Marlins Catching Prospect: J.D. Osborne

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Marlins Catcher OsborneWritten by Mark Firkins Photo by Twitter

J.D. Osborne was drafted by the Miami Marlin in 2017 in the 22nd round. He is off to an impressive season debut in the NY PENN League and with the Batavia Muckdogs. Through 44 games he is batting .350 with 7 doubles, 1 triple, 2 HR, 18 RBIs and a .414 OBP. He has spent most of the season as a catcher but has also played first and third base.

He has a powerful, level swing and makes hard contact with the ball. For a catcher he has decent speed and gets around the bases quickly and efficiently. On defense he has a strong arm, shows leadership and confidence on the field

J.D. Osborne jogged out the Batavia Muckdogs clubhouse, greeted me as if we were old friends who hadn’t seen each other in years and powerfully shook my hand with his huge muscular arms. There’s no doubt he takes his training seriously and hits the weight room often. He was energetic and appeared to be thrilled to talk with me and do an interview. J.D. is definitely a fun person to be around and enjoys life as a professional baseball palyer.

MF: This is your first season in the NY PENN League, what are some of the biggest challenges you’re facing?

JD: I played college ball in Division II, so the velocity from the pitchers is a little higher than I saw at school ball. I’m still making some adjustments with the guys who throw 95 mph or more.

MF: You’ve played third base, first base, and catcher so far this season. All physically and mentally demanding positions to play, how do you prepare yourself for such diverse roles?

JD: I take my reps daily at all of those positions. I catch bullpens and work on my blocking and receiving. I take fielding practice and ground balls at both third and first almost every day as well. I just stayed mentally prepared, focused, and always ready for wherever I’m needed on the field.

MF: You’ve been very consistent at the plate all season and over the past three weeks your bat has really come alive. Did you make any adjustments or change anything in your approach at the plate?

JD: No, my approach to hitting has always been the same. I go to the plate looking for a pitch that I know I can put in play. I’ve been taught to never deviate from the plan.

MF: Speaking of hitting, what type of bat do you swing?

JD: I love Old Hickory bats, they just feel so comfortable with my swing. I have used some Mark Lumber bats as well, they’re a Canadian maker of really good bats.

MF: You’re from Whitby, Ontario, Canada, almost directly across Lake Ontario from where we sit. You’ve spent the past few years down in Florida playing for Polk State College and then the University of Tampa. Now you are playing in the Marlins organization, that’s a lot of Florida connections. Is there anything truly unique that you miss from Canada?

JD: I miss the people from home and good authentic poutine. There’s a restaurant back home I really miss called Jimmy Guaco’s, THE BEST burritos ever, man do I miss those!

MF: There’s such a diverse mix of international players on your team and in the league, what are some of the obstacles you guys face together?

JD: Communication is a big issue. I don’t speak Spanish and a lot of the guys I catch for do. So we’re learning to communicate with each other with our signals. Even though we haven’t learned each other’s language yet doesn’t mean we don’t understand each other. They know on mound visits that I’m trying to make sure we’re on the same page and that I’m supporting them and have their back.

MF: Tell me something different about learning and playing the game in Canada?

JD: We play it a little more aggressively, maybe you want to call it a hockey mentality when we run the basses or slide into a base or home.

MF: Who in the Marlins organization has been a positive influence or given you some great advice?

JD: All the coaches here in Batavia are so supportive, positive and want you to learn and succeed. I couldn’t ask for a better first year manager than Mike Jacobs. He has so much experience and knowledge to share and offer. We all feed off one another and learn so much together.

MF: In your limited free time away from baseball what do you like to do?

JD: I just started playing the guitar about a year or so ago. I’m learning and watching YouTube videos to help me. I’m getting pretty good.

MF: Who are some of your favorite athletes?

JD: Brett Lawrie in baseball. #16, Darcy Tucker for the Toronto Maple Leafs. I loved that guy.

MF: Favorite MLB Ballpark?

JD: I saw a lot of games at the Sky Dome now the Rogers Centre

MF: Favorite song or music heard in the ballpark?

JD: Anything Michael Jackson, Rock with You by MJ

MF: What’s better day games or night games?

JD; Either is great, I just want to play.

MF: Spring or Fall baseball?

JD: Spring baseball

MF: Favorite ballpark food?

JD: Hot dog, loaded

MF: Why is it called the foul pole?

JD: Um… I’m not sure, you got me (shrugging and laughing). It’s fair and in play. Weird.

Chatting with a baseball player is always enjoyable but talking with J.D. was downright fun. He has a powerful energy to him that’s infectious and definitely carries out into his game. You can tell that same energy transfers into his swings at the plate and while wearing the tools of ignorance.

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League Baseball cards and autographed photos. Thanks!

Jo Adell Is On The Move

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jordon-adell-2017-bmWritten by Mark Nikolov Photo by Baseball America

The Los Angeles Angels farm system is currently looking very strong. Former first round Draft pick Jordon Adell, in particular, has been absolute beast in the California League. Adell is currently ranked number 11 on the Baseball America LIVE Top 100 Prospect list. He’s proved to be a true five tool talent in the Cal League, batting .290 with 12 homeruns and nine stolen bases in only 238 plate appearances. Not too bad for a teenager in pro ball.

Adell recently got the call to Mobile, Alabama to test his skills for the AA BayBears. In his first performance he did not disappoint. He went 2-for-4 with a bomb and three runs. Some may have thought that moving Adell up to Double A was an aggressive move considering his young age (19). Adell, however, is not your average 19 year old. He has a reputation for being a player with integrity and high moral character. Apparently this is something that the Angels look for when they draft.

As far as graphing (autograph seeking) goes, don’t think you can take advantage of him because he’s a good guy. He will often times personalize and loop your name in together with his, making it difficult to resell an item. Last I heard he was in between one per and two per autographs a person. Often times he will not sign at all. Baseball is a business first for these guys and they realize that the more they sign the less value their signature has.

Back when Adell was in high school I sent him two cards via TTM (through the mail) and he gave me two nice signatures in return. I’m very grateful to him for that. I sent the cards to BAS (Beckett Authentication Services) and they came back clean. I suspect that Jo will not be signing TTM anymore, especially with all the fame and popularity that seems to be coming his way.

Look for continued coverage of the Angels farm system in the coming weeks. The Halos have a lot of young talented players right now that could eventually form the nucleus of a World Series team #TeamAdell.

Follow us @REALMcCOYMINORS on Twitter for more MLB prospect news and updates. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League team issued sets and autographed cards.

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Batavia Muckdogs OF – Michael Donadio

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648097354-612x612Written by Mark Firkins Photo by Getty Images

Michael Donadio was selected by the Marlins in the 30th round in 2017. He played in the Gulf Coast League in 2017 and made his debut in the New York Penn League with the Batavia Muckdogs on June 15, 2018.

He has appeared in 31 of the 38 games played so far this season. He currently features a .288 AVG, 8 doubles, 4 HR, and 20 RBI. He has a quick hard swing. Makes solid contact that makes the ball jump off the bat and find its way to outfield quickly.

A natural Left Fielder, but he can also play Center and Right Field when called upon. Through 336 defensive innings played between the GCL and Batavia, Michael has a perfect 1.000 FPCT.

We sat down in Dwyer Stadium recently and talked about Long Island, life in the minors, and of course baseball.

MF: You’re a NY born and raised player from Long Island. You played your college ball at St. John’s in Queens. You’re now playing on the opposite side of the state in Western NY. Have you had to make any adjustments to life in a small town and a with a small community minor league team like Batavia?

MD: The game is no different. I have the same mentality playing here as I have no matter where else I’ve ever played. Play hard, work hard and give 100% every day. Long Island has their small towns too and where I’m from isn’t that much different.

MF: The NY PENN League has teams in Staten Island, Hudson Valley, Brooklyn, and Connecticut.  Unfortunately Batavia has few games scheduled in those parks this season. It would have been nice from your family’s perspective to have caught you in action there. Have they made the trip down the Thruway to visit you here?

MD: Yeah, those locations would’ve been within an hour or so from home. It’s about a six, seven hour drive for them to visit me here, depending on the traffic on the Island, New York City/New Jersey, but they came up to see my debut a month ago and hopefully they’ll get back again before season’s end.

MF: You’re from Long Island, went to college in Queens, so, I have to ask, growing up were you a Yankees or Mets fan?

MD: I was more of a Mets fans. My dad is from Queens and that’s where the Mets are. My mom’s side of the family are all Yankees fans, so we’re split in half on our NY teams.

MF: Everyone gets along during the holidays when the subject of baseball comes up?

MD: Oh yeah, there’s the good natured teasing, but everyone loves their NY teams.

MF: What have been some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced as a new minor league player?

MD: The every day grind. You practice for a few hours each day, a game each night, then you have the bus rides home or to the next city.

MF: Have the Marlins brought in any ex MLB players or roving instructor coaches to teach and give you any extra guidance as a young player?

MD: Our coach Mike Jacobs has a lot of MLB experience and is one of the most positive influences on all of us. His message is pretty clear. Believe in yourself and play the game the way you did that got you here. Don’t change anything about your game now because you’re in a pro league.

MF: There are so many diverse pitching styles and with young pitchers on a smaller pitch count early in the season, there’s frequent pitching changes. What adjustments do you make or what do you go up there looking for facing a new pitcher every few innings?

MD: I don’t make too many adjustments. No matter who’s pitching I go up there looking for the fastball over the plate.

MF: You’ve been very consistent at the plate and I’ve seen you hit the gaps and with a little power this season. What brand of bat do you like?

MD: Tucci Lumber. Some of my past coaches in summer ball introduced me to that brand. I’ve had good luck and success with them, no need to look at any other type.

MF: You’ve played all three OF spots this season. Do you favor one and why?

MD: I played all 4 years in college in LF and most of my games here have also been there as well. I can play all three, but I’m most comfortable with the view, throw and angle of left.

MF: It’s tough on the minor league road. The bus rides, travel schedule, long days at the field. In your limited free time what do you enjoy doing?

MD: I love fishing. I haven’t had much time around here to do any, but when I’m home I go to the Long Island Sound and fish for Blue Fish, Bass, anything to relax and catch some fish.

MF: Some fun and quick questions for you, ready?

MF: Favorite sport other than baseball?

MD: Football, the NY Giants

MF: MLB park you’d LOVE to play in some day?

MD: Ooh, I should say something else but I’m going to say Fenway Park, it’s about as legendary as it gets.

MF: Day games or night games?

MD: It’s cooler at night, both temperature and under the lights

MF: Spring baseball or Fall baseball?

MD: Spring

MF: Favorite ballpark treat?

MD: Cracker Jack

MF: Favorite song you’ve heard play in the stadium?

MD: It’s cool they play Sweet Caroline here in the 8th

MF: Do you have any baseball superstitions?

MD: None

MF: A debate I’m stirring up between pitchers and hitters, why is it called the foul pole?

MD: That’s good, I don’t know, it’s in play, it should be the fair pole, but that doesn’t sound right. Why, what do pitchers say?

Michael Donadio is proving that no matter where you’re picked in the draft, first, last or somewhere in between, if you work hard, practice hard, listen to and learn from your coaches, the game will find a place for you. Michael’s aggressive approach at the plate and impressive defensive play should find him climbing the organizational ladder and stay in the starting lineup for many seasons to come.

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League Baseball cards and autographed photos. Thanks!

Marlins 1B prospect – Sean Reynolds

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SeanSean Reynolds was picked by the Marlins in the 4th round of the 2016 draft. Through 2 1/2 professional seasons he has split time between the Gulf Coast and NY PENN Leagues. He has slugged 13 HR, 15 doubles, 5 triples, and 59 RBI. I was fortunate enough to witness him pound his 7th and 8th home runs of this season on Sunday July 22. He hit both shots to almost the same spot, directly into the power alley of RC field, right at the scoreboard.

Sean was an interesting choice and draft pick by the Marlins. They saw him blast baseballs 400 feet in high school. They also saw him throw a 7-0 record, strike out 73 batters in 57 innings, a 1.23 ERA as a pitcher and reach back and throw the ball 92 mph. At 6′ 7″ he’d be the ideal fit as the Marlins tend to favor tall athletic pitching prospects. It was his bat though that Marlins vice president of scouting, Stan Meek,  liked the most about Sean. He is quoted as saying “We like the bat, there’s power in it. He’s an aggressive kid and makes good contact. There’s definitely a chance for him to be developed as a power hitter.”

His size, swing and defensive style have been compared to Richie Sexon and John Olerud, good company to be compared with.

I sat down with Sean after his batting practice session on Saturday, July 21st. His 6′ 7″ frame towered above me. His long extended arm pointed downward toward me as we shook hands. He was friendly, enthusiastic, and open to talk about his role and development within the Marlins organization, the Batavia Muckdogs, and the minor leagues.

MF: I think the Marlins saw two possibilities in you when they drafted you in 2016. One, the player we’re seeing now, first baseman with an aggressive swing, power and pop in his bat, good OPS and hitting stats that continue to climb. What a lot of fans might not know is that you were a very good high school pitching prospect as well. Did the Marlins ever take a look at you as pitcher?

SR: They knew I could pitch and some scouts talked to me about that possibility, but the Marlins saw me for what I really am. A 6′ 7″ first baseman with a power lefty swing. They’ve developed me as hitter and saw my future more as a hitter than on the mound.

MF: You bat left but throw right. Is this something natural you’ve always done?

SR: Hitting is the only thing I do as a lefty. Everything else I do is right handed. My dad said when I was 2-3 years old I picked up a wiffle ball bat and started swinging it as a lefty. No one ever tried to change that about me, so I’m a lefty at the plate.

MF: What brand of bat are you using?

SR: Right now I’m swinging Old Hickory maple bats. But I do have some Victus, Rawlings, and Homewood Bats as well. I like a bat with a thin handle and big barrel and when I pick one out I know when it feels just right in my hands.

MF: This your second summer in Batavia and the NY PENN League. You’re now playing against some fresh rookies and some players with 2-3 years of professional experience. What are some of the challenges you’re still facing?

SR: With that fresh talent, there’s always good fresh arms. You’re a pro if you’re here. It doesn’t matter if you’re a new player and this is your first taste, it’s pretty much an even playing field.

MF: Nothing is easy in baseball, especially the minor leagues. However after two seasons now in Batavia have you found it easier to adjust to life in Western NY and life on the road?

SR: The bus trips aren’t that bad. Our longest trip is around 6 1/2 hours, most are shorter drives. The buses certainly weren’t made for guys like me (6′ 7″) to get comfortable on and stretch out. Life in this area is good. It’s a small city but it has everything you need and the community has been very welcoming of us.

MF: After a long day of instruction, practice, then a game, what do you do to relax in your limited free time?

SR: I catch up on my sleep when I can. I love to listen to music.

MF: What kind of music would I find on your phone?

SR: I like a little of everything. Country, classic rock, some oldies, I love just about anything from the 60’s, 70’s & 80″s

MF: What’s some of the best advice you’ve been given by someone in the Marlins organization?

SR: Our manager, Mike Jacobs has been a great influence and example for us to follow. He knows how to teach, has a lot of stories and experience. He’s got recent MLB experience and finished his career with 100 home runs. He always tells me it’s a results based game. He’s a big advocate that when you’re in slump or missing the ball, to remind you not to panic and don’t try to make big adjustments to your approach at the plate. He’ll say the hits will come and that good swings will turn into hits.

MF: Who was your favorite baseball player as a kid?

SR: David Ortiz. My parents lived in New Hampshire for a while before moving to California. My sister lives in Boston, so there was a lot of Red Sox influence when I was younger.

MF: Then I think I know the answer to this, what is your favorite MLB Ballpark?

SR: Oh yeah, Fenway Park

MF: Favorite ballpark food or treat?

SR: Hot dogs – Fenway Franks

MF: What’s better spring baseball or fall baseball?

SR: Fall ball. If you’re still playing in the fall that means you’ve had a good season and you’re part of the post season.

MF: Day games or night games?

SR: Night games. There’s nothing like playing under the lights. The crowds are bigger and the atmosphere has a little more energy to it.

MF: A silly question, yet a baseball one, would you rather sing the National Anthem or dance with the team mascot?

SR: (laughing) I’m not much of a dancer, so I’d rather sing.

MF: A debate I’m stirring up between pitchers and hitters. Why is it called the foul pole?

SR: Ooh, good question, I don’t know, is there a right answer? It’s a home run if you hit it, I’ve never been asked that before.

Sean Reynolds’ offensive stats have continued to climb as he gets more at bats, sees more pitches and faces righties and lefties on a regular basis. His defense is excellent. With his long legs and tall frame, he easily stretches and scoops low throws and turns them into outs. He is vocal on the field and in constant communication with the coaches in the dugout and relays info to the outfield. As I witnessed, Sean is always trying to improve his swing. After BP and before the game he was working individually with Batavia hitting coach, Jesus Merchan then with manager Mike Jacobs. Jacobs was also a first baseman who had the uniqueness of throwing right and batting left. It’s no surprise that Sean respects and looks to his manager for guidance and help to advance his career in baseball.

 

Bryce Howe – Batavia Muckdogs Pitcher

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1Written by Mark Firkins

It’s no secret that I attend as many games in the NY PENN League as I possibly can. While I will travel to other ballparks throughout the season, the Batavia Muckdogs and their home, Dwyer Stadium, is an easy drive for me. Being a short season A league that starts in mid June and ends Labor day, your chance to see some of the games’ young bright stars is brief and summer (as we all know) always goes by too quick.

When I was offered the opportunity to sit down with some of the Miami Marlins’ prospects and interview them, I jumped at the opportunity. The day was Saturday, July 21st. The game was scheduled to start at 7:05 and I was invited to arrive at the stadium at 4:00 to watch batting practice, bullpen warm ups, fielding practice, and walk around the outfield grass and warning track to take some photos from a different view. Players would be available for me to interview after they cooled down, grabbed something to eat, and changed into their game uniforms.

Around 5:00 I was introduced to Muckdogs Pitcher, Bryce Howe. Bryce was selected in the 18th round of the 2017 draft. Bryce looks nothing like most of the pitchers the Marlins have drafted over the past few years. The Marlins tend to favor tall, lean pitchers who have a feel for the slider and curve early in their careers. Bryce is 6′ 2″ – 250 lbs and resembles a middle linebacker more than a baseball player. He is a classic power pitcher who works the corners and pounds the strike zone early with his fastballs. In his 1 1/2 seasons with the Marlins organization Bryce has pitched 61.2 innings, has a 2.63 ERA and has struck out 46.

We sat down in the picnic grove area of the ballpark next to the Muckdogs clubhouse and bullpen area. We shook hands, exchanged greetings, had some pleasant small talk and then began our interview. Bryce was extremely pleasant and gracious. He was very descriptive with his answers and offered personal stories to add to my questions.

MF: Tell me what it’s like being a minor league pitcher in the Marlins organization?

BH: It’s awesome. I’m being taught so much and really developing as a player. The Marlins minor league pitching coordinator, Chris Michalak has put together such a great program and philosophy for me and other pitchers to follow.

MF: Can you share what their philosophy or strategy is for you?

BH: They want me to pitch for early contact and try to get outs in three pitches or less. The pitching coach here, Jason Erickson is great to work with and so supportive of all the talent we have here.

MF: You started the season at Greensboro in the South Atlantic League. You started a few games, pitched middle relief, and even closed/saved a few games there. Here in Batavia you’ve started and have been used in those middle innings situations. What’s the strategy and how do you prepare yourself for such different roles?

BH: So what the Marlins are doing here is having me start one game every 5 days, then another starting pitcher relieves me in the middle. Then in 5 days someone else starts and I piggyback or relieve the middle innings on his start. I look at it as I’m the next starter in that game and I prepare myself pregame as a starter even though I’ll be down in the bullpen and entering and pitching the middle innings. In Greensboro I was filling any role that they needed. I wasn’t on a regular schedule or routine like I am here.

MF: You’re pitching against some young players who may be using a wood bat for the first time in their career. Do you find that to be in your advantage?

BH: Maybe at first there might be some advantage, but if they were good enough to get drafted or placed here, they must know how to hit and play the game.

MF: Who has been the biggest influence on your baseball career?

BH: I’ve had so many great coaches in high school and college, but my dad was my first coach. He’s always encouraged me, coached me in youth leagues, and you can’t get better support than that of your dad and family.

MF: I’m a baseball equipment geek and I always ask the hitters what bat they swing. You don’t get that opportunity too often so I’ll ask what brand of glove goes on your hand?

BH: I like Easton gloves. I’ve used them all through college and now as a pro. I like how they feel and how the ball fits into the palm when I’m getting ready to put my grip on it.

MF: I was watching BP today and then heard a small roar from the players on the field and saw a pitch go over the left center wall. That was you.

BH: Yeah (laughing), I’ll take a few swings with the bat every few days. I haven’t game hit since high school, but I can still swing and enjoy taking my cuts. I’ll work with the pitching machine when I can and lay down some bunts and work on that.

MF: Who’s bat did you use in BP today?

BH: That was my catcher, JD Osborne’s bat. That hit felt perfect the moment I made contact.

MF: You’re from the Tulsa, Oklahoma area. Played your high school and college ball there as well at Oral Roberts University. There’s really no easy way to get from Tulsa to here. Has any of your family made it here to visit and see you play yet?

BH: My dad has made the trip here and my girlfriend has been to visit as well. When I was in Greensboro my Grandparents were able to see me play there. I’m hoping my dad can see me on one of our road trips at some point this season, I know he’s trying to coordinate something.

MF: Ready for some quick, fun, and mostly baseball questions?

BH: Go for it.

MF: Favorite athlete?

BH: Josh Beckett as a ball player. I love golf and love Tiger Woods.

MF: Do you play golf then?

BH: Not lately of course, but I do and can shoot in the high 70’s mid 80’s

MF: Impressive, you’d have to spot me 25 or so strokes.

MF: Favorite MLB Ballpark?

BH: There’s something special about the Green Monster and Fenway Park.

MF: Favorite game/promotion you see the kids playing between innings?

BH: In Greensboro they have those giant inflatable Sumo Wrestling suits and have the contestants Sumo wrestle. Although after seeing that guy take off his shirt last night and dance for his dinner to the song “All the Single Ladies”  – that was something I’ve never seen before and thought that was crazy awesome.

MF: Favorite ballpark food or treat?

BH: A hot dog with mustard and onions.

MF: Would you rather sing the National Anthem or dance with the team mascot?

BH: Sing the Anthem

MF: Day games or night games?

BH: Under the lights at night.

MF: Let’s get a pitchers point of view on this: Why is it called the foul pole?

BH: Yeah, it’s a fair ball, home run if the ball hits it. At least it stops the ball from going farther. If it’s the foul pole and a ball hits it maybe it should be a foul ball for me and a strike on the batter.

Bryce Howe was a pleasure to interview. He was confident, humorous and not shy at all to talk. He has a very positive and upbeat attitude, knows the road to the show is a long one and is willing to put in all the work to succeed. In 1 1/2 season he’s pitched in the rookie Gulf Coast League, NY PENN League, and South Atlantic League. He’s confident in the Marlins pitching philosophy and the coaching staffs guidance. His Oklahoma country smile tells you he loves this game and the game is loving him back.

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League Baseball cards and autographed photos. Thanks!

 

 

20 Questions with Jeremiah Jackson

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JJ Blog photoWritten by Mark Firkins Photo by Twitter.com

I recently had the pleasure of interviewing Jeremiah Jackson, the June 2018 2nd round draft selection by the Los Angeles Angels.

Jeremiah is an exciting young Short Stop from Mobile, Alabama who by his sophomore year of high school had committed to playing college baseball at Mississippi State. However, when the Angels came calling with the 57th overall pick in the 2018 draft, Jeremiah knew it was time for his professional debut.

He’s best described by most scouts and publications as an all around complete player. He features an athletic build and is smooth defensively. He has good range, a strong arm and quick hands making him an ideal double play man at SS. He gets good extension when swinging the bat, makes solid contact, and hits to all parts of the field. He flashes full power when he sees his pitch.

Jeremiah was very polite and personal on the phone. He was polished and honest in his answers about his new life in professional baseball. The following interview took place on Wednesday, July 18th.

MF: Congratulations on your selection by the Angels. They have one of the finest development, training, and coaching staffs in baseball. I can see you excelling in their environment.

JJ: Thank you, it’s a dream come true. I’ve always admired the Angels and now I get to call them my team and hopefully one day my teammates. I am blessed to be in the same organization as Albert Pujols, Upton, Trout, and so many other baseball greats.

MF: You just dropped a few, but can you tell me some of the other big names the Angels have brought into camp and you’ve been introduced to?

JJ: I’ve met so many great people. Jose Molina, Alexis Gomez. I was invited to Anaheim and was introduced to everyone, Mike Scioscia, Eric Hinske, Pujols, Trout, Kinsler, Upton, everyone, my head was spinning meeting everyone being so young.

MF: My head would’ve been spinning as well in that group.

MF: What’s the best advice you’ve been given by someone in the Angels organization that you truly take to heart?

JJ: Everyone is consistent with their message. Work hard and be dedicated. You have to work to get to the next level, nothing is ever given. You have to go out and play every day as if it may be your last day.

MF: You’re playing with and against a great diverse mix of young professionals, new draft picks, international players, and some players with a year or two of professional experience. What are some of the challenges you’ve faced so far?

JJ: You’re right, the talent level is amazing. There are a lot of Latino players and we all have to learn to communicate with each other. We don’t all speak the same language so we have to get to know each other, learn each others signals, use our body language. It’s been an adjustment working together with the 2nd basemen on defense. I’m picking up and understand some Spanish and he’s learning English. We’re all growing together and getting to know each other out on the field together.

MF: Speaking of defense, tell me something about defense you’ve found challenging?

JJ: Working out that communication with my 2nd baseman has been the first. The game is speedier. I take a lot of reps with the defense coaches. I take about 50 reps in practice with the coaches hitting it as hard as they can.

MF: With such a deep and talented pool of pitching prospects on all teams and with young pitchers most likely on a smaller pitch count, you’re seeing 3-5 pitchers per game. Do you find hitters have the disadvantage facing so many frequent pitching changes?

JJ: The pitchers always have the advantage, no matter what level or how many pitchers you may bat against each game. They know what pitch they’re throwing, you don’t. I try to pay attention to the pitcher in his warm ups, read him and look for anything different in his delivery. Once I see a curve or change up I try to remember something in his wind up that I can use so I can recognize it the next time I see it. The coaches tell you what to look for in certain situations and certain counts. I always try to stay ahead in the count, be aggressive, and try not to get behind in a count giving the pitcher back the advantage.

MF: How hard of an adjustment has it been for you swinging a wood bat now in a professional league?

JJ: I’ve trained with a wood bat since high school. I’ve used it in the cages and during BP. I started training with wood very young in case this day ever came. It did and I’m so grateful that I decided to train that way.

MF: You’re batting .295 so far with some extra base hits and a HR. I’d say your training has paid off.

MF: What brands of bats do you prefer?

JJ: Right now my gamers are Marucci. I use an AP 5 model. I also have some Dove Tail and Victus bats that are 271 models that I like.

MF: Did you know that you are the first middle infielder from an Alabama high school to be drafted within the first three rounds of the MLB draft since 1982? Do you know who the 1982 pick was?

JJ: Bo Jackson was the last Alabama pick back then.

MF: Overall, what’s it like being a professional baseball player in the Angels organization?

JJ: Awesome. I play baseball for a living, an absolute dream come true. I love this game and I get to play and improve my game every day. I can’t thank the Angels enough for this opportunity.

MF: I’m an old school guy who still gets the most out of my writing by talking with the players, visiting the ballpark and seeing them in action. I still pay more attention stat lines like AVG, RBI, OBP, FPCT. What do you think about all of the new stat categories, sabr metrics, and technology that a computer can figure out about a player without ever seeing him play?

JJ: The game is always changing. All I can do is work hard and give my best every day. At the end of the game the numbers are what they are. Technology is great though. It has really improved my swing and allowed me to see and learn new things about that part of my game.

MF: In a lot of the minor leagues the players can’t afford their own apartments or can’t find short term rentals, and therefore live with host families in that community. What’s your living situation in the Arizona League?

JJ: The Angels provide us with two bedroom apartments. Right now I have just one roommate and that’s what I expected with an apartment like that. It was funny when I first got out here. I moved into my place and there were already two other players living there as well. So four of us shared a two bedroom unit. That didn’t last too long though. Those guys were promoted to A ball and now it’s just me and my teammate.

MF: You’re from Mobile, Alabama. A long way from home at a young age. What do you miss most about home?

JJ: My family & friends. I grew up in my Grand Dad’s and Mom’s house and they took good care of me. I’m on my own now so I’m responsible for myself. I have to make sure I get up on time, follow my schedule, eat right, and take care of myself.

MF: After a long day of practice, instruction, then a night game, what do you do to unwind and relax in your limited free time?

JJ: My days are long. I’m at the field most days around noon. We take fielding practice, bating practice, shower, eat, then get ready for our game which usually starts at 7:00. I don’t get home until around 11:30 and when I do, I usually shower then get my sleep and rest because I have to do it again the next day.

MF: Do you have any good luck charms, rituals, or baseball superstitions?

JJ: I used to. If I had a good game maybe I’d wear the same socks or compression sleeves again, but I’ve outgrown that. I work and play hard, what happens, happens out there.

MF: I’d like to ask you some quick and fun baseball questions. Answer as many as you can as fast as you can, ready?

– Favorite sport other than baseball?

Auburn Football

– Day games or night games?

Night games

– Spring baseball or Fall baseball

Spring

– Favorite ballpark food or treat?

Nachos

– Favorite MLB ballpark?

Angel Stadium

– Favorite baseball player?

Albert Pujols

– Why is it called the foul pole?

I don’t know, it’s a sight line for me. It’s fair if you hit it.

MF: Jeremiah, thank you for taking the time to speak with me and Real McCoy Minors. It was truly a pleasure chatting with you. Best wishes to you this season in Arizona and your future with the Angels. I hope someday our paths cross at a game and if they do I’ll be sure to introduce myself.

JJ: The pleasure was all mine. You guys do a great job. I look forward to meeting you someday.

Jeremiah Jackson. Professional, polite, mature beyond 18 years old, and hopefully one day in the near future; The Los Angeles Angels Short Stop, teammate of Mike Trout and his idol, Angels 1b/DH, Albert Pujols.

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster. Also, check out our eBay store for Minor League Baseball cards and autographed photos. Thanks!

Checking In On The Next Wave of Top Prospects: American League Edition

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In January, I selected and profiled one player from each American League team to be the next breakout prospect for their respective organizations (view article here). Six months later, I wanted to take the opportunity to check in on the status of each of these prospects and in certain cases, offer an alternate prospect or two in the organization who is grabbing headlines with their noteworthy performance this season.

Jhon Peluffo, RHP, Baltimore Orioles

Peluffo has pitched across two levels to begin 2018, yielding lots of contact (51 H in 36.2 IP), while the 21 year old Colombian hurler has struggled with a 26 K to 23 BB ratio.

The Oriole prospect taking the scene by storm is OF Ryan McKenna, Peluffo’s teammate for the Frederick Keys (Carolina League, A+). McKenna is second in the league in hitting with a .375 BA to go along with a .466 OBP and .557 SLG. Of McKenna’s outstanding 95 hits in 66 games, he has 18 doubles, 2 triples, and 8 HR, while adding 5 SB. McKenna is quickly proving to be one of Baltimore’s top prospects. 

Lorenzo Cedrola, OF, Boston Red Sox

Currently playing for the Greenville Drive of the Sally League (A), Cedrola is making a push for a promotion to High A with his impressive play thus far in 2018. While only 7/14 in SB attempts, Cedrola’s .315 AVG is good for 11th overall in the league. Other Sally Leaguers Seuly Matias (KC), Chad Spanberger (COL), Drew Waters (ATL) Oneil Cruz and Cal Mitchell (PIT) are grabbing most of the attention, but Cedrola is still putting together a solid season atop the Drive lineup. Gifted with an overall athletic profile, Cedrola should have no problem ascending through the Red Sox minor league system. While Cedrola might not have the name recognition across the game just yet, he has all of the tools to become the next gem in the Red Sox organization.

Aaron Bummer, LHP, Chicago White Sox

Bummer has pitched in 26 big league games for the South Siders, putting together a solid ERA of 3.26. The WHIP of 1.71 tells a different story, as he has surrendered 27 hits in 19.1 IP. While the 6 BB haven’t proven to be problematic, and the 21 K during those innings has been positive, Bummer finds himself behind fellow lefty Jace Fry in the White Sox bullpen picture. 

Of the two lefties, the 24 year old Fry is emerging as the more reliable choice thus far, where his 0.7 WAR so far in 2018 ranks him above other quality RP’s such as Brad Peacock (HOU) and Kenley Jansen (LAD). 

Luke Wakamatsu, SS, Cleveland Indians

Wakamatsu hasn’t quite put it together with the bat this season for High A Lynchburg, but a tough April has skewed his otherwise productive May, which he hit .258 AVG to go along with a .356 OBP last month. The switch hitter remains a promising talent in the stacked Indians prospect pool. 

Outfielder Will Benson has grabbed more headlines this season so far in the Indians organization, swatting 11 HR. The 14th overall pick back in 2016, Benson has an intriguing blend of power and speed, with contact questions still to be answered (31% K rate in 2018 is a slight improvement on last year’s 34% K rate). Another outfield prospect, George Valera, is on the brink of being the next big thing, and has impressed everyone in Extended Spring Training.

Gregory Soto, LHP, Detroit Tigers

Pitching out of the rotation for Lakeland (High A), Soto’s 12 starts have not seen the progress of his secondary offerings (curveball and changeup) with as much consistency as to silence the future bullpen labels that have been attached to him to this point. While Soto can flat-out bring it with the fastball and he has given up less hits than innings pitched, the Tigers would like to see progress on his 44 BB in 51.1 IP. 

For the Tigers, outfielder Christin Stewart has demonstrated he is knocking on the door of a big league job with 13 HR and a .349 OBP for the AAA Toledo Mud Hens. The Tigers are hoping that Stewart will develop into a middle of the order bat, where he will carry an offense-first profile wherever he ultimately lands defensively.

Jorge Alcala, RHP, Houston Astros

Alcala began the year at High A, and his sterling performance there earned him a promotion to AA. Alcala put together dominant outings as a starter and during bullpen days, netting more K’s per inning in 70% of his appearances. He limited contact and demonstrated excellent control, allowing more than two walks only twice. His latest outing at AA: 5IP, 1H, 1BB, 5K showed the kind of impact starter Alcala can be for the Astros. As the Astros make a run at a repeat championship, Alcala will surely be a name that rival organizations inquire about as they look to put the finishing touches on a roster poised for a deep October run.

Nicky Lopez, SS, Kansas City Royals

Lopez opened eyes during the Arizona Fall League by putting up a .383 AVG, and he picked up right where he left off this season. In 66 games at AA Northwest Arkansas (Texas League), Lopez has compiled a .327 AVG, good for 9th overall in the league, to go along with a .399 OBP. His 83 hits are good for tops among qualifiers. Lopez has knocked 7 doubles and 4 triples for extra base hits and is successful on 9/13 SB attempts. Lopez and Adalberto Mondesi look to be the future infielders up the middle for Kansas City as they rebuild their organization from within in the same mold as their 2014 AL Pennant run.

Trent Deveaux, OF, Los Angeles Angels

Deveaux has yet to log official professional games outside of Extended Spring Training, yet all reports this season are that Deveaux excites scouts with his advanced approach at the plate, top notch speed, and defense in centerfield. Deveaux should quickly take to the field and explode with popularity once he gains a wider level of exposure.

The Angels, for the first time in a little while, have a solid crop of prospects at the top of their rankings. Jo Adell, hardly a secret in the prospect world, is looking every bit as talented as when the Angels invested the 10th overall pick on him in 2017. Jahmai Jones is handling a move back to 2B, the position where he was originally drafted, very well. But the big breakout in the organization has been from LHP Jose Suarez. Suarez created quite a scuttle as he put up a 51K:8BB ratio in 29.2 IP at AA this year. Now at AAA, Suarez is knocking on the door of making an impact for the Angels at just 20 years old. 

Brusdar Graterol, RHP, Minnesota Twins

Graterol has quickly become more of a known commodity in 2018 due to a brilliant start for Cedar Rapids, sharing the field with high profile teammates Royce Lewis, Akil Baddoo, and Alex Kiriloff. Across 7 starts, Graterol has put together a 2.48 ERA and 0.94 WHIP, where he has limited walks (6) in 36.1 IP. Graterol has two starts with 9+ strikeouts so far this year, and looks destined for a consensus top 100 prospect billing by season’s end. 

Luis Medina, RHP, New York Yankees

The Yankees sit atop the AL East standings due in large part to the production they have received from the products of their farm system: Gleyber Torres, Miguel Andujar, Domingo German, and Jonathan Holder. Medina is on the brink of a 2018 debut for the Pulaski Yankees (Appalachian League, Rookie), after being limited to simulated game action so far. Scouts rave about his offerings and ability to miss bats, but command has been inconsistent to date. Medina has a ways to go, but a fast start to this season will surely vault him into the conversation along with other top Yankee prospect arms such as Albert Abreu and Chance Adams.

Will Toffey, 3B, Oakland Athletics

Toffey leads all qualifiers in the California League (High A) with a .455 OBP, where he has more BB’s (23) than K’s (22). Indeed, Toffey has lived up to the bill of an on-base machine so far in 2018 in a league scattered with bigger prospect names (Colton Welker, Connor Wong, Daulton Varsho, Gavin Lux, Evan White, Hudson Potts, and Heath Quinn among others). Toffey is one to continue to watch fly under the radar, while the A’s will be tremendously pleased that they have him as a productive bat to build towards a future big league spot. 

Mike Ford, 1B, New York Yankees (formerly Seattle Mariners at the time of the original article release)

Fresh off of a Rule 5 selection by the Mariners, Mike Ford was returned to the Yankees with the positional log jam at 1B in Seattle. Ford remains an intriguing on-base hitter but has struggled at the outset of 2018, where he has seen his K rate (20%) increase well above his MiLB career average of 14%, while simultaneously walking less (10.5% BB in 2018 versus a career average of 14.1%). Currently on the disabled list, Ford will need to see an uptick in productivity to be called up should Greg Bird continue to struggle or face injury. 

For Seattle, Seth Elledge has without doubt been a bright spot for the Mariners farm system, earning a Cal League All-Star nod by putting together a down right dominant campaign. In 27 IP, the reliever has allowed only 10 hits and 3 earned runs while amassing 39 K. 

Joe McCarthy, OF/1B, Tampa Bay Rays

McCarthy’s brother, Jake, was the 39th overall pick in the 2018 draft by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Meanwhile, Joe has held his own this season at AAA Durham, putting up the highest OPS of his career (.863). McCarthy has seen time at 1B, LF, and CF this season for the Bulls, and should get a call up to Tampa Bay sometime in 2018. 

Kyle Cody, RHP, Texas Rangers

Cody has yet to pitch this season due to injury, and the Rangers are rightly being cautious as they have seen fellow top pitching prospect Cole Ragans fall victim to Tommy John surgery earlier this year. Cody still has the makings of a mid rotation workhorse, and may begin the year in High A Down East (Carolina League), where he left off last season, before advancing to a bigger developmental test in AA. 

Edward Olivares, OF,  San Diego Padres (formerly Toronto Blue Jays at the time of the original article release)

Olivares was traded to San Diego in Toronto’s acquisition of Yangervis Solarte shortly after New Years. Olivares is off to a good start in High A, albeit overshadowed by louder performances from teammates Hudson Potts, Buddy Reed, and pitchers Chris Paddack and Adrian Morejon. Olivares’ 73 hits are good for 5th in the league, to go along with 16 doubles, 5 triples, and 5 HR. His 9 SB in 12 attempts has been a positive improvement as well this year. Difficult to stand out in the Padres’ loaded system, Olivares has nonetheless had a solid start in his new organization. 

In Toronto, the Blue Jays have seen breakout performances from two middle infield prospects: Cavan Biggio and Kevin Smith. Biggio, son of Hall of Famer Craig, has broken out on one of the most viewed minor league teams this year in the New Hampshire Fisher Cats (AA), who feature Bo Bichette, Vladimir Guerrero Jr. and Biggio in the middle of the lineup. In Smith, the Blue Jays had a hitter who produced a monstrous .355 AVG in Lansing (A) before being promoted to Dunedin (A+), where he has continued to hit everything thrown his way. The Blue Jays are boasting stud middle infielders at seemingly every level of their organization, and fill the fan base with optimism for perhaps a post-Josh Donadson era rebuild.

Summer and The NY PENN League

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League Presentation

Written by Mark Firkins

While spring brings me comfort and the start of a new baseball season, it’s summer that brings out my true passion for the game. June signals the start of the NY PENN League. A Class A, short season league that plays from mid June until Labor Day weekend (75 games), featuring 14 teams in three divisions (McNamara, Pickney, and Stedler). The NY PENN League has a long and proud history dating back to 1939. The team closest to my home in Western NY is in Batavia (halfway between Rochester and Buffalo). Batavia has been called home of the NY PENN League and is one of the founding clubs.

The current team is called the Muckdogs and they are affiliated with the Miami Marlins. In the past they have been called the Clippers, Trojans, Indians, and Pirates. They have been affiliated with the Pirates, Mets, Indians, Tigers, Cardinals, and Phillies.

With a population of less than 16,000, Batavia is one of the smallest cities to host a professional baseball team in 21st century United States. Yet, they have produced more than their share of Major League players. Ryan Howard, Chase Utley, Carlos Carrasco, J.A. Happ, Gene Baker, Woodie Fryman, Matt Carpenter, Andy Ashby and dozens of others have all called Batavia home for a summer.

While I enjoy my trips to MLB stadiums and my press box view at AAA Rochester, I honestly feel most at home in Batavia and the other NY PENN League stadiums I visit. There is no seat that is not up close to the action. You can hear the players chatter and manager/coaches talk in the dugout. The Umpires calls are loud and clear. The crack of a maple bat can be heard anywhere in the park. While most stadiums are more modern with plenty of good amenities; the crowds, character, and feel of this league is not that far removed from the classic baseball movie Bull Durham.

For most of the players in this league, this is their first taste of professional baseball and part of their long journey to the majors. It’s a diverse mix of the occasional #1 draft picks through #40 picks. Recently graduated and drafted high school players, junior college, Division I, and international players are assembled onto a team and all play together. I’ve seen Indians top pick Will Benson, OF – Mahoning Valley Scrappers, play against Marlins #40 pick Matt Foley, Catcher (both players I have profiled and can be seen in my older posts). I was treated to a perfect game on June 24, 2015 (thrown by Muckdogs Pitchers, Gabriel Castellanos, Brett Lilek, and Steven Farnworth) and have seen 22-0 losses. On rare occasions I’ve seen veteran MLB players on rehab assignments face off against top prospects.

The players are there to learn, mature and develop. There’s no shortage of ex-MLB players who have, or still are, coaching at this level to teach these fresh players the ins and outs of the pro game. Pat Borders, Travis Fryman, Tim Raines, Luke Carlin, Joel Skinner, Buck Showalter and many other famous names have all manned the dugouts in this league. The Brooklyn Cyclones alone feature 1980’s Mets greats Edgar Alfonso, Howard Johnson, and Bobby Ojeda as their coaching trio.

The NY PENN League opens on June 18th. I will once again find my seats in the sun a few rows above the visitors dugout, on the third base side. While rosters are still being put together, I’m excited to watch a fresh batch of eager, young players from all of the teams. I look forward to seeing all of the different uniform colors, interesting team names and logos. I’m eager to witness a player get his first professional hit, RBI, and home run with a wooden bat. As the season progresses I start to wonder, which of these players will eventually make it to their MLB club? Who will be the next Francisco Lindor and rise rapidly through the MiLB system to stardom? Will I watch a player quietly fly under the radar and play his way to a Major League roster like Brian Anderson? Which player will be like Pitcher Brandon Mann? A player who grinds out another season in the minors, becomes a fan favorite, has the heart of a lion, and never gives up on his dream of playing in the MLB.

Summer and baseball go hand in hand. It’s time to get outside, visit with friends you haven’t seen since the end of last season, and meet and chat with new, great baseball fans at the ballpark you’re at that night. To me there’s nothing more American than watching our national pastime and seeing young talent getting their first chance to play professionally. The NY PENN League offers just that, 14 teams, 350 players, most playing professional baseball for the first time and providing their fans with entertainment.

For more minor league player news and graphing information check us out on Twitter. Also, feel free to check out our online store on eBay.

Minor League Road Trip

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BrodWritten by Mark Nikolov  Photo by MiLB.com

A recent trip to Hartford exposed me to a few minor league baseball games. The Yardgoats have a very strong team with quite a bit of talent. Here are some player notes:

Sam Hilliard (40 man roster) – Defense is improved. Got his AVG. up to .315, OBP is sitting at .383 and increased speed is very much apparent.

Garrett Hampson (40 man roster) – Very hard working player. He was promoted to AAA during my visit. Power has improved from last season. Defense is plus at shortstop and second base. Has picked up a fanbase in Hartford because of the huge effort he displays. on the field.

Yonathon Daza (40 man roster) – All of his tools seem to be developing except for perhaps his arm. He uses an open stance right now. Saw him hit a LF bomb while I was in Connecticut. He’s much more relaxed at the plate.

Brendan Rodgers (40 man roster) – He’s showing improved power. Saw him go left center with no problem. His defense is still somewhat relaxed. He played 3B, SS and 2B while I was there. He should get the call this year.

Peter Lambert (40 man roster) – Still pitches low to mid 90s. Had a good performance against New Hampshire while I was there. He should finish off the year with very good stats.

Graphing Notes

s-l300Vladimir Guerrero Jr. – After the first game he signed for about 25 graphers (autograph seekers). Some of the graphers got aggresive but security did a good job keeping them calm. From my view it looked like he was signing 2-3 items per person.

Bo Bichette – Bo was signing his usual 1 per. He was in a rush to leave the stadium but he still signed for everyone that approached him. I’ve picked up some of his signed cards last year from Nick Thiel but I doubt we will pick up much more for our eBay store. His initals can be easily copied and we suspect that there might be counterfits out there.

Brendan Rodgers – I didn’t see him sign for anyone but I imagine he is still 1 per. Last season I was able to obtain several autographs from him with the help of a teammate. I was planning on asking him about his favorite non-profit so that a percentage of the signature can go to charity. Next time I get a chance to speak with him I’ll get that information.

For more minor league player news and graphing information check us out on twitter at @REALMcCOYMINORS. Below is a video of Oscar Gonzalez. He’s an up and coming prospect from the Indians farm system.

MiLB – Never Give Up

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Brandon Mann

Written by Mark Firkins Photo by MiLB.com

Stay positive. Stay focussed. Have a good attitude. Keep your eye on the prize. Don’t quit. When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. Follow your dreams. One more, and the most important, NEVER, give up.

We’ve all been given this type of advice and life lessons from our parents, teachers, or coaches. Let’s face it, most of us have had to alter our life’s plans. We’ve made sacrifices, done what’s best for our families, and convince ourselves to be practical. It’s not a bad thing, it’s just what we need to do. Sometimes dreams don’t come true and life finds a different path for you. However, once in a while, someone with courage and determination so strong, defies the odds and inspires a whole new generation of dreamers. A 34 year old Minor Leaguer who made Major League headlines last week is a prime example of this.

Most of my articles concentrate on rookies or young prospects in their first few years of professional baseball. Yet when inspiration strikes, it strikes hard and the story needs to be shared. Brandon Mann, who after toiling in the minors, Japanese, and Independent Leagues since 2002, finally achieved his dreams of playing Major League Baseball and is the inspiration of my latest article.

Brandon Mann is a left handed pitcher, drafted by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays (yes, you read that correct, Devil Rays) in the 27th round in 2002. A true journeyman in every sense of the word. He has played in order, in the following leagues:

2002 – Appalachian League   

2003 – NY Penn League & Appalachian League

2004 – NY Penn League

2005 – Midwest League

2006 – California League

2008 – Florida State League

2009 – Southern Atlantic League

2010 – Atlantic League (Independent)

2011 – Japan Central League

2012 – Japan Central League

2014 – Atlantic League (Independent)

2015 – American Association (Independent)

2016 – Pacific Coast League, Texas League, & Arizona League

2017 – Texas League

2018 – Pacific Coast League

2018 – American League – MLB

* Note in 2007 and 2013 he did not play professional baseball.

That’s a lot of traveling, in a lot of leagues, with a lot of organizations.

Call him lucky. Call him blessed. Call him persistent. Or as the old joke in baseball goes, what do you call an old righty pitcher? Coach. How about an old lefty pitcher? Crafty. Let’s face it, lefty’s sometimes get picked on, teased, and in years past, were forced to be right handers in school and jobs. But in baseball, they still come at a premium, and if there’s a chance they can help your club, they’re worth taking a look at it. That’s exactly what the Texas Rangers did on January 10, 2018. They offered him a minor league contract and assigned him to the Round Rock Express, their AAA affiliate in the Pacific Coast League.

Brandon Mann has a 15 year resume of minor league pitching and has held every job a pitcher can have; starter, long relief, set up, and occasional closer. Through all of his leagues and travels he owns a 59-91 record. A 4.34 ERA and 1.40 WHIP. He’s recorded 4 saves and has 1052 strikeouts in 1274 innings pitched. Brandon Mann wasn’t even on the Rangers 40 man roster. So why make a roster move and purchase the contract of a 34 year old rookie? Surely the Rangers must have a qualified player, righty or lefty, already on their 40 man capable of relief duties. Rangers manager Jeff Banister said. “The command of his fastball, command of his delivery, secondary stuff, how he was handling hitters, all our scouts felt he was a solid option.”

The baseball Gods have smiled upon Brandon in 2018. In his 12 appearances with Round Rock, he has pitched 17.1 innings, posting a 1-0 record, with 13 strikeouts, a 1.04 ERA, 0.75 WHIP, and has kept opponents batting against him to a .133 AVG. A small sample size in the beginning of this AAA season, but arguably his best start to a season and statistics in his pitching career.

On May 13, 2018, 3 days before his 34th birthday, he got the call that all minor leaguers long to hear. His contract had been selected by the Texas Rangers and he had been called up to pitch in the Major Leagues. He would now share a locker near veteran pitchers Cole Hammels, Doug Fister, and Bartolo Colon. He would join the Rangers bullpen and get prepared for when he was to be called upon. In his first ever Major League game (5/13/18), he was summoned from the bullpen and pitched 1.2 innings of relief. He allowed 1 hit, 0 runs and registered no walks or strikeouts. He put up the the same exact stats in his next appearance on 5/15/18.

What does the future hold for Brandon Mann? No one knows. Baseball is a beautiful game but can also be fickle and cruel. He could spend the rest of the season finding his groove and filling a role with the Rangers in the big leagues. He could be DFA, have to clear waivers, and/or be claimed by and play for yet another team and another league. Whatever it may be, you must know by now that Brandon Mann will face any challenge thrown his way. Work as hard and diligent as possible. Be prepared for whenever he is needed and in whatever situation that may be. And of course, Brandon Mann will never give up.

Please follow Mark Firkins on Twitter @thefirkster for more MLB prospect news and updates!