Dominican former KBO star Radhames Liz — at age 35 in 2019, he led the CPBL this year in wins (16) and strikeouts (179).

In recent years, the independent-A Atlantic League has been a major source for CPBL teams looking for in-season pitching help, and the (summer) Mexican League has been a prime source particularly for off-season signings.

Luke Heimlich Update

July 30, 2019

I wrote about Luke Heimlich pitching in Mexico in early May.  It’s now late July, and Heimlich’s pitching results are still very positive.  After 18 LMB starts, Luke Heimlich has a 4.91 ERA with 96 strikeouts in 99 innings pitched.  While the ERA looks high, it is 18th best in what is a very hitter-friendly 16-team circuit.  His strikeout total is 6th best and his strikeout rate 3rd best among LMB pitchers who have thrown at least 90 innings.

As I said in the May post, I consider LMB to be a AA caliber of play, rather than the AAA level it’s treated as by MLB.  As I also said in May, a AA performance by a rookie 23 year old pitcher similar to Heimlich’s is extremely impressive.

As far as I am aware, Heimlich continues to fly under the radar in Mexico, although I suspect that fans out at the ball parks shout some nasty (but likely true) things at him in Spanish.

I would guestimate that Heimlich is earning $4,000 to $5,000 per month for his first LMB season, which is better than MLB AA money for a player who has less than four seasons of professional experience.  If he can stay healthy, always a dicey proposition for a young pitcher, he could make $7,000 to $8,000 per month to play in LMB next season and $10,000 per month in 2021 if he pitches at least as well next year as he has so far in 2019.

I don’t think that any MLB team will give Heimlich a shot, given his child molestation baggage, until he is unquestionably one of LMB’s top three or four starters.  Then, maybe one MLB team that is particularly desperate for pitching will try to make the argument that Heimlich has paid his dues and deserves a shot at MLB.  Depending on how quickly Heimlich progresses as a pitcher and how healthy he remains, that could be as soon as the 2020-2021 off-season.

ChinaTrust Brothers Sign Casey Harman

June 27, 2019

The ChinaTrust Brothers of Taiwan’s CPBL have apparently reached a deal to sign Casey Harman, who is currently pitching for the Pericos de Puebla (Puebla Parrots) of the Mexican League (“LMB”).  Foreign pitchers playing in the CPBL come and go like minor-hit pop songs and their performers, and what I’m more interested in his how Casey Harmon got to this point in his professional career.

Originally a 29th round draft pick out of Clemson by the Chicago Cubs in 2010, Harman didn’t start pitching professionally until the 2011 season.  He reached AA ball in 2012 at age 23.  While he wasn’t terrible there, he wasn’t very good either and found himself pitching in the Indy-A Can-Am League and American Association in 2013 and 2014.

Then he appears to have had a three-year absence from professional baseball.  If I had to, I’d guess he tore and replaced his elbow tendon and/or tried to get a real job for a while before deciding to give pro ball another try.  He caught on with the Wichita Wingnuts back in the American Association in 2018, pitched reasonably well (although not in a brief two game trial in the better Indy-A Atlantic League), and parlayed that into a winter assignment starting in the Mexican Pacific League.

Harman pitched well in seven Mexican Winter League (“LMP”) starts and landed a job with the Pericos this summer, where he is 8-1 with a 4.57 ERA and 54 Ks in 69 innings pitched so far.  While the ERA doesn’t look impressive, it’s currently 17th best among qualifying starters in LMB’s 16-team hit-happy circuit.  So the Brothers came calling.

I’m always interested in figuring out how and for how much players end up moving between leagues throughout the world of professional baseball.  The Atlantic League is the best of the Indy-A leagues.  However, every Indy-A League has caps on how many “veteran” players each franchise can carry at any given time.  Thus, some good players (relatively speaking) filter down to the second- and third-tier Indy-A leagues.  This both keeps team salaries low, and allows teams in the second- and third-tier leagues to develop and hold onto their own local “stars.”

Anyway, the LMP seems to have some kind of relationship with the American Association whereby the best AA starters each season in each of the last few years have ended up pitching in the LMP the following winter.  A good winter in the LMP can lead directly to a job in the LMB the next summer, where salaries are better than in the Atlantic League ($10,000/month salary cap v. $3,000/month).  It certainly gives veteran pitchers a round-about incentive to pitch in the American Association if they can’t secure a job in the Atlantic League.

I was surprised to see the Pericos were willing to let Harman leave for Taiwan mid-season, since the Pericos are a contending team this year, and Harman had been well more than adequate as a starter for them.  CPBL teams can and do pay foreign players more than LMB teams, but CPBL teams can’t afford to pay high purchase fees of the kind that LMB teams typically charge for players they sell directly to MLB, NPB or KBO teams.

One thing I’ve noticed is that throughout pro baseball, teams generally don’t charge big (or at least market-rate) transfer fees when transferring a player to a league that isn’t much better, or is worse, but which will pay the player better.  MLB organizations do sometimes charge KBO and NPB teams meaningful transfer fees in the $500,000 to $1M range, but it’s usually less than what the player is actually worth either to the MLB or the KBO/NPB team.

Obviously, players sometimes negotiate contract terms that let them leave for a better paying opportunity in a different league for nominal or no transfer fees.  However, I also think that MLB organizations are willing to let their 4-A players go to Asia for less than market value, because of the good will it generates among the MLB organization’s minor league players by letting players who can’t establish themselves as regular major league roster-holders go to Asia where they’ll make a lot more money.

The same thing may be going between LMB and the CPBL.  MLB, NPB and KBO teams only seek to acquire the very best LMB players, who are naturally worth the most money, and LMB teams try to sell these players for market value or something close.  A player like Harman, while playing well in LMB, is more readily replaceable by signing the best current pitcher in the Atlantic League willing to play in LMB.  Meanwhile, Harman might not make it in the CPBL, in which case the Pericos could always bring him back and probably for a contract amount significantly lower than the $10,000 cap, since both player and team know that even $5,000 or $6,000 a month is lot better than the $3,000 a month Atlantic League cap, assuming Harmon could even get a max Atlantic League salary after washing out in Taiwan.

Earlier this season, the Fubon Guardians signed former KBO foreign Ace Henry Sosa, after tax law changes forced Sosa out of South Korea.  Given that Sosa had been one of the KBO’s top five or six starters in 2018, the Guardians likely had to pay Sosa a hefty-for-CPBL $25,000 or $30,000 per month (although probably with only a three-month guarantee) to start the 2019 season for them.  Sosa pitched like gang-busters in Taiwan, and after only 12 starts the Guardians sold him to the KBO’s SK Wyverns (all of Sosa’s signing bonus will reportedly be paid to the South Korean government as part of Sosa’s back-taxes).

Because the Guardians were still well in the hunt for the CPBL’s first-half pennant, I assumed that the Wyverns had had to pay the Guardians $150,000 to $200,000 for Sosa’s rights, in line with what the KBO’s KT Wiz had reportedly had to pay LMB’s Acereros de Monclava for LMB Ace Josh Lowey‘s rights mid-season in 2016.  However, Rob over at CPBL Stats guestimated that the buyout for Sosa’s rights was more likely in the $50,000 to $100,000 range.

Now, it’s possible that at the CPBL season’s half-way point, Sosa could have signed with a KBO or NPB team with no money payable to the Guardians, which would have greatly weakened Fubon’s ability to demand a big buy-out price.  It’s also possible that because CPBL teams make the biggest chunk of their revenues during the post-season, which is still a long way off, the Guardians were willing to get out from under whatever relatively high salary was being paid to Sosa.  The Atlantic League is full of much less expensive, although also much less effective, pitchers to replace Sosa.

However, it’s also possible that the Guardians figure that by letting Sosa return to the KBO, where he’ll make a lot more money, it will be easier for the Guardians in the future to lure in other foreign pitchers who are trying to work their way back to the KBO or NPB after a down season.  Unfortunately, unless you know all of the contract terms and what each organization’s and league’s unwritten rules are on these matters, it simply isn’t possible to know for sure.

Houston Astros Sign Felipe Paulino

June 18, 2019

Remember Felipe Paulino?  He had a six year major league career with his last appearances for the White Sox back in 2014, and it wasn’t particularly memorable.  Paulino was mostly an ineffective major league starter with a career record of 13-34 with a 5.22 ERA.

He’s 35 now and has been effective closer in the Indy-A Atlantic League for much of the past three summers.  The Astros just signed him to a minor league contract which is notable solely because major league teams almost never sign players this old with such spotty past major league records out of the Independent-A leagues.  A pitcher who once an effective major league closer or legitimate No. 2 or 3 starter, maybe, not someone like Paulino who was never very good even at this best.

Paulino really has been good in what amounts to two full seasons played over the last three summers in the Atlantic League.  His ERA has been consistently under 2.00, he’s recorded 63 saves and 154Ks in 116.1 IP.  On its face, that would suggest he deserves another look at AAA from a team with a major league bullpen need.

However, Paulino was brutally bad in half a season in the Mexican League in 2017 and pitched poorly in the Venezuelan Winter League last off-season.  Neither league is significantly better than the Atlantic League or as good as other AAA leagues (the Mexican League is labeled a AAA league by MLB, but is really closer to a AA level of play).

It’s a rare thing indeed for a player like Paulino to get another MLB-system shot at age 35, so it’s worth taking notice of it, and I’ll certainly be rooting for him, even if I’m doubtful he can cut the mustard in the heavy-hitting Pacific Coast League.

My Favorite Minor League Stars 2019

June 8, 2019

Every year I like to write about current or former minor league stars who have particularly captured my attention and/or imagination.  Here is this season’s edition:

Mike Loree and Josh Lowey.  Two pitchers who never reached the major leagues (or even got close), but have carved out professional success because they can pitch.  Both are 34 this year.

Mike Loree is currently in his seventh CPBL season and continues to be the best pitcher in Taiwan, although another former SF Giants farm hand, Henry Sosa, gave Loree a run for his money this season until having his contract purchased for a return to South Korea’s KBO last week.  I wrote about Mike Loree yesterday.

Josh Lowey is in his sixth season in LMB and he is to the Mexican League what Loree is to the CPBL.  Lowey is also 33.  Lowey has started the 2019 LMB season 8-0, and his 3.91, while on its face high, is actually the ninth best in a 16-team circuit known for its offense.  Lowey is now an incredible 63-24 in LMB play, a .724 winning percentage.  Unfortunately, Lowey has missed his last two starts.  He’s on the reserved list, rather than the Injured List, so maybe he’s dealing with a family emergency.

Cyle Hankerd and Blake Gailen.  Two more 34 year oldss who have never reached the MLB majors (or come particularly close) but who can play.  Hankerd, who was once a 3rd Round draft pick out of USC, is in his sixth season in LMB.  He has a 1.011 OPS so far in 2019, although he’s only played in 30 games.

A strong season in the Atlantic League last year got Blake Gailen a job playing for the Dodger’s AAA team in Oklahoma City.  I suspect he’s doing double duty as a coach, whether officially or not, based on the fact that he’s spent a lot of time on the Injured List and is only 3 for 19 when he’s played.  He won’t last much longer on the roster hitting like that, but I expect he’ll go into coaching when they tell him he can’t play any more.

Chris Roberson.  Now in his age 39 season, he’s still the undisputed American King of Mexican baseball.  He’s played nine seasons in LMB and at least 14 seasons in Mexico’s even better winter league (MXPW or LMP).  However, his current .893 OPS isn’t even in the LMB’s top 40 in what has been a great season for hitters south of the border.  If any American is making a good living playing baseball in Mexico, it’s Chris Roberson.

Another Mexican Leaguer who has captured my attention in the last year is Jose Vargas.  Once a 22nd round draft pick out of Ventura College, a JC in Ventura, California, Vargas quickly washed out of the White Sox’ system, after which he spent six (!) playing for the Traverse City Beach Bums of the Indy-A Frontier League.  Traverse City is by most accounts a great place to spend one’s summers; however, it’s hard to imagine being able to have a whole lot of fun on $1,600 a month, which is about where Frontier League salaries max out.

Vargas is big, has power and is able to play 3B, 1B and LF.  After paying his dues in the Frontier League, he was able to catch on with an LMB team in 2017, possibly due to the fact that LMB began treating Mexican American players as “domestic,” rather than “foreign” players for roster purposes around that time.

In his age 31 season, he’s leading LMB with 27 HRs in only 222 plate appearances, and his 1.220 OPS is third best in the league in spite of the fact that he doesn’t walk much.  I’m somewhat doubtful that Vargas is currently making the LMB’s $10,000 salary cap, because his team’s attendance is terrible (just below 2,200 per game), but the odds are good that if he isn’t earning it this year, he’ll get it next year in light of how well he’s now playing.

Karl Galinas .  A 35 year old Can-Am League pitcher, Galinas is the modern day equivalent of Lefty George.  George was a marginal major leaguer who pitched nearly forever in his adopted home town of York, Pennsylvania, where he also ran a bar.

Orlando Roman‘s baseball odyssey may not yet be over.  He’s made nine starts in the Puerto Rico Winter League over the last three winter seasons, so you can’t completely count him from making one or more in 2019-2020.  He pitched professionally for about 20 years in just about every league except the MLB majors.  He’s another pitcher like Mike Loree and Josh Lowey who has leveraged a not quite major league talent into the most successful professional career possible.

A couple of guys in the MLB minors I’m following are Tyler Alexander and John Nogowski.  Tyler Alexander got his start in Brewers’ system but was effectively banished from MLB after testing positive for pot a couple of times while he was having some personal problems.  He spent three years pitching great for Fargo-Moorhead in the American Association and wintering a couple of season in the LMP.

Last year, Alexander pitched effectively in LMB in the summer and in the Dominican League in the winter.  That got him a minor league contract with the A’s, who sent him to AAA Las Vegas.  So far, the results have not been encouraging.  Alexander has a 6.85 ERA after 11 start.  Although he’s struck out 46 batters in 47.1 innings pitched, the long ball has killed him.  I suspect the A’s haven’t yet moved him to the bullpen because they don’t have anyone they reasonably expect to pitch better as a starter in what is probably a terrific hitters’ park.

Last off-season, I thought that Alexander would be a great prospect for Taiwan’s CPBL.  It could still happen, since Alexander will be 28 next season, and isn’t going to last long with a 6.85 ERA at AAA, even in a hitters’ park.

I wrote about John Nogowski two years ago when, after getting bounced out of the A’s system, I noticed he was batting over .400 in the American Association at the still young age of 24.  I “predicted” he’d get signed by another MLB organization soon, and he was within about a week by the Cardinals’ organization.  More importantly, John wrote a comment on my article, becoming the first and so far only active professional player ever to comment on one of my articles.  Needless to say, I’ll be a fan of John’s for life.

Nogowski played well at AA Springfield in in 2018 and is playing fairly well this season at AAA Memphis at age 26.  He’s currently slashing .267/.402/.400.  He’s got major league get-on-base skills, but doesn’t have the power he needs for the position he plays (1B).  His talents might be more suited to Japan’s NPB, where the outfield fences are a little shorter.

At any rate, there’s still a chance that Nogowski could get a major league look this year, if things break right for him.  Unfortunately, he’s not currently on the Cards’ 40-man roster, which means he’ll have to get truly hot at AAA Memphis to bump somebody else off.