Archive for the ‘Midwest League’ Category

Grant Desme Retires…

Yeah, you haven’t seen a post from any of us for a good three weeks. But that’s just because we’re living in the slow time for minor league baseball. The 6 year free agents of note have all been picked up.

But then came news from top propsect and one of the BLB Player of the Year finalists. Grant Desme.

Desme, seen here in his come hither pose, was having himself a tremendous 2009. The only man to hit 30-30, the Arizona Fall league MVP, an open Center Field for him for when he’s proven major league ready. The man seemed like he was on the path for millions of dollars.

But? Today Desme announced that he had a higher calling. He has left the Athletics organization to join the priesthood. I know I’ve made a joke on my twitter feed in regards to it. But obviously, it’s a deeply personal decision that was made here. Desme had a real shot at going somewhere with this whole baseball thing, But he let that go.

It’s not exactly the conformists way, but considering the rightward kant of sports in general? It’s actually kind of impressive. Do you think someone like a Jeff Suppan would leave the potential millions on the table so he can share his faith with the world? No.

So you know what? I salute Grant Desme. Fortune favors the bold, and you sir, are one bold lemon farmer.

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Get Your Bus Leagues Eat On

Man v. Food samples the Homewrecker Dog (photo courtesy of Travel Channel)

Man v. Food samples the Homewrecker Dog (photo courtesy of Travel Channel)

The Travel Channel show Man v. Food is touring minor league parks tonight at 10pm ET. I talked to some of the people who make the food that host Adam Richman will sample tonight for an ESPN article, but the quotes I selected aren’t going to make it into the finished product, so I’m going to share them here.

The show visited the Yankees A affiliate the Charleston RiverDogs (home of the ambidextrous pitcher and owned by Bill Murray, Michael Veeck, and former AL President Gene Budig), the independent Gateway Grizzlies, and the West Michigan Whitecaps (Detroit A). The show looks fun, so check it out.

Follow in Man v. Food’s Footsteps

Gateway Grizzlies
GCS Ballpark (2002) – 6,000
2301 Grizzlie Bear Blvd. Sauget, IL 62206
Frontier League, Independent

Signature Food: Baseball’s Best Burger. A standard bacon cheeseburger with a twist: the bun is a Krispy Kreme donut cut in half. Condiments are discouraged.

“The hardest part is convincing someone to try it,” says Grizzlies Events Coordinator Jeff O’Neill. “A lot of people will look at the idea and think it sounds disgusting. It is truly amazing to see the reaction once they try it. The combinations of the sweet bun, the saltiness of the bacon and burger and the bitterness of the cheese melt all together for a little taste of heaven.” 

West Michigan Whitecaps
Fifth Third Ballpark (1994). Capacity 10,071.
4500 West River Dr. Comstock Park, MI
Midwest League, Detroit Tigers Class A
Whitecaps in the Majors: Brandon Inge, Joel Zumaya, Cameron Maybin

Signature Food: The Fifth Third Burger. Five beef patties, topped with chili, nacho cheese, American cheese, salsa, sour cream, chips, and lettuce. One a one lb. bun.

Josh Kowalczyk is the Whitecaps promotions intern in charge of the massive burger. According to his meticulous records, nearly 2,000 Fifth Third burgers have been sold this season. 476 intrepid souls have attempted to eat it over the course of nine innings, and an amazing 298 of those succeeded in eating the whole… thing.

Kowalczyk remembers the scene when Adam Richman and the Man v. Food crew came out to the ballgame. “A lot of people found out he was coming, and it was absolutely crazy,” he recalled. “Our attendance that night was 7,921, but more people watched him than the ballgame. He talked to people everywhere in the stadium.”

Charleston RiverDogs
Joseph P. Riley, Jr. Park AKA “The Joe” (1997). Capacity 6,000.
360 Fishburne St. Charleston, SC
South Atlantic League, New York Yankees, Class A
Famous owners: Mike Veeck, former AL President Gene Budig, and comedian Bill Murray.
RiverDogs in the Majors: B.J. Upton, Rocco Baldelli, Delmon Young, Orioles Manager Dave Tremblay.

Signature Food: The Homewrecker Dog. A ½ pound frank is the palette. 25 potential toppings are your colors. The standard condiments are all here, but a true connoisseur will experiment with the likes of sweet-potato mustard, fried okra, and cole slaw.

“Mike Veeck firmly believes in the motto ‘Fun is Good’,” says team representative Andy Solomon. “Which means entertaining the fan from the time he purchases a ticket to the time he leaves the parking lot. Bill Murray sometimes attends games as an ordinary fan in the left field bleachers, with his hat pulled down over his eyes. Other times, he comes out on the field and takes part in the Sumo wrestling. You never know.”

A lack of predictable fare is part of the RiverDogs mystique. Just peruse the concessions board (), which features unique items like the Elvis (peanut butter and bacon), the Tijuana Tornado (a true “hot” dog), and Ye Olde turkey leg in addition to the Homewrecker.

Early Progression Of 2009 First Round Draft Picks

Now that the deadline has passed for 2009 draft picks to sign with their teams, I thought it might be fun to take a look at the first round selections, where they landed, and how they’re doing.

1. Stephen Strasburg, 21, RHP (Washington Nationals) – Expected to make his debut with the Phoenix Desert Dogs in the Arizona Fall League.

2. Dustin Ackley, 21, 1B (Seattle Mariners) – Expected to make his debut with the Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League

3. Donavan Tate, 18, OF (San Diego Padres) – Expected to make his debut in 2010 due to injury.

4. Tony Sanchez, 21, C (Pittsburgh Pirates) – Hitting .331 with 6 homeruns and 42 RBI in 40 games between State College (A-, New York-Penn League) and West Virginia (A, South Atlantic League); he was named the South Atlantic League’s Player of the Week on August 17.

5. Matt Hobgood, 19, RHP (Baltimore Orioles) – Has compiled a 1-1 record, 5.40 ERA, and 13 strikeouts in 21.2 innings over seven starts for the Bluefield Orioles (R, Appalachian League).

6. Zack Wheeler, 19, RHP (San Francisco Giants) Expected to make his debut in 2010.

7. Mike Minor, 21, LHP (Atlanta Braves) – Has started two games for the Rome Braves (A, South Atlantic League), allowing no runs on two hits with no walks and four strikeouts.  He will play for the Peoria Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League.

8. Mike Leake, 21, RHP (Cincinnati Reds) – Expected to make his debut in the Arizona Fall League; he was not on the original roster because he signed after rosters were submitted, but the Reds are petitioning to add him.

9. Jacob Turner, 18, RHP (Detroit Tigers) – Appears to be looking at instructional leagues this fall and winter, leading into a 2010 debut.

10. Drew Storen, 22, RHP (Washington Nationals) – Has made stops at Hagerstown (A, South Atlantic League), Potomac (A+, Carolina League), and Harrisburg (AA, Eastern League), compiling a 1-1 record, 2.14 ERA and nine saves in 25 games.  He has struck out 44 batters in 33.2 innings and will pitch for Phoenix in the Arizona Fall League.

11. Tyler Matzek, 18, LHP (Colorado Rockies) – Indicated soon after signing that he was headed to the Pioneer League, but has compiled no stats and does not appear to be slated for the AFL.

12. Aaron Crow, 22, RHP (Kansas City Royals) – One of three first rounders who did not sign prior to the deadline, Crow’s lack of college eligibility actually gives the Royals until just before next year’s draft to sign him.

13. Grant Green, 21, SS (Oakland Athletics) – Doesn’t have any stats yet and I can’t find anything that says where he might be headed.

14. Matt Purke, 19, LHP (Texas Rangers) – Did not sign; will attend Texas Christian University.

15. Alex White, 21, RHP (Cleveland Indians) – Will not pitch this season due to a heavy workload in college; he may make his debut in the AFL.

16. Bobby Borchering, 18, 3B (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Hitting .167 with one homerun and four RBI in eight games for the Missoula Osprey (R, Pioneer League).

17. A.J. Pollock, 21, OF (Arizona Diamondbacks) – Hitting .269 with three homeruns and 22 RBI in 54 games for the South Bend Silver Hawks (A, Midwest League).

18. Chad James, 18, LHP (Florida Marlins) – Doesn’t have any stats yet and I can’t find anything that says where he might be headed.

19. Shelby Miller, 18, RHP (St. Louis Cardinals) – Reportedly assigned to the Quad Cities River Bandits (A, Midwest League), but has not appeared in a game yet.

20. Chad Jenkins, 21, RHP (Toronto Blue Jays) – There’s a Chad Jenkins pitching in the Nationals system, but it’s not the same one, which is weird because Washington was looking at this Chad Jenkins prior to the draft.  I’m not sure where the Blue Jays’ Jenkins has landed.

21. Jiovanni Mier, 19, SS (Houston Astros) – Hitting .277 with six homeruns, 27 RBI, and ten stolen bases for the Greeneville Astros (R, Appalachian League).

22. Kyle Gibson, 21, RHP (Minnesota Twins) – Not sure where he will land; had a stress fracture in his arm that caused him to drop in the first round, not sure how that’s still affecting him.

23. Jared Mitchell, 20, OF (Chicago White Sox) – Hitting .296 with no homeruns and ten RBI in 34 games for the Kannapolis Intimidators (A, South Atlantic League).

24. Randal Grichuk, 18, OF (Los Angeles Angels) – Hitting .329 with seven homeruns (five in the last nine games), 53 RBI, and ten triples in 52 games for the AZL Angels (R, Arizona Summer League).

25. Mike Trout, 18, OF (Los Angeles Angels) – Hitting .369 with one homerun, 25 RBI, and seven triples in 38 games for the AZL Angels (R, Arizona Summer League).

26. Eric Arnett, 21, RHP (Milwaukee Brewers) – Has compiled an 0-3 record with a 4.57 ERA in 11 games (six starts) for the Helena Brewers (R, Pioneer League).

27. Nick Franklin, 18, SS (Seattle Mariners) – Hitting .282 with one homerun and four RBI in nine games for the AZL Mariners (R, Arizona Summer League).

28. Reymond Fuentes, 18, OF (Boston Red Sox) – Hitting .296 with one homerun and 14 RBI in 39 games for the GCL Red Sox (R, Gulf Coast League).

29. Zachary Heathcott, 18, OF (New York Yankees) – Hitting .100 with no homeruns and no RBI in three games for the GCL Yankees (R, Gulf Coast League).

30. LeVon Washington, 18, OF (Tampa Bay Rays) – Did not sign; will attend Chipola College.

31. Brett Jackson, 21, OF (Chicago Cubs) – Hitting .325 with seven homeruns and 35 RBI between stops with the AZL Cubs (R, Arizona Summer League), Boise (A-, Northwest League), and Peoria (A, Midwest League).

32. Tim Wheeler, 21, OF (Colorado Rockies) – Hitting .256 with four homeruns and 31 RBI in 60 games for the Tri-City Dust Devils (A-, Northwest League).

Timber Rattlers Closing In On Attendance Record

Heading into today’s game against Cedar Rapids, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers are close to breaking an attendance record that has stood since 1996:

On Saturday night, the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers attendance was 5,256 to give them a cumulative attendance of 233,393.

The current single season attendance record for the Appleton baseball franchise of 233,797 was set in 1996, the second year of Fox Cities Stadium. That record will be surpassed on Sunday.

The team is giving quite a package to the 405th person through the gates today, including a Timber Rattlers jersey, a bat autographed by the Timber Rattlers, tickets to a 2009 Milwaukee Brewers game, on-field recognition and a first pitch before Sunday’s game, a $200 Timber Rattlers Gift Card, and a VIP suite for a Timber Rattlers game in 2010 with a $200 credit for food.

Simon Castro Is The Real Deal

Simon Castro was San Diego’s 14th ranked prospect prior to the season according to Baseball America, a physically talented 21-year-old pitcher who needed to work on a few things in order to be successful.

Entering tonight’s game against the Dayton Dragons, Castro was 7-6 for the season with a 3.93 ERA and 133 strikeouts in 116 2/3 innings.  He had allowed 107 hits and walked 32 for a WHIP of 1.19, which is significant because his control was mentioned more than once as an area of concern in the 2009 Baseball America Prospect Handbook.

In his last ten games, Castro has been a beast, allowing forty hits and nine walks (1.04 WHIP) while striking out 64 in 47.2 innings.  That’s over twelve strikeouts per nine innings, which is kinda sorta good.  Methinks Mr. Castro is establishing himself as a Top Ten prospect for the Padres next year.

He came close to no-hitters twice in those ten games, pitching five innings of one-hit ball in back-to-back starts on July 23 and 28 (he walked nobody in both starts and struck out eight and nine batters, respectively).  Tonight, he finally finished the job, cutting through the Dayton lineup like they were Little Leaguers: seven innings, no runs, no hits, no walks, nine strikeouts; only one batter reached, a hit batsman with two outs in the second inning.

With those numbers added in, Castro is averaging more than ten strikeouts per nine innings.  His WHIP is down to 1.12.  I think he’s proven himself in Class A.  Get that young man a ticket to San Antonio.

Minor League MVP Candidates, League-By-League

Just for the heck of it, I decided tonight to look at the stats for every league in the minors and see if I could come up with a candidate or two (no more than three) for the Most Valuable Player award.  (I’ll try to do the same for pitchers later this week.)

Some of these are no-brainers (*cough*Chris CarterTexasLeague*cough*), but most had at least a couple guys that should find themselves in the running for some awards.  In most cases, I tried to limit a player’s eligibility to the league they currently play in – Brian Dopirak and Michael Taylor, for example, are still in good shape in the Eastern League, but shouldn’t win any awards there after spending more than a month of the season in Triple A.

If I missed anyone obvious, or if you have a personal favorite, throw it out there. We’ll see how many of these (if any) we actually get right.

Triple A
International League
Andy Marte, Columbus: .963 OPS (1st), 18 HR (t-4th), 66 RBI (4th)
Shelley Duncan, Scranton/Wilkes-Barre: 25 HR (1st), 76 RBI (1st), 54 BB (t-1st), .899 OPS (5th)

Mexican League
Ruben Rivera, Campeche: 32 HR (1st), 90 RBI (t-4th), 1.130 OPS (2nd), 96 R (2nd)
Saul Soto, Monterrey: 28 HR (2nd), 93 RBI (2nd), 1.095 OPS (3rd)
Dionys Cesar, Vaqueros: .380 BA (1st), 40 SB (1st), 92 R (3rd)

Pacific Coast League
Randy Ruiz, Las Vegas: 25 HR (2nd), 106 RBI (1st), .320 BA (10th), .976 OPS (3rd), 81 R (5th), 148 H (1st), 43 2B (1st)

Double A
Eastern League
Carlos Santana, Akron: 20 HR (4th), 82 RBI (2nd), 71 BB (2nd), .943 OPS (4th), 73 R (2nd)
Ryan Strieby, Erie: .982 OPS (1st), 17 HR (4th), .305 BA (6th)

Southern League
Juan Francisco, Carolina: 22 HR (1st), 74 RBI (1st), .822 OPS (10th), 63 R (8th)
Todd Frazier, Carolina: 124 H (1st), 37 2B (1st), 13 HR (t-6th), 63 RBI (t-5th), .852 OPS (8th)

Texas League
Chris Carter, Midland: .336 BA (1st), 21 HR (1st), 90 RBI (2nd), 101 R (1st), 148 H (1st), 38 2B (1st), 73 BB (t-1st), .433 OBP (1st), .574 SLG (1st), 1.006 OPS (1st)

*Carter has to be a frontrunner not only for Texas League MVP, but Minor League Baseball’s Player of the Year. What an outstanding season thus far.

Class A Advanced
California League
Alex Liddi, High Desert: .356 BA (1st), 1.044 OPS (1st), 21 HR (t-4th), 86 RBI (4th), 85 R (t-2nd)
Jon Gaston, Lancaster: 30 HR (1st), 81 RBI (6th), 1.015 OPS (4th), 15 3B (1st), 100 R (1st)
Koby Clemens, Lancaster: 96 RBI (1st), .343 BA (3rd), 1.023 OPS (2nd)

Carolina League
Cody Johnson, Myrtle Beach: 26 HR (1st), 76 RBI (2nd), .886 OPS (2nd)
Brandon Waring, Frederick: 20 HR (2nd), 74 RBI (3rd), .870 OPS (3rd)

Florida State League
Chris Parmelee, Fort Myers: 14 HR (1st), 64 RBI (1st), .814 OPS (4th)
Ben Revere, Fort Myers: .307 BA (3rd), 36 SB (4th), 60 R (3rd), .368 OBP (t-8th)

Class A
Midwest League
Kyle Russell, Great Lakes: 24 HR (1st), 79 RBI (t-1st), .915 OPS (2nd), 74 R (4th)

South Atlantic League
Derek Norris, Hagerstown: 23 HR (1st), 75 RBI (2nd), 69 R (3rd), .296 BA (10th), .955 OPS (3rd)

Class A Short-Season
New York-Penn League
Leandro Castro, Williamsport: .353 BA (1st), .973 OPS (1st), 37 R (t-1st),
Neil Medchill, Staten Island: 10 HR (1st), 30 RBI (t-5th), .925 OPS (5th), 33 R (4th)

Northwest League
Vincent Belnome, Eugene: 39 R (1st), 8 HR (t-2nd), 37 RBI (2nd), 37 BB (2nd), .952 OPS (4th)

Rookie
Appalachian League
Jose Altuve, Greeneville: 45 R (1st), 21 SB (1st), .324 BA (7th), .916 OPS (8th), 26 BB (1st)
Richard Racobaldo, Johnson City: 1.077 OPS (1st), 26 RBI (t-9th), .415 BA (1st)
Riaan Spanjer-Furstenburg, Danville: .383 BA (2nd), 1.032 OPS (2nd), 7 HR (t-3rd), 39 RBI (2nd)

Arizona League
Cody Decker, Padres: 1.127 OPS (1st), .357 BA (3rd), 11 HR (1st), 46 RBI (1st)

Dominican Summer League
Reymond Nunez, Yankees 2: 10 HR (2nd), 57 RBI (1st), .947 OPS (4th)
Alexander Sanchez, Mets: .391 BA (1st), .982 OPS (2nd)

Gulf Coast League
Brett Newsome, Nationals: 1.020 OPS (1st), .304 BA (9th), 25 R (1st), 13 2B (t-3rd)
Layton Hiller, Braves: 6 HR (1st), 34 RBI (1st), .846 OPS (8th)
Marcell Ozuna, Marlins: .928 OPS (2nd), .344 BA (3rd), 24 R (t-2nd), 18 2B (1st), 4 HR (t-7th), 31 RBI (2nd)

Pioneer League
Jerry Sands, Ogden: 14 HR (1st), 39 RBI (4th), .350 BA (4th), 1.114 OPS (1st), 41 R (1st)

Venezuelan Summer League
Roan Salas, Rays: 15 HR (1st), 59 RBI (1st), 49 R (t-3rd), 75 H (t-5th), .338 BA (2nd), 1.063 OPS (1st)

Fandom Auctioned: SOLD! for $14.99

bandits mascot jcBanditsI’ve managed to come down pretty decisively on one side of most of the sports arguments of my day (I’m against municipal levies to pay for ballparks; I don’t mind the designated hitter), but this one still gets me into ferocious internal arguments with myowndamnself.

Should a fan ever renounce his love for his team? For me, personally, the answer is no. How can I expect to hang with my wife for the rest of my life if I can’t even put up with the mild agita that each doomed Royals season brings me? And yet, there’s a part of me that says it might be OK for the more feckless amongst us, because some owners render teams unworthy of undying love, and I hate to reward that kind of behavior. The old “small market!” chestnut has been blown to pieces as the likes of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays turn burgeoning farm systems into quality major-league contenders. It simply appears that some billionaire owners are too cheap to give back to their fans in any meaningful way.

Pittsburgh Pirates fan Brad Davis, fed up with the Buccos’ tendency to trade away every player that ever gave the team a fighting chance to win, put his fandom up for auction on eBay. The slightly tattered artifact was picked up by the Low-A Quad Cities River Bandits, who know how to spot a value pick in this constricted market. They paid just $14.99 for a slightly-used vintage fan. And Brad gets a friendly small-town Bus Leagues club with an awesome stadium to call his very own.

There’s only one real problem I have with the way this played out. The auction story was cute and all, but I can’t help feeling that Davis could have stayed within his own farm system if he wanted to see great Pirates draft picks before they were traded. But I guess he needed a clean break.

Word of warning, though. Once you go Bus Leagues, you’ll never go back, Brad.