Top 100 Baseball Blog

Monday, May 28, 2018

Bill Sampen: Pitcher Recalls Successful Career with Montreal Expos

Although major league baseball has been gone from Montreal for over a decade now, the legacy of the game remains vibrant there. Fans have to rely on memories instead of being able to root for a team able to make new ones. Fortunately, there are ample fond recollections and players from  the past. Among them is former Montreal Expos pitcher, Bill Sampen, who had a short, but memorable stint in Canada.

Following a successful stint with MacMurray College (Jacksonville, Illinois), the right-handed Sampen was a 12th-round selection of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1985. He showed modest improvements every year, earning regular promotions, culminating in an 11-win season at Double-A in 1989. However, the 26-year-old was left available in that off-season’s rule 5 draft and was snapped up by the Expos.

The pickup of Sampen proved to be a shrewd move. Used in a swingman’s role in 1990, he appeared in 59 games (four starts) and was an impressive 12-7 with a 2.99 ERA and two saves. He started off his career with seven consecutive scoreless appearances and never looked back.

Sampen won nine games the following year, but his ERA spiked to 4.00 and his walk and home run totals also went up. He was back to his normal self in 1992, posting a 3.13 ERA when he was traded after the All-Star break to the Kansas City Royals. Hi career went downhill from there, with injuries contributing to his derailment. After unsuccessful seasons with the Royals in 1993 and California Angels in 1994 his pitching career was over at the age of 31.

His major league career lasted a total of five seasons, during which time he was a combined 25-21 with a 3.73 ERA in 182 games. Now, nearly 25 years later, Sampen is still involved in the game, actively coaching youth. He has made his mark on all levels of the game and will always hold a special place for Montreal fans because of his efforts north of the border.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: Bob Gibson and Lou Brock, as I grew up a St Louis Cardinals fan.

Can you describe your draft experience with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1985- How did you find out you had been selected?: I was unrecruited our if high school and played baseball and basketball for a poor Division 3 program. I was playing basketball with some friends when I got the call I had been selected in the 12th round.

What do you remember most about your professional debut?: Professionally, I recall seeing guys I had just watched in the College World Series and wondered if I belonged. My major league debut was in St. Louis against guys I had been rooting for up to that point... Surreal!

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against?: What made them stand out so much?: Barry Bonds was the best I saw and played against. Hall of Famer no matter what, in my opinion.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: My debut and winning my tenth game my rookie year after going five innings in relief in San Diego.

What was playing baseball in Montreal like?: It was different simply because of the culture and their love for hockey....but a great experience!

If there is anything you could go back and do differently about your baseball career, what would that be?: I would do many things differently including push to be a starter rather than just do whatever they asked. I think I could have won 10-12 games a year if I had 30+ starts.

Who was your favorite coach or manager, and why?: Buck Rodgers was a very easy manager to play for.

What are you up to since retiring as a player?: I do baseball training with kids of all ages and skill levels.

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Sunday, May 20, 2018

Still Active Former Top Prospects: Where Are They Now?

Every year the baseball world is put on notice by the publishing of various “top prospect” lists. These herald the best and the brightest of that year’s group of young players toiling in the minor leagues and hoping to eventually make their way to the big league limelight. Some receive their promotion rather quickly, and some never at all. Then there is a group that may reach the majors but never bloom into stardom. Here is a list of some former top prospects who are still plugging away in the minors hoping to fulfill their former promise.

Casey Crosby, Pitcher: A 2007 fifth-round draft pick of the Detroit Tigers, the left-hander won 10 games with a 2.41 ERA at the age of 20 in 2009. He made three starts for the Tigers in 2012, giving up 15 hits, 11 walks and 13 runs in 12.1 innings and has never made it back since. He battled injuries, including Tommy John surgery, and sat out both 2015 and 2016 while working for a bank. He made a successful return to the game last year with a brief stint with an independent league team, and is now pitching in the system of the Minnesota Twins as a 29-year-old reliever, posting a 3.52 ERA in seven appearances.

Michael Almanzar, Third/First Baseman: The son of former Major Leaguer Carlos Almanzar, the lanky right-handed hitter signed with the Boston Red Sox in 2007 for $1.5 million at the age of 16. Unfortunately, he never really took off and has yet to reach the majors. After seven years in the Boston system, he has bounced between the minor league affiliates of the Baltimore Orioles, Detroit Tigers and now Washington Nationals. Still just 27, he is in his 11th professional season and has career minor league totals of a .246 batting average and 78 home runs.

Manny Banuelos, Pitcher: Once considered one of the top southpaw prospects in the games, he was a constant on prospect lists in the early days of his career in the system of the New York Yankees. Legendary Mariano Rivera even once said he was the best pitching prospect he had ever seen. After going 9-5 with a 2.67 ERA as an 18-year-old in 2009 in Single-A, Banuelos looked poised to make the leap. Unfortunately, other than a seven game stint with the Atlanta Braves in 2015, he never has. A litany of injuries, included the dreaded Tommy John Surgery, has stunted his growth and results. He last threw over 100 innings in a professional season in 2011 and is now on his fourth organization (Los Angeles Dodgers). Still just 27, he is showing a glimmer of his former self, having produced a 4-2 record with a 3.55 ERA in eight triple-A starts this year.

Casey Kelly, Pitcher: When he was first drafted in the first round as a talented high schooler by the Boston Red Sox in 2008, it was up in the air whether he would be a pitcher or a shortstop. He wound up on the rubber and even won 11 games at the age of 21 in Double-A in 2011. Unfortunately, he has only pitched parts of three big league seasons, totaling a 2-8 record and 6.39 ERA across 19 games (9 starts). Injuries, including Tommy John, have contributed to his stunting. Now 28, he is currently struggling with the Triple-A team of the San Francisco Giants, posting an ugly 7.37 ERA across nine starts.

Phillippe Aumont, Pitcher: The massive right-hander was the 11th overall pick of the 2007 draft (Seattle Mariners) and had a fastball perhaps even larger than his 6’7” frame. A reliever for most of his career, he has battled nagging injuries and control/command issues. He has a 6.80 ERA in 46 major league games, spanning four seasons, and even retired following the 2016 season. However, he has come back and is with his fifth organization, the Detroit Tigers. The 29-year-old has been nearly unhittable so far in 2018, producing a 2.11 ERA in 12 minor league appearances.

Tony Sanchez, Catcher: Prior to being the fourth overall pick in 2009 (Pittsburgh Pirates), the right-hander had dominated with his bat and glove at every level he had played. The pro game has proven to be more challenging for him. While he has played parts of four seasons in the majors (combining for a .257 batting average, 4 home runs and 18 RBIs in 52 games), he has hit just .257 in 10 minor league seasons, while catching only 23 percent of those attempting to steal against him. He is playing for his sixth (Cincinnati Reds) and seventh (Texas Rangers) organizations this year and still has major league aspirations at the age of 30.

Adam Loewen, Pitcher: The fourth overall pick in 2002 (Orioles) the 34-year-old is unbelievably in his 15th professional season. Having toggled between pitching and playing outfield, the left-hander hasn’t played in the field regularly since 2013. In parts of six major league seasons he is 10-8 with a 5.85 ERA (63 games) and has hit .189 with a home run in 40 games. He last appeared in the majors in 2016 with the Arizona Diamondbacks and currently with his sixth organization (Rangers), having thrown 3.2 scoreless innings thus far in 2018. He is certainly trying to get another shot at the majors and it would be great to see him get it given all the years and work he has put in.

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Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Minor League Baseball and FIS Extend Strategic Relationship, Enhance Fan Experience Through Advanced Payments Solutions and Emerging Technology

Key facts 
• League extends official technology provider relationship with FIS through 2022.

• Minor League Baseball teams within all classification levels to utilize FIS as their preferred payment and loyalty technology provider. 

• FIS will showcase its technologies and business solutions at Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, the flagship location for Minor League Baseball’s “Ballparks of the Future.” 

JACKSONVILLE, Fla., May 15, 2018 – FIS™ (NYSE: FIS), a global leader in financial services and payment technology, announced today that it has extended its commitment to be the official technology provider to Minor League Baseball™ (MiLB™) through 2022. With technology as its foundation, the relationship supports MiLB’s fan-centric approach to drive engagement with its 111 million selfdesignated fans, according to a 2017 ESPN Sports Poll. FIS announced a relationship with the league as its official payments andloyalty technology provider prior to the 2017 season. 

The agreement serves to integrate FIS’ advanced payment, loyalty and other solutions within the league’s “Ballparks of the Future” initiative. FIS’ technology powers a range of enhanced experiences for fans at MiLB ballparks, from simplifying payment transactions to driving new fan loyalty programs. For MiLB teams, FIS technology also streamlines accounting and management of travel expenses, simplifies business expense management through real-time, prepaid technology and provides other advanced capabilities. 

Since announcing the relationship last year, more than 20 teams have begun to leverage FIS solutions and services leading to greater efficiency and overall fan engagement. As an extension of the relationship and to showcase its solutions and services, FIS created and launched an “Innovation Dugout” where it will showcase its innovative technologies and business solutions for the “Ballparks of the Future” at Bragan Field at the Baseball Grounds of Jacksonville, home of the Double-A® Jacksonville Jumbo Shrimp. 

“Continuing to super-serve our fans across the consumer journey is a core area of focus as we look to the future,” said David Wright, Minor League Baseball’s chief marketing & commercial officer. “Technology is at the root of these efforts and a key-driver in our quest to tailor to the next-generation consumer. Our long-term extension with FIS is a great example of our commitment to be a dynamic leader in sport and entertainment.” 

“We are excited to be working with a growing number of Minor League Baseball teams to enhance service to their fans and make a day at the ballpark an even more enjoyable experience,” said Bruce Lowthers, chief operating officer, FIS Integrated Financial Solutions. “By using technology in innovative ways, Minor League Baseball remains at the forefront of fan-friendly entertainment.” 

About FIS FIS is a global leader in financial services technology, with a focus on retail and institutional banking, payments, asset and wealth management, risk and compliance, and outsourcing solutions. Through the depth and breadth of our solutions portfolio, global capabilities and domain expertise, FIS serves more than 20,000 clients in over 130 countries. Headquartered in Jacksonville, Fla., FIS employs more than 53,000 people worldwide and holds leadership positions in payment processing, financial software and banking solutions. Providing software, services and outsourcing of the technology that empowers the financial world, FIS is a Fortune 500 company and is a member of Standard & Poor’s 500® Index. For more information about FIS, visit

For more information visit Follow Minor League Baseball on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Monday, May 14, 2018

Minor League Baseball and Satisfi Labs Partner to Enhance Fan Experience

Bilingual artificial intelligence solution amplifies league-wide multicultural initiative ST. 

PETERSBURG, Florida — Minor League Baseball™ (MiLB™) today announced a new collaboration with Satisfi Labs, a leading artificial intelligence engagement platform, to create a bilingual customer service AI conversation platform for more than 30 MiLB teams. This unique partnership marks the first time a sports league will communicate with its fans in both English and Spanish by leveraging Satisfi Labs’ AI capabilities. 

This new product solution will amplify MiLB’s national multicultural initiative “Es Divertido Ser Un Fan®” (It’s Fun to Be a Fan®”) and its new “Copa de la DiversiĆ³n™” (“Fun Cup™”) season-long event series specifically designed to embrace the culture and values that resonate most with participating teams’ local U.S. Hispanic/Latino communities. The interface will initially be made available to the participating “Copa” teams to support their respective fan engagement efforts. 

The AI platform will operate within individual teams’ Facebook Messenger pages and serve to answer fans’ questions pertaining to aspects of the gameday experience such as ticketing, parking, and other common inquiries surrounding the venue, game, and teams, while providing unique answers based on the users’ locations. The platform’s bilingual capability allows each team to effectively connect and engage with their fans in the language of their choice to provide the right information, at the right place, in real-time. 

“Our new partnership with Satisfi Labs reinforces our tech-infused strategy specifically designed to improve the fan experience any time they engage with MiLB,” said David Wright, Minor League Baseball Chief Marketing and Commercial Officer. “This cutting-edge technology will better our ability to understand the fan journey by providing a platform for our teams to engage a more diverse audience and turn data into intelligent action.” 

“We’ve developed several unique platforms for brands across entertainment, retail, and sports, but this is the first tool we’ve created that can communicate as efficiently in Spanish as in English. We’re excited to expand our offerings in AI conversation platforms to the Hispanic community and support one of the largest sports leagues in the U.S. in its effort to better connect with all of its fans,” said Don White, CEO and Co-Founder of Satisfi Labs. 

MiLB and Satisfi Labs plan to roll out an expanded AI conversation platform and league-wide fan engagement tool for the 2019 season.

For more information visit Follow Minor League Baseball on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

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Monday, May 7, 2018

Active Major League Players Who are Locks for the Baseball Hall of Fame

The National Baseball Hall of Fame is the sport’s Mount Rushmore. Only the best of the best and the most talented, memorable figures in the game’s history gain admittance, with fewer than 350 having been elected in the near 90 years of the existence of the shrine. There are future Hall-of-Famers playing now, but who are locks for the honor? Who could book their ticket to Cooperstown, New York if they never played another inning of ball? Let’s examine these baseball legends who continue to play amongst us.

Max Scherzer, Pitcher: This one may come as a surprise and also needs a caveat. I believe the dominant right-handed starter for the Washington Nationals will be a Hall-of-Fame lock following this season if he has even an average healthy year. Although his 147 career wins and 3.26 ERA may seem light, his three Cy Young Awards and two other top-five finishes over the past five years are reminiscent of Sandy Koufax’s career arc. So, if Scherzer is even 70 percent of the pitcher he’s been in recent years in 2018 he will have 160ish wins and a WAR that surpasses 50, putting him in very similar company to Koufax.

Clayton Kershaw, Pitcher: Speaking of Los Angeles Dodgers left-handers, the 30-year-old Kershaw has already punched his ticket to Cooperstown. He has a very similar resume to Sherzer, except is even more similar to Koufax. He also has three Cy Young wins, four other top-five finishes, 145 victories and a 2.37 ERA that is nearly a full run better than Scherzer. His 59.8 WAR already exceeds that of Koufax (53.2).

Miguel Cabrera, First Base/Designated Hitter: Although the lead-footed slugger is in the waning years of his career and seems to get more notoriety these days for a contract that will pay him in excess of $30 million annually through 2023, he still should be regarded as one of the best right-handed hitters of all-time. A career .317 hitter, the two-time MVP has won four batting titles, hit 465 home runs and driven in 1,634. His 69.5 WAR would be even higher if not the negative value he has provided with his glove over the years. Off-field issues don’t seem to have negatively impacted his reputation to the extent similar situations have for some players—so it’s unlikely they will affect his supporters.

Albert Pujols, First Base: Numbers the past couple of years suggest that the right-handed legend is one of the worst regular players in the majors, and thus hanging on too long. His resume, which includes recently collecting his 3,000th hit, a .304 batting average, 620 home runs, 1,938 RBIs, countless awards and high rankings on the all-time leader boards of a majority of offensive categories make him a true legend. Much like Cabrera, an inflated salary that extends well into his baseball dotage will detract somewhat from the attention due for his greatness. However, it will have no impact on his status as a first-ballot Hall-of-Famer.

Robinson Cano, Second Base: Now 14 years into his career, the left-handed hitter has flown about as much under the radar as any superstar player of recent years. A .304 career hitter, he has eclipsed 300 home runs, 2,400 hits and just surpassed 1,200 RBIs. His 67.4 career WAR nestles him in right between Hall-of Fame infielders Roberto Alomar and Ernie Banks. Cano is a surefire Hall-of-Famer now, but at just 35, he still has room to really add on to his legacy before he’s done.

Ichiro Suzuki, Outfielder: Although the classy Japanese left-handed hitter just retired a few days ago, we’ll keep him on this list since he was playing so recently. With more than 4,300 hits between his professional career in Japan and the United States, he has essentially had two Hall-of-Fame careers. Having prematurely wound up his 27th season at the age of 44, he was long utilized as a bench player, but loved the game so much he continued to hang around. An excellent defender with a cannon arm, he should have a chance at a unanimous vote, if not for some writers who play games with their ballots.

Adrian Beltre, Third Base: It feels as if Beltre’s excellence has snuck up on us, but he is now in his 21st big league season of a career that will rightly end in Cooperstown. He owns a .287 batting average to go with his 463 home runs, 1,650 RBIs, 3,075 hits and a glove that might just be the best of all time at his position. His 94.1 career WAR (and counting) long-surpassed the 78.4 put up by Brooks Robinson, who is probably his closest comparable as a player.

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