Top 100 Baseball Blog

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Pitcher Miguel Fuentes' Tragic Death As He Was About To Become a Star

Every so often a bright baseball star is snuffed out far too early due to tragedy. One of these was the sad case of pitcher Miguel Fuentes, who was a top prospect whose greatest distinction in his 26-inning major league career was throwing the final pitch in Seattle Pilots history. Unfortunately, just as his burgeoning career was taking off, he was murdered in the parking lot of a bar at the age of 23, ending what might have been a star career in tragic fashion.

A native of Puerto Rico, the right-handed Fuentes was slight (6’0” and 160 pounds), but became known as a top amateur pitcher. In 1968, scout Felix Delgado signed the hurler to a contract for the Pilots.

Fuentes was sent to Single-A for the 1969 season and proved he was way too advanced for the level. In 26 games (6 starts) he was 8-2 with a 1.46 ERA, two shutouts and two saves. He only permitted 47 hits in 74 innings, which seemed like solid proof that the 23-year-old was ready for the majors. The Pilots agreed and brought him up for the final month of the season.

The Pilots were in the midst of a miserable season in 1969 that would see them sport a 64-98 record. Fuentes was slipped into a jack of all trades role down the stretch. He showed off his vast potential almost immediately, pitching a complete-game seven-hitter against the Chicago White Sox in just his third big league appearance.

Fuentes wound up making eight appearances (four starts) for the Pilots, going 1-2 with a 5.19 ERA. He also threw the team’s final pitch in the season finale (the team moved to Milwaukee and became the Brewers the following season)—a line out to center field by future Hall-of-Famer Reggie Jackson of the Oakland Athletics. Accordingly, hopes were high for the young pitcher as he embarked to the off season and pitching for the Caguas Criollos of the Puerto Rican Winter League.

On January 29, 1970, Fuentes was at a bar in Loiza Aldea celebrating the end of Criollos’ season, drinking with a group of teen aged friends. He went outside to relieve himself due to the establishment’s non-working plumbing. Another patron, who thought the pitcher was too close to their vehicle shot him three times in the abdomen, hand and thigh at close range. He went into shock and died shortly after being taken to a hospital where medical staff could do nothing to save the young man.

There is no known information (that I could find) about what happened to Fuentes’ murderer. What is known is that a young baseball player on the verge of possibility and opportunity was cut down before he had a chance to fully display the talent that had made him one of the top prospects in baseball. 

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Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Albuquerque Isotopes win John H. Johnson President’s Award

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — Minor League Baseball announced today that the Albuquerque Isotopes are the recipients of the 45th annual John H. Johnson President’s Award. The team will receive Minor League Baseball’s top honor at the Baseball Winter Meetings Banquet on Sunday, Dec. 9, at Mandalay Bay Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. 

The John H. Johnson President’s Award has been presented annually since 1974 to honor the complete baseball franchise. The award’s criteria are based on financial stability, contributions to league stability, contributions to baseball in the community and promotion of the baseball industry. The award is the first for the franchise since they were founded in 2003. The Albuquerque Dukes claimed the honor in 1984 and 1991, making Albuquerque the first city to win the award three times. 

Since opening Isotopes Park in 2003, the team has been a model of consistency at the gates, finishing in the top 10 in all of Minor League Baseball in attendance each year, and finishing in the top five in the Pacific Coast League each year despite being in the 11th-most populated city in the league and the addition of four new ballparks in the league over that span. The Isotopes have been the PCL nominee for the Johnson Award four times since 2003 (2004, 2007, 2010 and 2018) and General Manager John Traub was the PCL Executive of the Year in 2007. 

Since 2003, Isotopes owner Ken Young has invested over $5 million in the ballpark to enhance the fan experience through new videoboards, party areas and a kids play zone, and has paid over $28 million back to the city of Albuquerque in stadium rent and surcharges. In addition to the Isotopes’ success at the turnstiles, the club has established a reading program that includes over 6,000 children in 250 Albuquerque schools and in 2018 alone made donations to over 250 charitable organizations and non-profit groups. In recent years, Isotopes Park has served as the host venue for the Walk to Defeat ALS (ALS Foundation), the Juvenile Diabetes (JDRF) One Walk, the Susan G. Komen Walk, the Special Olympics Torch Run and Wounded Warriors Celebrity Softball Games, among many charitable events. 

“We share this award with everyone in our community who has supported the Isotopes over the past 16 seasons and we would not be able to accept this honor without our partnership with the City of Albuquerque keeping Isotopes Park a gold standard of our industry,” said Young. “Of course, this award also belongs to our amazing front office staff whose continuity speaks volumes and whose dedication and commitment are second to none. We sincerely value our relationship with the Colorado Rockies and our role within the baseball industry.” 

In 2018, Isotopes players averaged nearly three player appearances in the community per homestand, the front office staff spent over 350 hours volunteering in the community. In an effort to help reduce hunger in New Mexico, rather than charging companies for appearances by Orbit, the team mascot, the Isotopes instead asked the requesting companies to make donations to the Roadrunner Food Bank, which generated over 4,000 pounds of food to help feed the hungry in 2018. Additionally, the team’s launch as the Mariachis de Nuevo México in Minor League Baseball’s “Copa de la Diversión” program helped the club set a single game attendance record on May 5 (16,975) and franchise records for merchandise sales, and introduced a diverse segment of Albuquerque’s population to Isotopes baseball. 

“The ownership and staff of the Albuquerque Isotopes have been among the most dedicated and steady in all of Minor League Baseball, and in their 16 years, they have become one of Minor League Baseball’s elite franchises,” said Minor League Baseball President & CEO Pat O’Conner. “Their dedication to their community, their fans and Minor League Baseball as a whole, has been exemplary and I salute them for a job well done.” 

“It is beyond humbling to receive our industry’s top honor especially when even the Pacific Coast League is filled with so many deserving teams and leaders,” said Traub. “Under Ken’s leadership, we are proud to have been able to deliver 16 years of consistent, family-friendly entertainment to the over nine million fans that have passed though Isotopes Park’s gates. Whether we’re embracing diversity through the Mariachis de Nuevo México, giving back to the community through volunteer work or entertaining a ballpark packed with fans, our organization looks forward to continuing our tradition of successes for another 16 years and beyond.” 


1974 Rochester, International
1975 Tacoma, Pacific Coast
1976 Mexico City Red Devils, Mexican
1977 Fresno, California
1978 Iowa, American Association
1979 Denver, American Association
1980 Quad City, Midwest
1981 Great Falls, Pioneer
1982 Tacoma, Pacific Coast
1983 Louisville, American Association
1984 Albuquerque, Pacific Coast
1985 Las Vegas, Pacific Coast
1986 El Paso, Texas
1987 Syracuse, International
1988 Indianapolis, American Assoc.
1989 Durham, Carolina
1990 Pawtucket, International
1991 Albuquerque, Pacific Coast
1992 Buffalo, American Association
1993 Norfolk, International
1994 Billings, Pioneer
1995 Columbus, International
1996 Salt Lake, Pacific Coast
1997 Richmond, International
1998 Lynchburg, Carolina
1999 Tulsa, Texas
2000 Portland, Eastern
2001 Eugene, Northwest
2002 Iowa, Pacific Coast
2003 Reading, Eastern
2004 Rochester, International
2005 Trenton, Eastern
2006 Altoona, Eastern
2007 Midland, Texas
2008 Cedar Rapids, Midwest
2009 San Jose, California
2010 Billings, Pioneer
2011 Tennessee, Southern
2012 Dayton, Midwest
2013 Vancouver, Northwest
2014 Durham, International
2015 South Bend, Midwest
2016 Fort Wayne, Midwest
2017 Greenville, South Atlantic 

About Minor League Baseball Minor League Baseball, headquartered in St. Petersburg, Florida, is the governing body for all professional baseball teams in the United States, Canada and the Dominican Republic that are affiliated with Major League Baseball® clubs through their farm systems. Fans are coming out in unprecedented numbers to this one-of-a-kind experience that can only be found at Minor League Baseball ballparks. In 2018, Minor League Baseball attracted 40.5 million fans to its ballparks to see the future stars of the sport hone their skills. From the electricity in the stands to the excitement on the field, Minor League Baseball has provided affordable family-friendly entertainment to people of all ages since its founding in 1901. For more information visit

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

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Do The Boston Red Sox Have Anything Left In their Minor League System?

The Boston Red Sox are in the midst of a historic season, having won a franchise-record 108 games and still battling in the 2018 MLB playoffs with high hopes. While their roster is stocked with star players, both offensively and with pitching, the hallmark of a successful franchise built for prolonged success is one that has a strong farm system. Not even the most optimistic observer could say Boston currently ranks among the top collection of minor league talent, but that also doesn’t mean that their cupboard is completely bare. Now that the minor league season is over, let’s look at some of the top jewels for the Sox.

Pitcher Travis Lakins: The 2015 sixth-round draft choice was once viewed as a good starter prospect. However, the right-hander has experienced injuries that led to his transition to the bullpen in 2018. It was a successful one, as he went a combined 3-2 with a 2.32 ERA in 36 games (6 starts) between Double and Triple-A. He also notched three saves and struck out 57 batters in 54.1 innings, while yielding just 38 hits. Now 24, his mid-90s fastball and assortment of breaking balls suggest a pitcher similar to that of current Boston righty Matt Barnes. While that may not be as sexy as some prospects, a solid reliever is a valuable piece nonetheless.

Shortstop C.J. Chatham: After missing all but seven games in 2017 due to injury, the 2016 second-rounder came back strong this season. In 114 combined games between Single-A and High-A he hit a combined .314 with three home runs and 52 RBIs. Although he is 6’4”, the 23-year-old is a strong defender with little power. He has hit everywhere he has played, as evidenced by his .298 career professional batting average. However, his nine home runs in 156 games offers at his decided lack of pop. He appears to be close to ready for a job in the majors. While he likely won’t be a star, and Boston has him blocked with Xander Bogaerts, he could be a trade chip down the line for a team looking for a solid option.

Third Baseman Bobby Dalbec: The 23-year-old has his value primarily tied up in his impressive power potential. A right-handed hitter, he bashed 32 home runs and 109 RBIs in 129 games between High-A and Double-A this season. However, he hit a pedestrian .257 and struck out an alarming 176 times in 453 at-bats. It’s that swing and miss that is the biggest hurdle for Dalbec. There is no doubt about his power, but that won’t matter if he can’t put bat to ball at the big league level.

Reliever Durbin Feltman: The former Texas Christian University closer was drafted in the third round this year by Boston. Possessing a power fastball and wipeout slider, the 21-year-old right-hander was seen as being so polished that he could be the first player from the 2018 draft to break into the majors. The Red Sox proceeded cautiously with him this summer, as he pitched in just 22 games across three levels (culminating with High-A), but he showed why the team is so invested in him, by posting a combined 1.93 ERA with 36 strikeouts and just five walks in 23.1 innings. It would be quite the load to place on the shoulders of someone so young, but with current Boston closer Craig Kimbrel about to become a free agent, the ninth inning could be an open position with the team for the upcoming year.

Outfielder Jarren Duran: An intriguing player, the 2018 seventh-rounder has game-changing speed and a potentially very good glove, but not much in the way of power. The 22-year-old left-handed batter (he throws from the right) debuted in strong fashion, hitting .357 with 14 doubles, 11 triples,  three home runs and 35 RBIs in 67 games between Short-Season and Single-A. He also stole 24 bases, but was caught 10 times, reflecting a need to refine his decision making on the base paths. He also struck out 48 times against 16 walks. Since his game is all about his legs, becoming more selective at the plate—no small task—will be a must if he is to progress as a prospect. Duran is the true definition of a lottery ticket, who could become very valuable if he is able to come anywhere near his ceiling as a player.

Third Baseman Michael Chavis: After hitting 31 home runs in 2017, expectations were soaring for the 2014 first-round draft choice. Unfortunately, an 80-game suspension for testing positive for PEDs derailed what may well have been his major league coming out party this year. Upon his return, the 23-year-old performed in a manner one would expect of the team’s top prospect, as he hit a combined .298 with nine home runs and 27 RBIs in 46 games across three levels, culminating in Triple-A. However, with Rafael Devers unlikely to relinquish the hot corner in Boston any time soon, and with the suspension tarnishing his reputation, can Chavis still become a contributor for the team? If not, he may well be yet another trade chip down the line if a need arises.

Starting Pitcher Bryan Mata: Although a stuff wind could likely knock the impossibly slender 19-year-old right hander over, he pitches with surprising strength. Spending the year at High-A, he was 6-3 in 17 starts with a 3.50 ERA. He struck out 61 batters in 72 innings, but did walk an alarming 58. This is all perfectly fine at this stage, as the way he held his own at such a tender age portends of even better things to come. He pitches with a low-to-mid 90s fastball and a changeup that have scouts thinking it could be an above average pitch as well. Mata could be the next Red Sox starting pitching prospect of consequence, which will be revealed in the coming season, as he continues to make his climb through the minor league system.

*Note: Prospects like Tristan Casas (2 games in 2018 after being drafted in the first round) and Jay Groome (missed entire 2018 season due to injury) were not included because of the lack of a body of work this season.

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Monday, October 8, 2018

Lenny DiNardo: Memorable Boston Red Sox Pitcher Recalls His Career

Making it to the major leagues is tough enough on its own. Breaking through to baseball’s highest level and becoming part of a historically memorable team is even rarer. Left-handed pitcher Lenny DiNardo had a 94-game big league career, but he stretched it out over the course of six seasons. He also played a pivotal role on the 2004 Boston Red Sox, who broke an 86-year drought and won a dramatic World Series Championship that fans had been dreaming about for decades.

The Red Sox had their eye on DiNardo early, as they selected him in the 10th round of the 1998 draft out of high school. However, he elected to attend Stetson University, and raised his stock during his three years with them, ultimately getting snapped up in the third round of the 2001 draft by the New York Mets.

The southpaw pitched well in the minors, but couldn’t crack New York’s roster. In 2003 the Red Sox renewed their interest in him by taking him the Rule 5 Draft. He made 22 appearances with Boston in 2004, all in relief, posting a 4.23 ERA in 27.1 innings. He was used exclusively in mop-up situations, as the 98-64 Red Sox were 6-16 in games in which he pitched, and in the six victories he appeared in, each win was by at least a margin of six runs. Nevertheless, he was extremely valuable, saving the pitching staff with his ability to eat innings and pitch effectively. He was also a fan favorite with his upbeat personality.

Although DiNardo did not make the postseason roster, he made enough of an impression to stick around with the Sox for two more seasons before moving on to the Oakland Athletics in 2007 where he was a career-best 8-10 with a 4.11 ERA in 35 games (20 starts).

DiNardo pitched for the A’s in 2008 and the Kansas City Royals in 2009—his last season in the majors. He pitched in the minors and independent ball through 2013 before retiring as a player. All told he was 10-18 with a 5.36 ERA in 94 games (34 starts).

Now, nearly a half decade after his playing career ended, DiNardo is still involved in the game while being quite busy in other arenas like music, real estate, and family. Keep reading to see what one of Boston’s nicest players had to say about his career and life after baseball.

Who was your favorite player when you were growing up, and why?: My favorite player growing up was Roger Clemens. He was such a bulldog on the mound. He had the perfect mix of power and location. My dad and I collected his baseball cards together and I still have them in all in a binder.

Can you describe your draft experience with the New York Mets in 2003- How did you find out you had been selected?: I was drafted by the Mets in 2001 after a pretty successful time at Stetson University. My numbers the past couple seasons were decent and I had already been drafted before in 1998 out of high school by the Red Sox. It was basically a sit and wait situation. I got the call in the third round. Not too long after I was in Brooklyn playing for the Cyclones (A ball).

What do you remember most about your professional debut? (Getting Gary Sheffield, Hideki Matsui and Bernie Williams in order against the Yankees)?: I’ll never forget my first big league outing in 2004. Playing for the Red Sox and pitching in Yankee Stadium obviously warranted some heckling from the fans in the bullpen. I did my best to ignore them but with nerves hitting on all cylinders, I heard every word. 
I pitched the ninth inning in a Sox blow out. We were up by at least 7 or 8 I think. I just kept telling myself to throw strikes. I ended up getting Sheffield to ground to third; Matsui struck out; and Bernie Williams also grounded to third.

In your opinion, who was the most talented player you ever played with or against? What made them stand out so much?: I played with and against a lot of talented players. Pedro Martinez, Mike Piazza, Frank Thomas, David Ortiz to name a few. I pitched against Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa, Derek Jeter and Vladimir Guerrero and Alex Rodriguez. I think the main thing these players had in common was how consistent they were over a long period.

What is your favorite moment from your baseball career?: Being part of the 2004 World Series team would have to be my favorite, favorite part of my career.

How special were the 2004 Red Sox, and how often do you get remembered for your role with that team?: If I’m in Boston I get recognize pretty often. Sox fans never forget a former player, especially from that team. That was a special group. A perfect mixture of talent and personalities. We played hard and always had fun. We had mostly veteran players, but Kevin Youkilis and I were both rookies at that time

If there is anything you could go back and do differently about your baseball career, what would that be?: I think I squeezed out every drop of talent that I had to get and stay in the big leagues with three different clubs. Not sure I would do anything different other than learn a knuckleball. I could possibly still be pitching if I had one of those. Haha.

What role does music play in your life?: I’ve always been a huge music fan. Some of my earliest memories are listening to tunes with my dad. The Beatles, Rolling Stones,  The Who among many others were a constant soundtrack for me while growing up. I learned to play guitar as a way to waste time in the minor leagues and it’s become therapy. I use it to relax and also as a challenge.

What are you up to since retiring as a player?: These days I live in Rhode Island. I’m raising a family while working for NESN doing their Sox  pre and post game shows. I also work in real estate. My labor of love is giving pitching lessons around New England. Trying to pass on what I’ve learned is very special to me.

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