Top 100 Baseball Blog

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Minor League Baseball’s Big Hitters Battle for Joe Bauman Home Run Award

For Immediate Release                                                                       August 15, 2017 

Minor League Baseball’s Big Hitters Battle for Joe Bauman Home Run Award Pair of Pacific Coast League sluggers leading the pack for annual home run crown 

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — With three weeks of play remaining in the 2017 Minor League Baseball season, two Pacific Coast League sluggers are leading a group battling for the annual Joe Bauman Home Run Award, presented by Musco Sports Lighting. The top regular season home run hitter in the domestic-based leagues wins the Joe Bauman Award, which is presented at the Baseball Winter Meetings, as well as a check representing $200 for each home run he hits. 

The award, first presented in 2002, is named for Joe Bauman, who set a then-professional record with 72 home runs in 1954 while playing for the Roswell Rockets of the Class-C Longhorn League. 

Nashville designated hitter Renato Nunez leads Minor League Baseball with 31 home runs, while Reno Aces first baseman Christian Walker is one behind with 30. Portland Sea Dogs third baseman Michael Chavis and Lehigh Valley first baseman Rhys Hoskins each have 29 home runs. Hoskins, who was promoted to Philadelphia on Aug. 10, was runner-up for the award in 2016. 

Nunez set a career-high with his 30th homer on Aug. 6, and has launched 54 long balls for the Sounds over the last two seasons. He homered in three consecutive games three times (May 1-3, May 18-20 and Aug. 4-6) in 2017 and homered twice on July 6 at Colorado Springs. Nunez, 23, was signed by Oakland as a free agent on Nov. 20, 2010, and is attempting to be the fifth consecutive player under the age of 24 to win the award, following Dylan Cozens (22) in 2016, A.J. Reed (22) in 2015, KrisBryant (22) in 2014, and Joey Gallo (19) in 2013. 

Walker, 26, has also set a career-high with his 30 homers, eclipsing his 26 homers between Double-A Bowie and Triple-A Norfolk in 2014. Walker has homered in consecutive games three times in 2017, and has three multi-homer games (April 12, May 18 and Aug. 6). Walker, 26, was originally selected by Baltimore in the fourth round of the 2012 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of South Carolina. 

Chavis began the year with Class-A Salem in the Carolina League where he hit 17 homers in 59 games prior to a June 23 promotion to Double-A Portland, where he has gone deep 12 times in 47 games for the Sea Dogs. Chavis, 22, was selected by Boston in the first round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft out of Sprayberry High School in Marietta, Georgia. 

Classification leaders, provided they are not the overall winner, receive a $500 cash award. Erie SeaWolves (Tigers) outfielder Christin Stewart leads the Double-A level with 25 home runs. Lake County Captains (Indians) first baseman Emmanuel Tapia leads the Class-A level with 25 home runs, while Great Falls Voyagers (White Sox) first baseman Austin Villa leads the Short Season-A and Rookie-level with 13 homers. 

Minor League Baseball will announce the 2017 Joe Bauman Home Run Award winner Sept. 5. The recipient will receive his trophy and monetary award Monday, Dec. 11, at the Baseball Winter Meetings Awards Luncheon in Orlando, Florida. 

#MiLB# 

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Steve Stemle's Road to Major League Baseball

For as interesting as it is to see how a baseball player develops during their baseball career, discovering what vocation they steer towards after leaving the diamond can be downright fascinating. Although many former players continue on as scouts and coaches, there are others who spread their wings even wider, like former Kansas City Royals pitcher Steve Stemle.

A native of Indiana, the right-hander was a fifth-round draft selection of the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998 out of Western Kentucky University. He made an immediate splash in his professional debut, going 3-3 with a 1.83 ERA nine starts for New Jersey in the New York-Penn League.

Although he made steady progress through the minors, it took a little while for him to start posting numbers worthy of a highly-drafted prospect, culminating in his 12-6 mark and 3.88 ERA in 2002 while playing with the Cardinals’ Double and Triple-A affiliates.

In 2004, Stemle was converted to the bullpen where he found success pitching as a set-up man. He was granted free agency that off season and signed with the Royals. His 0.45 ERA in 14 Triple-A games convinced them to give the 28-year-old his first shot at the majors. He pitched three perfect innings in his major league debut against the Texas Rangers, and went on to a 5.06 ERA in six relief appearances, spanning 10.2 innings. Unfortunately, injuries kept him out of action for the second half of the season.

In 2006, Stemle was once again beset by injuries. He made five appearances for the Royals but gave up 15 hits and 10 earned runs in just six innings. Nerve pain proved too difficult to overcome and just like that his playing career was over at 29. Fortunately, he was able to experience the major leagues as a reward for all the hard work and positive results from his career.

Since retiring from the pitching mound, Stemle has remained close to the game but not in the same way as many of his peers. He is a youth coach and has developed the Lokator System, a high-tech electronic (phone app) system and pitching academy that allows young pitchers to have access to top-notch data about their results. As a result, his baseball career is still in full swing, just in a different way than he might have imagined when he was first drafted.


Steve Stemle Interview

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: I would have to say Ozzie Smith because of his defense and creativity all over the diamond.  I am a big fan of innovation and I feel like he recreated the art of playing shortstop.  

Can you describe your draft experience with the St. Louis Cardinals in 1998- How did you find out you had been selected?
: I got the call on the house phone on a normal day when my parents were at work.  This was before the internet (man, I feel old) so there was no following along the draft or going anywhere to watch it.  We felt lucky to have ESPN!

What do you remember most about your major league debut?
: My debut outing ended up being my best so it was memorable on the field, but what was more memorable was the phone ringing in the bullpen and my number getting called.  I had pinpoint command in Triple-A before the call up and when I got on the bullpen mound to get loose before that first MLB outing I had the most adrenaline ever flowing.  I couldn't get the ball down at all in the bullpen; everything was shoulder-high on hitters.  My first 10 throws weren't even close but I told them I was ready.  Running into the game knowing I hadn't thrown any strikes in the bullpen had me focused on one thing; hit the catcher's glove and let the rest take care of itself.  I ended up throwing three perfect innings (the way I remember it) and having my best outing.  I still believe it was because I hit the catcher's target that day.

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against? What made them stand out so much?
: (Derek) Jeter comes to mind right away.  He was such a complete player in every aspect of the game.  So much more goes into greatness than raw numbers even through he had all of those too.  I guess that's what made him so great. He had all the stats, Championships, MVP's, Gold Gloves, etc, but he was equally good in the intangibles category.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?
: I get a big kick out of watching the kids I coach succeed, even more than something I did as a player.  It's probably a combination of moments when a pitcher I have guided walks off the mound after a successful outing.

You faced
Hank Blalock three times during your MLB career and fanned him all three times. Why do you think you had his number?: I honestly have no idea.  Hank and I played each other in the minors as well, so some of that could have carried over into MLB.  It was just the luck of the draw I guess.

If there is anything you could go back and do differently about your baseball career, what would that be?
: I'm not big on regretting anything; what's the past is over.  I feel like to be a good baseball player you have to let go of yesterday and concentrate on the here and now.  Baseball helped teach me that lesson in everyday life and those are some of the really important things I try to pass along to the kids.

What goes into the decision of retiring from playing?
: My body broke!  There is no decision making process when it's a struggle to live everyday life because of playing injuries.  Nerve pain in the spine is not a joke, and I think I've found a good routine of different activities to keep me up and moving.  Pain everyday from a playing career is a reality for MANY of the players who play minor or major league ball. 

What are you up to since retiring as a player?: I invented a pitching system called the Lokator System.  It started as a pitching target that had numbers for zones in a unique design.  Then I added an iOS app called Lokator Bullpen to teach pitch command, selection, sequencing, and give reports and rankings of individual pitcher's command statistics.  And recently I have finished work with the University of Louisville Computer Science to implement vision algorithms into Lokator's app.  Now pitchers will be able to use mobile phone cameras to record bullpen sessions with the Lokator Target, then get their velocity, trajectory, and location of all pitches stored in an online database.

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You can check me out on Facebook or follow me on Twitter @historianandrew

Monday, August 7, 2017

Minor League Baseball Announces July Players of the Month

For Immediate Release by milb.com                                                                       August 7, 2017

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Minor League Baseball today announced its July Player of the Month Award winners for all leagues. Each winner will receive an award from Minor League Baseball in recognition of the honor. 

Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders (Yankees) outfielder Jake Cave led the International League in average (.390), hits (41), runs scored (25) and total bases (70). He also finished in the top five in homers, RBI, extra-base hits, slugging and on-base percentage. Cave hit safely in 24 of 26 July games and ended the month on a 15-game hitting streak. Cave, 24, was selected by the Yankees in the 11th round of the 2011 First-Year Player Draft out of Kecoughtan High School in Hampton, Virginia. 

Las Vegas 51s (Mets) first baseman Dominic Smith led the Pacific Coast League in runs (28) and was second in extra-base hits (21), total bases (79), slugging (.725) and OPS (1.162). He was in the top five in RBI (26) and home runs (eight). Smith reached base safely in 24 of his 26 games in July and posted 16 multi-hit games. Smith, 22, was selected by New York in the first round of the 2013 First-Year Player Draft out of Juniper Serra High School in Gardena, California. 

Portland Sea Dogs (Red Sox) outfielder Jeremy Barfield led the Eastern League in home runs (12), RBI (33), runs (26), extra-base hits (17), total bases (78), slugging (.709) and OPS (1.131), while finishing in the top five in hits (37), average (.336) and on-base percentage (.422). Barfield ended the month with a 10-game hitting streak and homered in four straight games (July 23-26). Barfield, 29, was originally selected by Oakland in the eighth round of the 2008 First-Year Player Draft out of San Jacinto College. 

Chattanooga Lookouts (Twins) first baseman Jonathan Rodriguez led the Southern League in average (.383), hits (44), extra-base hits (19), runs (28), total bases (75) and on-base percentage (.455), while tying for the league lead in doubles (13). He finished in the top five in homers (six), RBI (22), walks (17), slugging (.652) and OPS (1.107) and recorded 14 multi-hit games. Rodriguez, 27, was originally selected by St. Louis in the 17th round of the 2009 First-Year Player Draft out of the State College of Florida, Manatee-Sarasota. 

Arkansas Travelers (Mariners) outfielder Kyle Waldrop batted .374 over 30 Texas League games and led the loop in hits (43), doubles (12) and total bases (61) while finishing in the top five in extra-base hits (14), on-base percentage (.409), slugging (.503) and OPS (.940). Waldrop posted 15 multi-hit games in July and recorded hits in 25 of his 30 games. Waldrop, 25, was originally selected by Cincinnati in the 12th round of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of Riverdale High School in Fort Myers, Florida. 

Lake Elsinore Storm (Padres) catcher Austin Allen led the California League in hits (46), homers (10), RBI (32), total bases (85) and slugging (.691), while finishing second in runs (27), extra-base hits (18) and OPS (1.089). Allen recorded 13 multi-hit games, a trio of four-hit games and his 32 RBI were the second-most in professional baseball in July. Allen, 23, was selected by the Padres in the fourth round of the 2015 First-Year Player Draft out of the Florida Institute of Technology. 

Down East Wood Ducks (Rangers) center fielder Matt Lipka led the Carolina League in hits (38), RBI (23), extra-base hits (17) and total bases (67) and finished second in doubles (10), slugging (.593) and OPS (.982). His average (.336) and home runs (five) were good for third in the league. His 67 total bases were 14 more than any other player in the league. Lipka, 25, was originally selected by Atlanta in Compensation Round A of the 2010 First-Year Player Draft out of McKinney (Texas) High School. 

St. Lucie Mets first baseman Peter Alonso led the Florida State League in hits (39), runs (20), extra-base hits (15), total bases (70), home runs (eight) and RBI (26) while batting .336 over 29 games. Alonso had 13 multi-hit games in July and posted separate hitting streaks of seven and eight games. Alonso, 22, was selected by New York in the second round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Florida. 

Dayton Dragons (Reds) outfielder Jose Siri led the Midwest League in hits (43), home runs (10), slugging (.680), extra-base hits (19) and total bases (85). Siri hit safely in all 28 games in July as part of his Midwest League record 39-game hitting streak and posted 11 multi-hit games. His 85 total bases led the league by 22. Siri, 22, was signed by Cincinnati as a non-drafted free agent out of Sabana Grande de Boya, Dominican Republic, in 2013. 

Delmarva Shorebirds (Orioles) left-hander Alex Wells went 3-0 and did not allow a run in five starts in July and led the South Atlantic League in WHIP (0.42) and average against (.124) as he allowed just 13 hits in 31.0 innings without walking a batter. Wells worked 6.0 innings or more in each start and did not allow more than four hits in any of his five outings. He has issued just two walks over his last 12 starts through July. Wells, 20, was signed by Baltimore as a non-drafted free agent out of Newcastle, New South Wales, Australia. 

Aberdeen IronBirds (Orioles) catcher Ben Breazeale led the New York-Penn League in hitting (.390), hits (39), total bases (55), doubles (10), RBI (23) and on-base percentage (.462). He finished second in extra-base hits (12), slugging (.550) and OPS (1.012). Breazeale, 22, was selected in the seventh round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of Wake Forest University. 

Everett AquaSox (Mariners) infielder Eugene Helder led the Northwest League in average (.374), hits (40) and runs (23) while finishing in the top five in total bases (56), triples (four), RBI (22), on-base percentage (.434), slugging (.523) and OPS (958). Helder drew 12 walks while striking out just 11 times. Helder, 21, was signed by Seattle as a non-drafted free agent out of Oranjestad, Aruba, in 2014. 

Bluefield Blue Jays first baseman Ryan Noda led the Appalachian League in hitting (.444), runs (32), walks (29), on-base percentage (.580), slugging (.689), and OPS (1.269). He finished second in the league in hits (40) and third in extra-base hits (14) and total bases (62). Noda, 21, was selected by Toronto in the 15th round of the 2017 First-Year Player Draft out of the University of Cincinnati. 

 Ogden Raptors (Dodgers) outfielder Starling Heredia led the Pioneer Baseball League in average (.427), doubles (11), slugging (.732) and OPS (1.221) while finishing second in extra-base hits (16) and total bases (60). His 35 hits and .489 on-base percentage were good for third in the league. Heredia, 18, was signed as a non-drafted free agent by Los Angeles in 2016 out of Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. 

Gulf Coast Blue Jays center fielder Dominic Abbadessa led the Gulf Coast League in average (.417) and hits (35), was second in runs (21), on-base percentage (.457) and OPS (.968). Abbadessa recorded 12 multi-hit games in July and led the Blue Jays to an 18-8 record in the month. Abbadessa, 19, was selected by Toronto in the 23rd round of the 2016 First-Year Player Draft out of Huntington Beach (California) High School. 

Arizona League Padres infielder Esteury Ruiz led the Arizona League in hits (32), extra-base hits (17), total bases (58) and triples (five). He was in the top five in slugging (.624), runs (four) and doubles (10). Ruiz, 18, was originally signed by Kansas City as a non-drafted free agent in 2016 out of Azua, Dominican Republic. He was traded to the Padres on July 24, 2017 as part of a six-player trade. 

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Sunday, August 6, 2017

The Boston Red Sox's Nearly Disastrous Bank-Breaking Offer for 1950s Pitching Star

Despite there never being any sure thing, baseball teams are increasingly willing to go to the ends of the earth and to the bottom of their bank accounts to address deficiencies on their rosters. In particular, pitching is a commodity that has been as hotly contested as any other since nations competed for black pepper and saffron along the Silk Road. The Boston Red Sox once made a major play for the best young pitcher in the game with a shockingly large offer that was even more surprisingly refused. However, just weeks later, it turned out that the rejection was fortunate for the team as the hurler suffered a freak accident that derailed a career that appeared destined to end in enshrinement in the Hall of Fame.

In the winter of 1957, the Red Sox knew that time was running out on the career of their legendary outfielder, Ted Williams, who was 38 and could see retirement around the corner. For years the team vacillated between mediocre and good but were never able to take the final leap. This was in part because of the dominance of their rival, the New York Yankees, and the team’s inability to find an ace to lead what was typically a pretty uninspiring pitching staff.

At the same time, left-handed pitcher Herb Score was on top of the world. Just 23, he was coming off his first two seasons in the major leagues with the Cleveland Indians. During that span, he was a combined 36-19 and a 2.68 ERA. He also led the American League in strikeouts both years, including a rookie-record 245 in 1955.

Although it was highly likely that Score was considered untouchable, the Red Sox were owned by Tom Yawkey, who was willing to spend gobs of his vast fortune on players to improve the team. With a nothing ventured, nothing gained mentality, he went for it during spring training of 1957, offering Cleveland general manager Hank Greenberg a cool one million dollars for the southpaw, which shocked the baseball world.

“The offer was made to me today by Tom Yawkey and Joe Cronin, said Greenberg. “It was a valid cash offer but I was forced to turn it down.” He went on to say that while he gave real consideration to accepting the proposal, he ultimate didn’t feel that he could do it because Score “may become the greatest pitcher in the game’s history.” It was believed to be by far the most ever offered for one player at the time, showing just how great Score’s potential was believed to be.

If things had gone as planned, Yawkey’s offer for Score may have been a fair one. Unfortunately, just two months after the blockbuster sale proposal went public, the pitcher suffered one of the worst injuries a player has ever seen on a major league diamond.

Score cruised through his first four starts of 1957, posting a 2.07 ERA and more than a strikeout per inning. On May 7th, he faced off against the mighty Yankees, and saw disaster strike in the first inning. After retiring the first batter, shortstop Gil McDougald smashed a liner back through the box that connected squarely with Score’s eye. In addition to injuring the eye, it broke a number of bones in his face. Just like that, Score’s season was over. McDougald reportedly vowed to retire if the pitcher lost his sight. Fortunately, he later regained full vision after a lengthy recovery.

He returned in 1958 but was not the same. He lasted through the 1962 season with Cleveland and the Chicago White Sox but never came close to discovering his former dominance. A series of arms issues, along with reportedly changing his pitching motion to avoid possible comebackers in the future were all believed to have contributed to his downfall. After the injury, he was a combined 19-27 with a 4.20 ERA. Done playing before he was 30, he did persevere to become an acclaimed broadcaster for over 30 years—culminating in his induction in the Broadcaster’s Hall of Fame.

The way Score’s playing career was a tragedy that reverberated through the game and is still remembered widely in baseball circles.  Although they could have never guessed it at the time, the Red Sox dodged a major financial catastrophe when their massive offer for a pitching phenom was rejected  because of how valued he was as a player. 

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