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SPECIAL FEATURE: Dipping into the independent ranks -- the Brewers' history in the Melvin era


Mass Haas

It's pained us a bit that the Brewers have seemingly slowed down their interest in signing players from the independent ranks in recent months, as all things considered, they have hit on a few nice finds.   Of course, the true success stories are very rare, but the Brewers have trailed only the Padres in their indy league due diligence over the past decade, and we'll try now to document the Brewers' independent league signings during the Doug Melvin era (2003-present).  Each accompanying link points to the players' career pro stats (indy and affiliated) via the always fantastic Baseball Cube.

 

We're hopeful that for you minor league fanatics and Link Report diehards, your memories are tested and you have a few "oh, yeah" moments.  (If only this would qualify as college thesis research...)  You may want to consume this post in bite-size morsels, but you will find interesting stories throughout (keep an eye out for some entertaining Wally Backman video as well -- why Backman?  You'll see). 

 

It really is true that regardless of the length or breadth of a player's pro career, each player is going to be able to pass on stories for generations.  My co-worker is in his 50's now, but played with several big names and future stars during his days in the Expos' chain in the mid-70's.  He never made it above high-A ball, but I enjoy his reminisces as we chat often.  In 2008, as part of a baseball road trip, he visited Jamestown, NY and happened to mention to staff there that he had started his pro career in Jamestown as an 18-year-old, 35 years earlier.  Well, the front office sprang into action and treated him like a celebrity, making an announcement before the crowd and such.  In fact, it was on that 1973 team that he was a teammate of current Brewers' manager Ron Roenicke's brother, Gary, who was the prized first round pick that year.  But I digress...back to the matter at hand, Brewers plucked from the indy league ranks:

 

OK, so the first player listed here was actually Dean Taylor's final signing, but interesting nonetheless.

 

LHP Brian Mazone, signed out of the Northern League after his 2002 season, debuted with high-A High Desert in 2003.  Back then, it was fun to have a West Coast late night option for Link Report audio, as much as the playing conditions (and lack of talent) in High Desert pained the Brewers and their fans.  The Voice of the Mavericks back then was a real character, Mike Lindskog, who embraced Brewerfan and the fans we sent his way with our audio links -- good times.  Mike's still going strong, by the way.  Brian Mazone would start 13 games for High Desert, and went 0-7 with a 9.31 ERA before being released on June 13th.  Oh, was it painful.  But Mazone persevered as you'll see via his linked Cube page, and he has actually gone on to have a really solid, and at times, fantastic, minor league career.  Now 34 years old, he's a guy that would make for a tremendous cover story should he ever see a big league mound.  In fact, he's had one of the more interesting careers of anyone we'll mention here (Mazone's Wikipedia page).  That 2003 High Desert squad, by the way, went 42-98.

 

January 2003 -- OF Chris Cosbey, from the Northeast League to Huntsville; Cosbey was a former A's farmhand, and it appears he may have been the first formal indy league acquisition of the Doug Melvin era.   Cosbey played in 33 games with Huntsville as a 28-year-old reserve, but posted only a .543 OPS in 70 AB's.  Luckily for Cosbey, it seems the Phillies had a need for such an organizational soldier, and the Brewers were able to sell his contract (undoubtedly for huge money) to Philadelphia in June of '03 -- Cosbey would spend the next season and a half in the Phillies' chain, wrapping up his pro career splitting time between high-A and AA.  NOTE:  While we do love the Baseball Cube (a one-man web site, by the way -- you must read how it came about), Chris Cosbey is 5'9", not 6'11" as listed.. 

 

January 2003 -- IF Chas Terni, from the Northern League to Beloit; the Red Sox' 13th round pick in 1997, Terni was 24 years old when he spent the '03 season as the primary shortstop for the Snappers, appearing in 106 games and posting a .612 OPS.  The Connecticut native would return to the indy ranks for four more full seasons before calling it a career, the final three campaigns in his home state.

 

March 2003 -- RHP Bobby Bystrowski, from the Western League to High Desert; technically, this was not a direct acquisition from the independent ranks, as Bystrowski did not play professionally in 2002, but saw action last in the indy ranks in 2000 and 2001.  Bystrowski, you see, was a 7th round pick of the Astros in '97 as an outfielder, but didn't advance past rookie ball after three pro seasons in Houston's chain.  Bystrowski apparently re-invented himself as a hard-throwing pitcher during that year off in 2002, catching the Brewers' eye, and he was assigned to High Desert.  He had a strong first half of the season as the Mavericks' closer, and would be their lone representative in the mid-season California League All-Star Game, but faltered badly in the second half.

 

This is where "the rest of the story" comes in re: Bystrowski.  Here's the post that kicked off a Brewerfan October 2003 transaction thread.  You'll notice that Bystrowski was the first player listed as released.  Either Bystrowski saw the thread or someone brought the post to his attention, and that's how he found out he was released.  We guess Reid Nichols had been able to reach most of the releasees (or all but Bystrowski). A little fuzzy here, but we believe Bystrowski may have even posted in that thread some (rightfully) bitter comment towards the organization, which we may have chosen to delete (unfortunately, in hindsight). The info in that post regarding the releases was copied and pasted from the old archaic minorleaguebaseball.com site.  Buried deep, deep within the site was a transactions page we would check regularly. So we then got an email from Reid Nichols asking us where we had received the information regarding the releases.  We pointed him to where the info was available, and it was as if he had no idea such an online archive existed back then.  That was probably the last time the Brewers posted release information without making sure the player knew he was out the door.

 

April 2003 -- RHP Justin Backsmeyer, from the Frontier League to High Desert; yes, the Mavericks will be a recurring theme for a while here; the Texas Rangers' 1998 10th round pick would spend his age 23 season with the Mavs, making 40 relief appearances covering 69.2 innings.  Backsmeyer went 1-9 with a 6.33 ERA; he was released in spring training 2004, ending his pro career.

 

April 2003 -- RHP Ken Ray, from the Western League to High Desert; Ray, 28 years old at the time of his signing, had been a long-time Royals farmhand who saw action in 13 big league games with Kansas City in 1999 at age 25; Ray was out of baseball in 2001 and pitched for two indy league teams in 2002 -- it doesn't appear as though this 2003 acquisition was a direct purchase from one of his 2002 indy league clubs, but we'll include it here on our master list as part of quite the story.  After seven High Desert appearances, Ray would get bumped to Huntsville for 31 relief appearances the rest of the way, and he was allowed to be a minor league free agent after that '03 season.  Pretty remarkably, Ray would fight his way back to a full big league season with Atlanta in 2006, posting a 4.52 ERA in 69 appearances, even garnering five saves.  Ray would find himself back in the Brewers' organization when Nashville needed fresh arms to conclude their 2007 regular season -- appearing in two games during that final week.  Here's an interesting article about Ray's journey written just prior to the time when he earned his spot on that Braves' 2006 team.  That 2006 season was also Ray's final big league action, and his pro career ended after 2009.  When researching Ray's initial Brewer acquisition, I reminded myself about how diehard some of our Link Reports were back then -- Ray's signing was announced when we typed up High Desert pre-game audio tidbits to kick off the report.  Dedication, my friends...

 

May 2003 -- RHP Tim Bausher, from the Northeast League to Beloit; wow, interesting tale.  Bausher would pitch so well in '03 that he was a surprise addition to the 40-man Milwaukee roster that November.  Our forums included plenty of Bausher discussion at the time, discussing both his injury past and ultra-funky delivery.  When the Brewers needed to free up a 40-man roster spot in June of 2004, he was claimed by the Rockies.  The Red Sox would then claim him from Colorado that December.  Bausher would go on to become a member of the Red Sox big league club in 2005, but not really.  You see, he didn’t even have time to unpack his things. He appeared on the Sox roster for one game and never threw a pitch. He returned to the minors the next day and never made it back to the big leagues, and his career ended in 2007.  So he was even more of a phantom than Moonlight Graham in a sense.  Big league dugout for a day, but no stat line for the Baseball Encyclopedia.  How amazingly tantalizing a story for his legacy to family and friends.  Bausher ironically was traded by Boston to the Reds in August 2006 for future Brewer RHP Mike Burns.

 

June 2003 -- LHP Tommy Marx, from the Frontier League to that lovable 2003 High Desert team; the 6'7" 1998 3rd round pick of the Tigers would appear in 21 games (four starts) with the Mavericks.  His line -- 33 IP, 43 H, 48 R, 45 ER, 12.15 ERA, 49 BB, 21 K, 2.76 WHIP.  Almost needless to say, that was it for Marx' career.  Even with the wind-blown madness that was the California League in 2003, you couldn't make up the numbers for that squad if you tried.

 

June 2003 -- RHP Jon Huizinga, from the Frontier League to Beloit; Huizinga was the first indy signing of the Melvin era who was given the opportunity to make his affiliated debut with the Brewers' organization, as he went undrafted.  23 middling relief appearances for that Beloit squad, then released at the end of spring training 2004.  But here's the cool thing -- it's hard to kill a dream.  Despite yet to make it back to affiliated ball, the now 31-year-old Huizinga has toiled in independent league bullpens to this very day, as his Cube page link indicates.  

 

June 2003 -- OF Doug Jennings, from the Atlantic League to Indianapolis; OK, the first truly "veteran" signing on our list.  Jennings was already 38 years old (yet had appeared in only 189 big league games spread over his long pro career) when Milwaukee pegged him for some AAA coverage.  Jennings posted a .795 OPS in 59 games for the Brewers' organization, and would then spend 2004 and 2005 back in indy ball before finally calling it a career.

 

June 2003 -- C Alex Delgado, from the Atlantic League to Indianapolis; Delgado's lone taste of big league ball came in 1996 with Boston (26 games).  He caught 41 games for Indianapolis to end 2003, and was back to split time in Huntsville and Indianapolis in 2004 as a 33-year-old.  That was the end of his affiliated career, although he played in Mexico for two seasons after that.  Delgado actually played in 122 games as a shortstop early in his pro career.

 

July 2003 -- RHP Jason Shelley, from the Frontier League to Huntsville, a former Pirate farmhand; now this was a Brewer debut!  But first, we link to a nice Baseball America account of his being named their Independent League Player of the Year based on his work just before signing with the Brewers.  There will never be a competitor for the single best game debut by a Brewer independent league signee -- just retire the trophy now.  Do you want a real kick?  Check out the Link Report of Sunday, July 20th, 2003 as to how that incredible Huntsville doubleheader was chronicled here.  Alas, Shelley's Brewer (and affiliated) career ended in late July 2004 when the Brewers released him, although he would go on to pitch through 2007 back in the indy ranks.

 

July 2003 -- RHP Danny Stout, from the Central Association to High Desert; a three-year indy leaguer, Stout would make his affiliated debut with the forlorn Mavericks squad which has highlighted your reading thus far.  His numbers fell victim to the High Desert experience, and his 12 appearances (one start) and 7.07 ERA marked the conclusion of his baseball career.

 

October 2003 -- RHP David Bradley, from the Frontier League to High Desert; a former Reds farmhand, Bradley may have acquitted himself as well as any Brewer starter in their four-year High Desert era outside of Manny Parra. Bradley posted a 4.76 ERA over 30 games (22 starts), and while he spent all of 2004 in high-A, he was awarded a spot as a 27-year-old with Huntsville in 2005, and his work there prompted the Oakland A's to select Bradley in the minor league phase of the winter 2005 Rule 5 draft.  It does not appear that Bradley pitched for the A's or anyone else in 2006, and he actually was re-signed by the Brewers for spring training of 2007 but didn't stick and met his final baseball release at that time.

 

January 2004 -- RHP Greg Modica, from the Frontier League; even diehards will say "who?"  One of the players on our list who never actually suited up in a regular season game for a Brewer affiliate, the former Padre was released in spring training three months after signing.

 

March 2004 --  C Tim Marks, from the Frontier League to Beloit; 2004 would be Marks' only season in affiliated ball, as he appeared in just 35 games and posted a slightly-less-than-stellar .469 OPS in 114 AB's backing up Lou Palmisano behind the dish.  Marks would return to indy ball through the 2007 season.

 

May 2004 -- RHP Clint Weibl, from the Atlantic League to Indianapolis; the long-time Cardinal minor leaguer was 29 years old when he was plucked for the AAA ranks in 2004 and returned when the Brewers made their 2005 debut in Nashville.  Weibl would make 63 appearances (12 starts) over those two seasons, and as was occasionally noted on various Link Reports those seasons, "Weibl may have wobbled but he didn't fall down".

 

May 2004 -- RHP Jeff Farnsworth, from the Atlantic League to Indianapolis; yes, that's Kyle's brother, and Jeff was actually more heralded at draft time, selected in the 2nd round in 1996 by Seattle.  By the time the Brewers rescued him, he was 28 and his 2004 AAA numbers for the Crew were not pretty.  Farnsworth managed to sneak in other AAA stints amidst different indy league gigs after his one Brewer season.  He spent exactly one full season in the big leagues, when he was on Detroit's roster for the entirety of 2002, so at least he has that to look back on.

 

June 2004 -- RHP Jeff Garner, from the Frontier League to the Arizona (Maryvale) Brewers; undrafted out of Central Michigan, Garner's entire affiliated career consisted of the work the Brewers gave him in Maryvale (eight games) and Helena (12 games, one start).  24-year-old rookies rarely get second chances, and Garner was released after the '04 campaign.  He'd return to the indy ranks for one more season.

 

June 2004 -- IF Wandel Campana, from the Northern League to Beloit; Campana, a native Dominican, already had five seasons in the Cincinnati chain under his belt, and had just turned 26 when he joined the Snappers for the end of the 2004 season.  He would be brought back to spend a full season with Brevard County in 2005, but his career ended at that point.

 

June 2004 -- OF Ben Van Iderstine, from the Northern League to High Desert; not only was Van Iderstine (great name) Canadian, but he hailed from Saskatchewan, even better.  It was also cool that this was Van Iderstine's first taste of affiliated ball at age 26.  Van Iderstine would split both the 2004 and 2005 seasons between high-A and AA Huntsville, and while he had some moments, in the end some pedestrian numbers and the age factor led to his release after 2005.  Ben's career ended in 2009 after four more years of independent toil.

 

June 2004 -- OF Jamie Gann, from the Atlantic League to Huntsville; sometimes in midseason you just need to reinforce the ranks of the organizational soldiers, whether it's injuries or other circumstances.  Gann, a veteran of seven seasons in the Diamondbacks' system, appeared in 59 games for the Stars.  Gann had used a year and a half of independent ball to earn the Brewers' call.  He would play in five AA games for Tampa Bay in 2005, but like many others, never saw the big leagues despite a lengthy go of things.

 

July 2004 -- RHP Kevin Rival, from the Frontier League to Beloit; Rival was 24 when given his first affiliated opportunity by the Brewers.  He posted good numbers in 13 Snapper appearances, but was let go after six non-descript games in 2005 with Brevard County.  The Yankees picked him up after his Manatee release, and he finished up that season at low-A for New York.  Back to indy ball for 2006, and that wrapped up Rival's pro stint.

 

July 2004 -- OF / LHP Mark Hamilton, from the Frontier League to High Desert; now this was an interesting player, yes you read correctly, that's OF / LHP Mark Hamilton, or was it LHP / OF?  The Astros' 23rd round pick in 2000 out of TCU, you'll notice at the Baseball Cube link that Hamilton both pitched and played the field throughout his pro career, both in his affiliated and independent league stints.  Check out his 2004 stat lines (both of them) for High Desert, and you'll see that the Brewers signed two contributors with one contract.  Unfortunately, 2004 marked the only year Hamilton was in the Brewers' system, but his efforts led to more late-night fun with Mavericks' audio in those days.

 

August 2004 -- RHP Travis Teeter, from the Northern League to High Desert; yes, a name for the ages, that would have worked well in Nashville, don't you think?  A former Baltimore farmhand, Teeter was another in the long line of sacrificial lambs fed to Mavericks Stadium, and he posted a 7.72 ERA in six appearances (one start) down the stretch in '04.  He was released after the season, and like so many, returned to indy ball for one final season.  Sadly, folks, this concludes the High Desert portion of our show. 

 

November 2004 -- C Kelley Gulledge, from the Northern League; we actually were looking forward to seeing Gulledge play after the former Twins and Rangers prospect posted big indy numbers in 2004 and earned praise from Baseball America.  But the Brewers couldn't find a spot for the 26-year-old in spring training 2005, and he never played in a regular season game for a Brewers affiliate.  Now 31, he continues to plug along in indy ball, although he reached AAA with the Dodgers in 2008.

 

May 2005 -- C Mike Rivera, from the Atlantic League to Nashville; this would definitely qualify as an astute independent league signing of the "veteran in need of rescue" category.  Rivera, a professional since 1997, caught in 15 games with Atlantic City (not listed on the Baseball Cube link but can be found here) when the Brewers came calling.  The AAA roster spot opened when the Crew traded veteran Pat Borders to the Mariners, as Seattle was able to offer Borders a major league opportunity.  Rivera shared AAA backstop duties with the infamous Julio Mosquera in '05, and stuck around to see big league action in Milwaukee in '06, '07, and full seasons as Jason Kendall's understudy in 2008 and 2009.  After spending much of 2010 languishing at AA in the Dodgers' system, Rivera is back in big league Brewer camp with a non-roster invite this spring.

 

June 2005 -- RHP Darwin Soto, from the Northern League to Brevard County; because he signed at 17 with San Diego, Soto already had six plus years of pro experience when the Brewers called on him, although he was still only 23 years old.  Soto was not effective in 17 relief stints for the Manatees in '05, and would end his playing days with two seasons in the indy ranks.

 

June 2005 -- IF Corey D. Hart, from the Atlantic League to Nashville; suddenly as a Brewer, Hart's middle initial (for David) became all too important.  Of course, it would not have been an issue if the big league Corey Hart went by his given first name of Jon.  The longtime Royal farmhand appeared in 54 games with Nashville, and then embarked on a coaching career, courtesy of the Brewers.  Hart would be a hitting coach in the system through 2009, when he then moved on to the Marlins' chain, where he coached at AA Jacksonville in 2010.

 

July 2005 -- LHP Joe Thatcher from the Frontier League to Helena; in just about every way, this was a near-perfect independent league signing, let us list the ways.  This was Thatcher's first taste of affiliated baseball, always more fun to follow with no former "insert team" farmhand attached to his name.  Thatcher was not even a member of 2005's overlooked draft class, as he had completed his Indiana State studies a year prior.  Thatcher was introduced to Brewerfan readers in this innocuous initial post on July 18th, 2005.  Thatcher did his part right away (and he had to at age 24), jumping from rookie ball to high-A Brevard County after just six appearances.  Talk about a numbers crunch -- somehow Thatcher was assigned to A-level West Virginia to begin 2006 and was stuck there for 26 outings before a stellar ascension found him toiling in Nashville at the trade deadline in 2007, from where he was peddled with RHP Will Inman and LHP Steve Garrison for veteran reliever Scott Linebrink.  Seemingly the third piece in that deal, Thatcher has been a very valuable and to this point, inexpensive member of the Padres' pen, posting ridiculously attractive peripheral ratios, as he had since joining the Brewers' organization.  We'll always thank Joe for the reams of fan forum discussion he provided, as some (raising hand here) bemoaned his inclusion in the Linebrink deal ad nauseum from the moment it was announced.  Given the Padres' very active history in signing independent leaguers, it's somewhat fitting Thatcher eventually found his home with San Diego.

 

May 2006 -- RHP Travis Phelps, from the Atlantic League to Huntsville; OK, so some of you are saying, there it is, the first indy league signing of the Melvin era to pitch for the big league Brewers!  Not so fast -- while Phelps pitched in four big league games for the Brewers, those were back in 2004, after he had been signed as a minor league free agent.  This incarnation of Phelps was later in his career.  As he turned 29 in 2006, Phelps made 31 appearances for Huntsville, nine of them starts, posting a 3.54 ERA.  Phelps' affiliated career ended in the Astros' chain in 2007, his pro career after 2009.  All in all, 79 big league appearances, all but those four Brewer games with Tampa Bay.

 

May 2006 -- 1B Graham Koonce, from the Golden League to Nashville; the veteran Koonce had just turned 31 when the Brewers inked him to a deal.  He'd be productive (.875 OPS in 88 games) that season.  Now we've seen cases where the indy league player was signed by the Brewers but never played for a Crew affiliate -- this was a case of a player who was signed out of indy league spring training and never played for them.  Koonce was going to play for the San Diego Surf Dawgs (gotta love that) to be closer to family after asking for his release by the Yankees to get a chance to find a team that would offer him a more substantial playing opportunity. Interestingly, back when he was a young man of 22 and 23, Koonce used the indy ranks as a springboard back to affiliated ball.  It was worth it, if only for the eight major league at-bats he had with Oakland in 2003.  

 

July 2006 -- LHP Kyle Pawelczyk, from the Frontier League to West Virginia; blink and you missed Pawelczyk's three relief appearances for the Power.  He was placed on the DL two weeks into the Brewer portion of his career and released as he attempted to come back in spring training 2007.  Pawelczyk had tossed in the Angel and Padre systems previously, and wrapped things up with two more seasons of (yes) indy ball.  

 

July 2006 -- RHP Brandon Harmsen, from the Northern League to Brevard County; the 2002 6th round pick of the Yankees made ten relief appearances spanning 16.1 innings for the 'Tees, then was a spring training casualty in '07.  Harmsen returned to the same Northern League club from which he was plucked initially, Fargo-Moorhead, to end his pro career that season.  

 

August 2006 -- RHP Luther Hackman, from the Atlantic League to Huntsville; Hackman was 31 years old and had appeared in 149 big league games (nine starts) with the Rockies, Cardinals and Padres when the Brewers picked him up.  Hackman would spend most of the '07 season in Nashville, getting a late release.  That October, he was suspended for 50 minor league games for performance-enhancing drug use and would not pitch state-side again.  Hackman would find success during a couple of postseason runs while pitching in Taiwan in recent years, however.  

 

January 2007 -- INF Jimmy Mojica, from the American Association to West Virginia; here was a signing that piqued the interest of several of us, as the final paragraph in our introductory post was chock-full of glowing descriptive attributes. Mojica went from Kansas City Community College to his pro debut at age 22, and he would be 23 when he began his Brewer career in a system seemingly always in need of athletic middle-infield types.  Mojica's debut Brewer numbers matched his indy ball stats right down to the exact OPS, but he wasn't an everyday player with the Power, nor at Brevard County the following season.  He would be released in August of 2008.  Jack Zduriencik would pick up Mojica for 75 AA Mariner system at-bats in 2009, but a now 27-year-old Mojica played a full season of indy ball back in the Kansas City area last year.  

 

January 2007 --  RHP Mark DiFelice, from the Atlantic League to Huntsville; OK, was it C.C. Sabathia who netted the Brewers' 2008 wild card berth, or this unheralded signing who would make some key relief appearances that September?  Most Brewer fans are familiar with DiFelice's wonderful story of perseverence and his 82-MPH cutter, our favorite version on the tale being this one from Yahoo's Jeff Passan in May 2009.  We all can thank Mark for introducing us to the term ROOGY, as Fangraphs deliciously pointed out here.  It's hard not to root for DiFelice's return from sholuder surgery when he'll be at big league camp as a non-roster invitee this spring.  When you consider return of value for indy league pickup investment, certainly DiFelice's signing ranks up there with the Mike Rivera and Joe Thatcher acquisitions.  It's hard to hit a home run with this type of signing, but let's consider DiFelice a very solid ground-rule double at minimum.  You rock, Mark!  

 

January 2007 -- LHP Luis Villarreal, from the Northern League to Huntsville; kudos went out to this Texas native and 2002 20th round Red Sox draft pick because he was coming off three full seasons of independent league ball before he was signed by the Crew.  Although he was almost exclusively a starter during his first five years of pro ball (remember, indy ball is pro ball, affiliated or not), Villarreal was used solely in short middle relief during his brief Brewer tenure, made up of 14 games in Huntsville and Nashville combined.  Released in May of 2007, Villarreal subsequently saw brief stints in the Phillie and Mariner (Jack Z.) systems, along with a Mexican League visit and more indy ball.  His pro career apparently ended after the 2009 season.  

 

January 2007 -- RHP E.J. Shanks, from the Golden League to West Virginia; Shanks spent one year in the Padre system (29th round, 2004) before making his way to independent ball and a conversion to a submarine style that brought the 6'5" righty some success in a relief role.  Shanks saved 19 games at two levels for the Brewers in '07, but was demoted from Huntsville to Brevard County in May of 2008, from where he closed out the season prior to his November '08 release.  A worthwhile gamble, and not many of these indy league signees can say they spent two full years in the Brewers system upon arrival.  Shanks was also part of the answer to one of the more entertaining Brewer farmhand trivia questions we've asked over the years, when it seemed like you had to be known via your initials to don a Brewer minor league uniform.  

 

February 2007 -- LHP Lindsay Gulin, from the American Association to Nashville; Gulin's 16-year professional journey never did end in a regular season major league uniform, not even for a day.  Too bad.  Gulin was 30 years old when Milwaukee came calling, and a drop in level from Nashville to Huntsville early in that first Brewer season didn't deter Gulin, who had already taken his 83-MPH fastball for stints overseas when his spring training big league camp invite with Seattle was detailed in this 2006 article.  Gulin was a stalwart in the Nashville rotation in 2008 and 2009, making 53 appearances (47 starts).  If things had timed out better and he was toiling for the 106-loss 2002 Brewers AAA squad, he probable would have seen big league action, as his '08 Pacific Coast League numbers in particular were strong.  A never-say-die Gulin went to China in 2010 and played in the Chinese Professional Baseball League, a stay of only six games, and it appears, a professional career finally complete.  Should you ever see this, Lindsay, hope you're doing well, kudos to you, sir.  

 

February 2007 -- OF Mel Stocker, from the Atlantic League to Huntsville; OK, so perhaps one of the least likely big league call-ups in Brewer history, but one career leg (pun intended) that can never be taken away from Mr. Stocker.  After five years in the Royals' system, Stocker spent all of 2006 in the Atlantic League.  Stocker would play in 112 games with the Stars in 2007, mainly as a 4th outfielder, but one stat stood out -- 35 steals in 41 attempts.  Mel (actually it's Myreon Romel -- we'd go with Mel also) would be successful in all four of his big league steal attempts as the Brewers' 2007 late run came up short of postseason play.  Although he did not get a hit, Stocker did sneak in three big league at-bats as well.  Stocker began 2009 in Nashville (no longer on the Brewers' 40-man roster) and found himself transferred all the way down to Brevard County in late July, signaling the end of his Brewer career.  The Mariners offered an opportunity in 2009 at the AA level (recurring Jack Z. alert), but that marked the end of Stocker's pro run.  If any of the info in this lengthy piece ever ends up as barroom trivia, you'll probably win a cold one working Mel's name into the mix somehow.

 

May 2007 -- RHP Jared Sutton, from the South Coast League to West Virginia; Sutton went undrafted coming out of UNC-Wilmington in 2006 and via a tryout in '07, found his way onto the South Georgia Peanuts in the fledgling (and now defunct) South Coast League.  After just three impressive relief appearances for the Peanuts, Sutton was suiting up for the Power where he posted decent enough numbers to be brought back for 2008, but he was released that May.  While his Brewer career was rather non-descript, we can thank a film project, cleverly titled "Playing for Peanuts", which captured the enigmatic South Georgia manager, Wally Backman, who at the time was two years removed from the firestorm his legal problems caused when he was named the Arizona Diamondbacks' manager (for four November days).  This job was Backman's re-entrance into baseball, and the film crew captured the NSFW

("now get your 'bleep' and get outta here") and a second brief NSFW video in which
.  Classic Backman, and a nice addition to our history lesson here -- after missing 2009, Sutton was back pitching in indy ball last summer.

 

July 2007 -- RHP Mike Marksbury, from the Frontier League to Brevard County; Marksbury toiled in the Frontier League as a reliever for three and a half years when the Brewers gave him his first chance in affiliated ball at age 25 (he was drafted in the 50th round by Colorado back in 2001 but did not sign, so this opportunity came a full six years later).  Marksbury was 2-0 with the Manatees in 13 games but posted a 9.88 ERA in his 13.2 innings.  He was released at season's end, and made four appearances back with Rockford of the FL in '08 to cap his pro career.  

 

July 2007 -- LHP Rusty Tucker, from the Can-Am League to Brevard County; Tucker was on a very productive career path in the Padres' organization when elbow surgery sidelined him in 2004 and set him back.  Tucker would split the '05-'06 seasons at the AA levels of San Diego, the White Sox, and Boston before he was forced to settle for his independent league gig to begin 2007.  The southpaw would make twelve Manatee relief efforts and six in Huntsville the following April when he was released at age 27.  Like so many listed here, Tucker returned to the independent league squad from whence he was signed (rights are retained if the indy club is still interested), and appears to have wrapped things up at the end of 2009.  

 

August 2007 -- RHP Franklin Nunez, from the Atlantic League to Nashville; if you don't remember the Franklin Nunez Brewer regime, don't feel bad, as it consisted of just two relief appearances (one save) in the final week of the '07 Sounds campaign.  Nunez, a former big leaguer with the Devil Rays (13 games), was released by Milwaukee in spring training '08 at age 31.  He pitched professionally through 2009.

 

September 2007 -- RHP Dane De La Rosa, from the Golden League to Helena; this one bears watching.  The 6'6" reliever was signed at age 24 just in time to appear in one regular season game with Helena, although he would pitch again in their playoff elimination game a few days after, a game that won't show up on the linked stats here.  De La Rosa would be released in spring training a few months later.  De La Rosa might have a bit of John Axford in him, in that he was a former tall, lanky Yankee farmhand released early in his pro career.  De La Rosa would return to the independent leagues for all of 2008 and 2009, but was rewarded with a full season in Tampa Bay's system in 2010.  Not just that, he impressed enough that he was added to the Rays' 40-man roster last fall and has a shot at being part of their revamped big league bullpen this spring.  In case you're wondering, John Axford never formally signed with an independent league team best we can tell, and thus isn't on our master list here.  

 

September 2007 -- C Brian Munhall, from the Northern League to Nashville; you won't see any Brewer-based stats for Munhall, who was obtained specifically to fill a gap in the catching ranks at AAA during the Sounds' postseason run.  The former undrafted free agent (2002) spent five seasons in the Giants' system, and was 27 when he joined Nashville.  He was in spring training with the Brewers in 2008, but was released at that point, going on to wrap up his pro career later that summer with one more stint of indy ball.  If we ever pen a companion piece to this, it would probably be a history of undrafted free agent pickups by the Brewers in the Melvin era -- players who made their professional debuts in the Crew's system (no indy ball ties); it's not an easy way to get to the big leagues, that's for sure.

 

January 2008 -- RHP Reed Dickert, from the Golden League to Brevard County; Dickert pitched at Oklahoma City University, an NAIA school, but was undrafted and after two years of independent league work, found his first affiliated home with the Brewers at age 23 (24 that June) with the Manatees.  After one outing for Brevard County, he was placed on the DL and upon his return three weeks later, he was assigned to a lower level with West Virginia, with whom he would remain for the '08 season, sporting strong numbers but at an advanced age for the league.  Released in spring training of 2009 (another theme -- tough sticking around for multiple seasons), Dickert returned to indy ball where he has made 45 appearances (26 starts) the past two seasons, waiting for another affiliated opportunity.  

 

January 2008 -- RHP Thomas Atlee, from the American Association to Huntsville; Atlee had been a longtime Cub farmhand, drafted in the 19th round in 2002; in 39.1 indy ball innings in 2007, Atlee fanned 58, and caught the Brewers' eye at a subsequent tryout camp at age 28.  He began the '08 campaign on Huntsville's roster, but before he could appear in a regular season game, was placed on the disabled list with a shoulder problem.  Less than a month after that and still not on the active roster, he was released after an off-field legal transgression.  Since we never learned the results of any legal finding, we won't comment further re: that.  Atlee did return to indy ball later in 2008, making 20 appearances, including his first 12 professional starts. That ended his pro career. Atlee remains an official Brewer farmhand in name only, not statistically.

 

February 2008 -- OF Curt Miaso, from the United League; after we had done all this work to let you know about Miaso's background that February, the Brewers decided to release Miaso in mid-May before he could suit up for a short-season team in Helena or Maryvale.  He never played for the full-season West Virginia Power, either, making him another phantom Brewer farmhand, but thanks to Brewerfan, never forgotten.  The former Phillie farmhand (non-phantom) saw his pro career end after more indy ball time through 2009.

 

June 2008 -- LHP Troy Cate, from the Golden League to Huntsville; Cate was 27 when the Brewers acquired him; originally a Mariner 6th round pick in 2002, Cate had managed to make his way to the big leagues with St. Louis for 14 decent relief appearances in 2007.  But after a slow start at AAA for Oakland in '08, he was let go by the A's and found himself making three ultra-impressive indy league appearances.  That was enough to catch the Brewers' attention at a time of need.  Originally expected to report to Nashville, Cate first made four starts with Huntsville then split bullpen and starting assignments with Nashville to complete the season.  Cate, now 30, has pitched exclusively within the indy ranks the past two seasons, no doubt relishing those 14 big league mound visits and hoping to get back for more.  The Nashville site to this day does an amazing job with their audio archives, and you can still pull up pre-game interviews such as this July 30th, 2008 one with Cate (go to that date on the linked page). 

 

July 2008 --  LHP Derrick Ellison, from the Atlantic League to Brevard County; wow, would this one have been sweet to come to fruition; Ellison began his independent league career back in 2001!  He had a brief taste of affiliated ball with the Mariners in 2005, otherwise it was all indy, all the time. Ellison made 30 relief appearances spanning the 2008-09 seasons with Brevard County and Huntsville, before his release in June '09.  He was able to hook up with the Mets' system for the rest of that season and 2010 (even reaching AAA in 2009), but is currently a minor league free agent.  These two articles provide additional background on his journeys and mindset.

 

August 2008 -- OF Brent Krause, from the American Association to Huntsville; Krause was yet another player with a lengthy independent league resume when he was brought on board to help the Stars complete the '08 season as a corner outfielder, going 3-for-8 with two RBI.  Krause's only other affiliated gig was made up of 39 games at high-A for the Orioles in 2007 at age 25.  Krause was at Brewer spring training in '09, and in nearly every box score update we saw from the minor league spring training games, was driving in bunches of runs.  However, the Brewers decided there wasn't a spot for Krause, and he was released at the end of camp.  He played a full season for the St. Paul Saints in 2010, the same team from which the Brewers signed him.

 

December 2008 -- RHP Brian Reith, from the Atlantic League; Reith was 30 years old at the time of the signing of this winter conract; he had made 73 big league appearances (nine starts) with Cincinnati, the most recent stint in 2004, however.  Reith spent the 2006 season in Taiwan and the Brewers signed him after he impressed in the Mexican Winter League.  He didn't make Nashville's squad coming out of spring training, and never formally pitched for a Brewer affiliate.  His pro career apparently ended after indy time in 2009.

 

April 2009 -- C Patrick Arlis, from the Golden League to Nashville; Arlis spent portions of six seasons in the Marlins' chain after being an 11th round pick in 2002.  For the past two full seasons, he has served as a backup catcher (sometimes even 3rd or 4th catcher) on either the Nashville or Huntsville roster, with several inactive list stints sprinkled in when roster crunches warranted.  In fact, Arlis has appeared in only 55 games during those two seasons, yet remains Brewer property to this day.  Arlis indicated he'll have an interest in coaching down the road in his June 8th, 2010 Nashville audio interview.  He turned 30 last December.

 

July 2009 -- LHP Donald Brandt, from the Golden League to Helena; just the three letters LHP make these signings more interesting.  After Tommy John surgery as a young man, and then a college career at Santa Clara, Brandt was able to make eight appearances (two starts) with the H-Crew in 2009, but was released in spring training of 2010.  What is much more remarkable is what Brandt was able to accomplish in 2010 back in independent ball -- yikes!  Yet as of this writing, not yet back in affiliated ball for 2011.

 

July 2009 -- RHP Brandon Kintzler, from the American Association to Huntsville; and after a bit of a dry spell, we've found another success story!  Brandon Kintzler's tale has been well-documented, including follow-up from the Arizona Fall League last November.  For all your Kintzler background, review those two links (along with his pre-game interview with Cory Provus), and while we can expect Kintzler to most likely begin 2010 in Nashville, it's likely he'll be called upon at some point to contribute to the 2011 championship season. Yee-hah!

 

August 2009 -- RHP Tom Wilhelmsen, from the Golden League; do you have time for this adventure?  How about six years?  That was the gap between Wilhelmsen's 2003 Beloit stint in the Brewers' chain and his 2009 re-emergence in independent ball.  As for this particular re-acquisition by the Brewers, Wilhelmsen was signed on or around August 6th and was let go on August 29th without throwing an official game pitch.  But like Dane De La Rosa, a player we discussed earlier, Wilhelmsen now finds himself on a 40-man roster (with the Mariners).  We've documented Tom's tale numerous times here at Brewerfan (we'll link to this November 2010 Seattle Times story now), to fill in any newcomers here.  Compare Tom's picture in that article to his sunshiney face on his original Brewerfan Player Index Page.  Fully expect the newly-mature Wilhelmsen to sneak to the big leagues with the Mariners this season and have multiple media members focus on his pretty incredible story once more.

 

August 2009 -- OF Jon Knott, from the Atlantic League to Nashville; the minor league vet had big league cups of coffee with San Diego in 2004 and 2006, and Baltimore in 2007.  An example of "we need to fill in for a week after September call-ups", Knott's one hit in nine AB's for the Sounds was a HR, and that appears to have been his last hit as a professional.  

 

August 2009 -- OF Tike Redman, from the Atlantic League to Nashville; Redman (real name Julian Jawann Redman) saw more extensive time than the just-mentioned Jon Knott down the stretch for Nashville (15 games, 55 AB's), and unlike Knott, was invited to 2010 spring training, where he was a late cut.  The veteran of 1370 big league AB's (most with Pittsburgh, some Baltimore) continued his career at age 33 last season, splitting time between the Mexican Summer League and Bridgeport of the independent Atlantic League.

 

December 2009 -- IF Anderson Machado, from the Atlantic League to Huntsville; Machado was only 18 when he began his pro career with the Phillies in 1999.  The Venezuelan native has not seen big league time since 2005 with Cincinnati and Colorado, but the Brewers quickly re-signed him after the 2010 season, a season in which he was a complementary middle infielder for AA Huntsville, playing in 99 games (.727 OPS).  We'll see if he finds a home in Nashville for 2011.  The Brewers must have liked both his attitude and ability to return such a vet, somewhat in the Erick Almonte vein.

 

February 2010 -- C Brent Dean, from the American Association to Helena; while not directly acquired (purchased) from an independent league team, Dean's only pro experience before signing with Milwaukee was appearing in six games with the Sioux City (Iowa) Explorers in 2009.  Dean turned 24 years old during his Helena season (44 games) and will hope to serve as a member of the Brewers' catching corps somewhere in full-season ball this coming season.

 

May 2010 -- OF Drew Anderson, from the American Association to Nashville; Milwaukee's 24th round pick in 2003, Anderson reached his holy grail as a big league Brewer with nine AB's (and that one "you-can't take-that-away-from-me" hit) in 2006.  After spending 2008 at AAA in the Reds' system (Cincinnati had claimed him off waivers), Anderson returned to the Crew in 2009.    He had just signed an independent league deal with the infamous St. Paul Saints in May 2010, but had not played in a game, when the Brewers brought him back once more.  What began in Nashville ended with an extended Huntsville run, and at season's end, Anderson retired to become the Brewers' upper midwest (Nebraska, Kansas, Minnesota and the Dakotas) amateur area scout, where he may prove to be of more value to the organization in the long run when he uncovers a future Brewer superstar.  And that's no slight to his contributions over the years.  Congratulations, Drew!

 

June 2010 -- LHP Sam Narron, from the Atlantic League to Nashville; Narron's one-and-only big league appearance to date was a two-inning start for the Texas Rangers back in 2004 at age 22.  The Brewers would claim him off waivers in September of that year, and except for his foray into independent ball last spring (seven starts), Narron's been a Brewer mainstay ever since, and that includes this spring, as he was asked back for 2011.  The Brewers seem to love plugging in crafty veteran southpaws into their Nashville rotations, so Narron certainly qualifies.  This year he'll face more competition, as the Brewers are ready to finally graduate hard-throwing home-grown hurlers to the AAA level.  

 

June 2010 -- C Dayton Buller, from the Atlantic League to Huntsville; the long-time Giants' farmhand was released by the Rockies early in 2010, played two series in the Atlantic League, and then found himself on the way to Huntsville, where he played in 50 games last season.  Buller, who will be 30 years old in June, was invited back to compete for a job in the system this spring training. 

 

June 2010 -- RHP Darren Byrd, from the Northern League to Brevard County; drafted by the Phillies in the 18th round in 2005 out of a Florida high school, Byrd was released after the 2009 season. Returning to familiar ground in the Florida State League with Brevard, Byrd pitched in 13 games (11 starts) for the Manatees, posting a 4.18 ERA.  Although just 24, Byrd sought out a winter league spot , and landed in Puerto Rico where he acquitted himself well (seven games, six starts, one poor outing skewing his numbers).  Byrd is back competing for a spot in 2011, but he'll need to lift his K ratio as his right-handedness won't allow him to maintain his career pace at higher levels.

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So there you have it. Hope you enjoyed the review.

 

Please feel free to bring any corrections or omissions to our attention.

 

Sixty-five players profiled -- five made Brewer big-league contributions of some sort after their independent league acquisition, either in trade value (Joe Thatcher) or via playing time (Mike Rivera, Mark DiFelice, Mel Stocker, and Brandon Kintzler).

 

Five of 65 represents a 7.7% success ratio. All worth it? Sure, what's the price? Not much...but many stories learned along the way, about so many easy-to-root-for ballplayers.

 

Although we titled this during the "Melvin" era, we fully realize it was the combined efforts of many Brewer amateur and professional scouts who unearthed the players you've learned about here.

 

And we'll remind you to always keep an eye on our Brewerfan transaction updates, so you can say you were in on the ground floor when the next underdog makes it to Miller Park.

 

Thanks for reading,

Jim

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Not much there, when said and done. If you tell your scouts to look for live arms and speed, they would not have missed a single big leaguer that's appeared in MIL.

 

It's also stunning how rarely the draft fails to find the top prospects, or that affiliates find them if they have the ability.

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Was Rushford before Melvin?

Jim Rushford (career stats) was signed after his 2000 indy season by Dean Taylor's staff. Those 77 AB's on that hideous 2002 Brewer team weren't pretty, but Rushford (first taste of affiliated ball at age 27) was so easy to root for and certainly a source for discussion and celebration in the initial days of Brewerfan. Lisa Winston's 2001 USA Today feature is still available online -- Rushford's pizza-delivery guy story is still one for the ages. Right through to the end of his affiliated playing days in the Phillies' system in 2007, there are numerous references on team message boards to Jim being among the most fan-friendly players. Classy and humble guy.

 

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Was Rushford before Melvin?

Jim Rushford (career stats) was signed after his 2000 indy season by Dean Taylor's staff. Those 77 AB's on that hideous 2002 Brewer team weren't pretty, but Rushford (first taste of affiliated ball at age 27) was so easy to root for and certainly a source for discussion and celebration in the initial days of Brewerfan. Lisa Winston's 2001 USA Today feature is still available online -- Rushford's pizza-delivery guy story is still one for the ages. Right through to the end of his affiliated playing days in the Phillies' system in 2007, there are numerous references on team message boards to Jim being among the most fan-friendly players. Classy and humble guy.

 

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If you ever get a chance to attend indy league baseball I suggest you do. There are teams as close to Milwaukee at the Lake County Fielders, just across the Illinois Border and the Schaumburg Flyers, both of whom have changed leagues for 2011.

 

You see a wide variety of players, from one time major leaguers, to guys signed out of local semi pro leagues. Most guys have some affiliated experience though usually up to high A and AA. In 2009, I saw 44 year old former NL all star Felix Jose, who was DHing for Schaumburg and even at that advanced age and out of shape, he could still rake. That same night, former Brewer farmhand Travis Ezi homered for Schaumburg, then was released the next day.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Added one to the record-keeping in the initial post:

 

February 2010 -- C Brent Dean, from the American Association to Helena; while not directly acquired (purchased) from an independent league team, Dean's only pro experience before signing with Milwaukee was appearing in six games with the Sioux City (Iowa) Explorers in 2009. Dean turned 24 years old during his Helena season (44 games) and will hope to serve as a member of the Brewers' catching corps somewhere in full-season ball this coming season.

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  • 4 months later...

September 2007 -- RHP Dane De La Rosa, from the Golden League to Helena; this one bears watching. The 6'6" reliever was signed at age 24 just in time to appear in one regular season game with Helena, although he would pitch again in their playoff elimination game a few days after, a game that won't show up on the linked stats here. De La Rosa would be released in spring training a few months later. De La Rosa might have a bit of John Axford in him, in that he was a former tall, lanky Yankee farmhand released early in his pro career. De La Rosa would return to the independent leagues for all of 2008 and 2009, but was rewarded with a full season in Tampa Bay's system in 2010. Not just that, he impressed enough that he was added to the Rays' 40-man roster last fall and has a shot at being part of their revamped big league bullpen this spring. In case you're wondering, John Axford never formally signed with an independent league team best we can tell, and thus isn't on our master list here.

 

***

 

Congrats to Dane De La Rosa (stats), called up to the big league Tampa Bay Rays today (the same day better-known Steve Garrison gets his big league call-up to the Yankees).

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  • 1 year later...
May 2003 -- RHP Tim Bausher, from the Northeast League to Beloit; wow, interesting tale.  Bausher would pitch so well in '03 that he was a surprise addition to the 40-man Milwaukee roster that November.  Our forums included plenty of Bausher discussion at the time, discussing both his injury past and ultra-funky delivery.  When the Brewers needed to free up a 40-man roster spot in June of 2004, he was claimed by the Rockies.  The Red Sox would then claim him from Colorado that December.  Bausher would go on to become a member of the Red Sox big league club in 2005, but not really.  You see, he didn’t even have time to unpack his things. He appeared on the Sox roster for one game and never threw a pitch. He returned to the minors the next day and never made it back to the big leagues, and his career ended in 2007.  So he was even more of a phantom than Moonlight Graham in a sense.  Big league dugout for a day, but no stat line for the Baseball Encyclopedia.  How amazingly tantalizing a story for his legacy to family and friends.  Bausher ironically was traded by Boston to the Reds in August 2006 for future Brewer RHP Mike Burns.

 

Many of you have read this week about the story of Adam Greenberg, who will get an at-bat to help make up for an "invisible" baseball career. While the prior Greenberg first-pitch beaning is indeed unfortunate (I shy away from the term "tragic" here), Tim Bausher's story is one for the record as well, and I wonder how many other called-up players never appeared in a game.

 

Currently Brewers RHP Cody Scarpetta, rehabbing from spring Tommy John surgery, is in this category as well (called up for a single day, July 9th, 2011, did not appear in the game).

 

Scarpetta, on the Brewers' 40-man but out of options for 2013 (unless a 5th option year is somehow granted, he was already granted a 4th), will be an interesting name next spring. Jack Z. would likely swoop in on a waiver claim, among other clubs.

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  • 1 month later...

Just bumping this because as a year-long follower of the independent league transaction wires, it's been frustrating to see Baltimore and Arizona sign multiple players this past week, and for many teams to have been plucking players since the Brewers last did, back on August 11, 2011 with RHP Mark Williams, the now 23-year-old who had a nice year with Wisconsin.

 

The Brandon Kintzler success story, they liked Darren Byrd enough to keep him from minor league free agency this fall, we all love LHP Alan Williams' potential -- just hopeful the Brewers haven't abandoned this source of talent, all-be-it longshot talent. It's by far the longest stretch of months the club has gone without in the Melvin era, placing faith in their own kids, or just not seeing what they feel worthwhile in the indy ranks.

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  • 1 month later...

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