AL Wild Card teams, A’s and Royals, represent two stories in roster construction

(AP Photo)

(AP Photo)

By Sam Dykstra /

After 162 games of regular season play, they’re both here for one game. The Royals (89-73) and A’s (88-74) will duke it out Tuesday night in the American League Wild Card game to determine who will get to play the Angels in the best-of-5 ALDS, starting Thursday. As such, both teams released their 25-man rosters for Tuesday’s winner-take-all contest, and giving them a side-by-side look provides us with contrasting ways that a successful Major League roster can be constructed.

Before we delve into this, here’s a necessary caveat. These are not your normal 25-man rosters nor are they the group of 25 players that either team would take into the Division Series. They’re designed for a one-game playoff. So you’ll see no Sonny Gray or Jeff Samardzija for the A’s because they’re not going to let two pitchers who started over the weekend take up a roster spot they wouldn’t use anyways. (On the flip side, the Royals have kept starters Danny Duffy, Yordano Ventura and Jeremy Guthrie on their roster with the idea that they would be better options out of the bullpen than some of the usual relievers, like Aaron Crow.) Instead, you’ll see a lot more position players as both sides try to take advantage of pinch-hitting and pinch-running opportunities to maximize every out in a do-or-die game.

That being said, these rosters may have been formed Tuesday, but they weren’t constructed the same day. Years of adding and subtracting helped create two groups of 25 players, and that tinkering, for the most part, has obviously been somewhat successful, considering they’re each 12 wins away from a World Series title. Here’s why the A’s and Royals are so interesting, too — they represent two completely different ways organizations can create their rosters. (more…)

Five rookies who could be October difference makers

By Jake Seiner /

St. Louis’ Michael Wacha was just more than a year removed from being drafted when he picked up last year’s National League Championship Series MVP. Boston’s Xander Bogaerts had barely even played in the regular season before hitting .296 with an .893 OPS in 12 postseason games. There isn’t much evidence that postseason experience is crucial to winning the Commissioner’s Trophy. Actually, the evidence, if anything, points in the opposite direction.

In the postseason, heroes are created just as much by opportunity as résumé. With that in mind, here are five 2014 rookies who could figure heavily into this October’s results:

Jae C. Hong/AP

Jae C. Hong/AP

RHP Matt Shoemaker, Los Angeles Angels

The only question with Shoemaker right now is health. The right-hander could be the Angels’ No. 3 starter in the postseason but will have to prove he’s recovered from an oblique injury if he’s going to fill that role beginning in the Division Series. The 28-year-old has been outstanding in the rotation, posting a 2.89 ERA in 20 starts this season. Shoemaker finished second among MLB rookies (minimum 100 innings) in strikeout-to-walk ratio with a 5.17 mark, trailing only the Yankees’ Masahiro Tanaka. The word on Shoemaker’s health from Anaheim is promising — he threw a bullpen on Sunday and told the L.A. Times he “felt great” — and it’s likely Shoemaker will start at least one game in the ALDS. (more…)

Organization All-Stars Odds & Ends: D-backs

Jamie Harms/

Jamie Harms/

By Sam Dykstra /

The D-backs Organization All-Stars dropped today on, but there’s more where that came from. Here are some other players who just missed the cut from that list as well as more quotes and tidbits from Arizona director of player development Mike Bell.


Shortstop — Nick Ahmed, Reno (104 games), Arizona (24 games): This was by far the toughest cut from the original list of Organizational All-Stars because you could certainly make a case that Ahmed deserved to be the shortstop. The 24-year-old has long been considered a plus defender — he received 60 grades on both his glove and arm from — but he flashed some potential at the plate too this season. Ahmed set career highs in all three slash line categories (.312/.373/.425) and added four homers, four triples, 26 doubles, 47 RBIs and 14 steals during his first trip to Triple-A ball. He earned promotions to the bigs and Bell believed that production was simply a carry-over from the 2013 season, when Ahmed slashed .286/.327/.403 in the second half for Mobile after putting up a .173/.241/.224 line in the first half.

“I think he turned a corner in Mobile last year, and he just carried that along with him,” said Bell. “As for his defense, it’s a special glove. The plays he makes nightly, it’s hard to imagine guys making these plays as often as he does. It’s unbelievable. There are a lot of great shortstops in the game and I’m not saying he could be the best ever, but he’s just a great shortstop that makes great plays. All around, he’s a winning player. I watched him in the playoffs, and he wanted every ball hit to him. He wanted to be up to bat in every key situation. That’s who he is.”   (more…)

Minoring in Twitter: Minor Leaguers say goodbye to Jeter

By Danny Wild /

Derek Jeter (Danny Wild) (1)

In case you haven’t heard, Yankees captain Derek Jeter will play his final game in Boston this weekend, ending a 20-year career, one that, among other things, has inspired a countless number of current players in the Minors who grew up watching the Yankees shortstop. Jeter, who burst onto the Major League scene full-time in 1996, was drafted in 1992 and appeared in 462 Minor League games, beginning with the Gulf Coast League Yankees in ’92.

So many current Minor Leaguers and young Major Leaguers list Derek Jeter as their favorite player growing up, so you can imagine that his farewell was the talk of Twitter this week.



Checking up on the September callups

By Sam Dykstra /

Before the start of this month, the Minor League scene was in a tizzy over which top prospects would get the call to the Majors when rosters were allowed to expand to include those on 40-man rosters. On Sept. 1, we got our answers, and with one week left in the Major League season, it’s about time to check in on how those former Minor Leaguers have done at the game’s highest level.

(Gus Ruelas/AP)

(Gus Ruelas/AP)

Joc Pederson, Dodgers OF: To those expecting the PCL’s 30/30 man to carry his Triple-A momentum to the Majors immediately, you were obviously disappointed (and perhaps a little delusional). Pederson is 3-for-20 (.150) with nine strikeouts in 29 plate appearances since joining the Dodgers on the first of the month. All three of his hits have been singles. As such, the 22-year-old slugger hasn’t been able to force his way into an already crowded Dodgers outfield. His three starts each came in the first six days of the month, and ever since he’s served as late-game pinch-hitter/runner and defensive replacement. It can be tough to get into a groove when you’re getting only one at-bat here and there. If that’s not enough to make a Pederson fan to feel better, there’s additional solace in the fact that he has walked eight times, meaning his 31 percent walk rate in the Majors is better than the impressive 27 percent rate he put up at Triple-A Albuquerque. (more…)

Minoring in Twitter: Battling boredom with shaving, baby care and TV marathons

By Danny Wild /

Life becomes decidedly less exciting once the offseason comes around. That’s probably not good news for this blog, since we’re less than a week into the offseason and Minor Leaguers seem to be dragging themselves through an empty reality of nothingness, at least on Twitter anyway. How sad is this:

Where once we were getting inning-ending strikeouts and double-play balls, now we’re flipping through HGTV Magazine in a dentist’s waiting room:

Wade Wass, a catcher with the Angels at Rookie-level Orem, built his day around shaving:


Mets pitcher Greg Peavey, who I spoke to just last week after a big win, is now on daddy duty:

Babysitting sleeping dogs and a tiny stuffed raccoon:

Bragging, to no one in particular, about your video game skills:

Memphis’ John Gast is cooking dinner with a Home Depot box and a PVC pipe. What could go wrong?

And we’ve all been here, huh? SVU binge on USA/TNT. You’ll never go jogging through Central Park again:

Some are just mindlessly watching SportsCenter…

This was not tweeted by a Minor Leaguer, but I think it’s relevant enough to show here: Julian Edelman, noted New England Patriots wide receiver and friend of the dreamy and noted Yankees fan Tom Brady, wearing a Richmond Flying Squirrels cap:

So why, you ask, was Julian Edelman wearing an Eastern League team’s hat? Fair question. Edelmen grew up in Redwood City, California, and went to Kent State in Ohio, but he claims his favorite nickname given to him by teammates is “The Squirrel.” “Guys call me ‘Squirrel’ because one time on the sideline I was yelling, ‘Don’t let me get squirrely out there,'” Edelman said.

Good story, right?

I think we all want more details on this — what happens when you work out after eating spicy Mexican cuisine?

Justin Johnson wants you to know, he’s at PF Chang’s. Fun Fact: PF Chang’s also owns Pei Wei.

Old Chinese food, as opposed to fresh Chinese food from PF Chang’s:

Gatorade’s new commercial/tribute/short film on Derek Jeter’s totally unscripted (wink, wink) but still genuinely awesome goodbye to Yankees fans is making the rounds on the Internet this week, and since 74 percent of Minor Leaguers list Jeter as their favorite player growing up (I made that up, but it’s probably not that far off), it’s been big on Twitter:

Steve Brault plays in the Orioles system but has remained a Padres fan:

Giants prospect Mac Williamson with a new haircut:

California League champion right here:

Cody Decker, sources say, is actually the guy who writes all those facts under Snapple caps:

Cargo shorts!

Baltimore’s Christian Walker doubled in his Major League debut on Sept. 17, and if he keeps it up, he’ll find himself ineligible to be featured in Minoring in Twitter:

Also Boston’s Bryce Brentz, who survived a rough offseason last year, made his big league debut after helping Pawtucket claim the Governors’ Cup:

I thought the same thing when I saw the trailer for Liam Neeson’s new movie — although it seems like most of the new suspense/action movies now have identical plots (November Man, The Equalizer):

Ian Kendall is on to you, Prison Break:


Smoking is bad for you:

NFL drama continues:

Clayton Blackburn could just be obnoxious like the people on my train and play loud music straight out of their phones, no headphones necessary:

I think he’s talking to you, beloved Minor League umpires:

In the world of first-world problems, Minor Leaguers were forced to decide whether they want iOS 8 for their iPhones this week. You don’t want to have the phone updating while you could be en route to/at Chipotle, though:

One person favorited this:

Or just the pain of waiting for your iPhone 6 to arrive:

Here’s Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant at Wrigley, where he is not yet allowed to play:

Twins prospect Nick Gordon looks like he’s dressed for __________________:

One of our very own writers would probably be down for this:

Chipotle Tweets of the Week

It’s no secret that statistics say most Minor Leaguers won’t ever reach the Majors, and so with that in mind, players need to plan ahead. Like, maybe they open a fresh Mexican fast food establishment?

Final Grades: Under-the-radar prospects

By Kelsie Heneghan /

Predicting how a season will turn out is a difficult task, but back in April, the staff decided to make a few bold predictions and choose a player from each league whom we thought would have a breakout campaign. Some players flourished and reached the next level, while some fell victim to the injury bug and others just didn’t have a great year.

The players received a progress report in June, but here is a look at just how well they did after the completion of the Minor League season with a grade on each prediction.

 Stats are updated through games of Sept. 14.

International League: Christian Vazquez, Pawtucket
After a strong Spring, the catcher continued his hot hitting into start Summer. As the Red Sox No. 10 prospect at the time, he was named to the International League All-Star team, hitting .342 over his last 10 games before he was called up to Boston on July 9. Since making his Major League debut, Vazquez is hitting .207 with 15 RBIs over 45 games and has thrown out 10 of 23 would-be basestealers from behind the plate. Grade: A


Minoring in Twitter: Kris Bryant gets a cat, goes grocery shopping

By Danny Wild /

People really, really like Cubs top prospect Kris Bryant, especially (we assume) his girlfriend, who snapped this gem of him pushing a shopping cart through the Halloween aisle of a grocery store. Yes, the offseason has arrived for many Minor Leaguers, and no, Kris Bryant, for reasons we’ll never understand, didn’t get called up to Chicago, so he’s stuck stocking up on Fritos, corn nuts, sunflower seeds and posing with a real estate agent’s ad:

According to the caption, he was donating the food. How can baseball fans fall even further in love with the slugging third baseman? Cats. People love cats on the Internet, and they also love Kris Bryant, and — awwww, he named it Wrigley! And it lives in a box!

Important questions to think about now that the Minor League season is in its final hours:


Mariners third-round pick Tyler Pike has left behind Double-A Jackson to live the life of Larry the Cable Guy:

Salem-Keizer catcher Hunter Cole needs to jam out in front of his TV. Please help:

Yes, we can confirm, some people do indeed work at Walmart:

Erie’s Will Startup, best known in these parts for his 2008 Moniker Madness win and literal baseball artistry, has moved on from baseball to “trenching,” whatever that is. And whatever that is, it appears to be dangerous:

El Paso’s Rico Noel needs a scratch:

Minor Leaguers reacted to the ongoing drama unfolding in the NFL surrounding former Ravens running back Ray Rice and commissioner Roger Goodell. It’s an ugly story, and it’s spawned plenty of opinions:





Like most of us, players recognized the 13th anniversary of September 11 on Thursday:

Cubs prospect Corey Black (traded by the Yankees for Alfonso Soriano) is hanging on to summer:

OK, we get it, just go already:

Are you guilty of ignoring Rangers catcher Jose Trevino?

OK, Jack, thanks for letting us all know:

The offseason is all planned out for Salem Red Sox right-hander Joe Gunkel:

Xavier Scruggs looking sharp, looking at himself in his iPhone screen instead of the mirror. Whatever works man:

Do not skip the leg press if you see Josh Banuelos near you at Planet Fitness:

Yeah, take that, Paris:

Earlier this week we found out about two new iPhones and an Apple Watch. An improved iPhone 6 camera only means improved Minor Leaguer selfies, which means better Minoring in Twitter content. First, players need to decide which model to get:

Ah yes, the iPhone 6 Plus Chipotle Edition:

Read this in a Stewie Griffin voice:

Either way man. Upgrade:

Brewers first-round pick Jake Gatewood driving around like a first-round pick:

Something about clans:

Daytona catcher Ben Carhart is a big fan of Emilio Estevez:

Look, a bed:

Chipotle Tweets of the Week

Let’s all keep Todd Van Steensel in our thoughts as he embarks on this next stage of life (in Australia) without burritos:

Progress report: Evaluating the graduates from MLB’s top 50

By Sam Dykstra /

As it does before every season, released its 2014 ranking of the top 100 prospects in the game in March. As the season progressed, some of these players “graduated” from the ranking upon acquiring 130 at-bats, 50 innings pitched or 45 days in the Majors. This is a look back at which prospects graduated from’s top 50 and how they’ve done in their first collective tastes of the Majors. If nothing else, it should serve as a reminder that Major League Baseball is incredibly hard.

All stats are through games of Sept. 9.bogaerts_544

2. Xander Bogaerts (Red Sox): It’s been a rough first full season in the Majors for the talented shortstop, who had a career .862 OPS in the Minors. He’s slashed only .235/.300/.356  with 10 homers and 36 RBIs in 129 games while being moved between shortstop (his life-long position) and third base for the Red Sox. To drive the point home, his OPS+ is 84 and is bWAR was 0.1, indicating that he did little to play above replacement level as a rookie. The good news: he’s still only 21. There’s plenty of time for him to develop, and that could happen once he’s settled on a position. One more quick note: Bogaerts’ OPS+ in 83 games as a shortstop was 116; in 44 games at the hot corner, it was just 43.  (more…)

Minoring in Twitter: Embracing the early offseason vacation

By Danny Wild /

Happy days have arrived for those Minor Leaguers who weren’t fortunate enough to a) make the playoffs or b) get a September big league callup. They’re free of long bus rides, sharing hotel rooms, being away from Chipotles and the general grind and life of a Minor Leaguer. Based on my research, which you’re about to see, most players have run off to beaches with dogs and fried food. Enjoy:

Jacksonville’s Austin Barnes reveals that, away from baseball, he’s a dirty mess:

Deck McGuire playing video games with his dog:

More dogs:

Some have gathered around fires:

Some are already on the beach:

Some, like Mike Yastrzemski, have moved on to other sports:

Joe Gatto, the Angels’ second-round pick in June, finally gets to play with his gigantic toy:

Oakland’s Billy Burns gets a head start on Halloween:

Modesto’s Mike Piazza is focused on fishing:

More food:

Wow, Warwick Saupold flew 28 hours back to Australia for his offseason:

Lansing’s Brad Allen … had a baby? Knows someone else’s baby? Found a baby and posed for a photo?

Not sure what this is, but Rays No. 15 prospect Riley Unroe, now away from clubhouse pre-game meals, was hungry:

But for those in the playoffs? It’s go time:

Minor League Bus Drama Tweets of the Week

As the season ends, we’ll be running out of good content for bus stories. So, appreciate it while it lasts. Corey Black isn’t holding back, either:


What a feeling:

Moving on, Alabama in late summer has to be pretty humid:

Pirates prospect Jameson Taillon has begun increasing his throwing program in his comeback from Tommy John surgery. Here he shares a video throwing from 75 feet inside a local gym:

I usually try to tie in current events and notable news items to this blog — the World Cup excitement, Johnny Manziel being drafted, etc — and I can report that, this week, I could not find a single Minor Leaguer tweeting about Joan Rivers or ISIS. But fungus-covered flip-flops? Yep:

Grab your shower shoes!

I see this in Manhattan every single day during the season:

Chipotle Tweets of the Week

Of course he was:


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