Former 1B/C Blake Lalli to manage Cougars in 2018

Former catcher/first baseman Blake Lalli will manage the Kane County Cougars in 2018. He played for the Peoria Chiefs in 2006 and 2007. (Boise Hawks photo)

Former first baseman/catcher Blake Lalli, who briefly played in the major leagues for three teams, will manage the Kane County Cougars in 2018.

It is the first managerial assignment for Lalli, whose playing career ended this year after 12 seasons in the minor leagues and brief stints in the majors with the Chicago Cubs (six games in 2012), the Milwaukee Brewers (16 games in 2013) and the Atlanta Braves (10 games in 2016).

Lalli played for the Peoria Chiefs in 2006 and 2007. After batting only .191 in 22 games with the 2006 team, he had a breakthrough season in 2007, when he batted .295 with 4 HR and 33 RBI in 77 games with the Chiefs.

Lalli replaces former Boston Red Sox player and skipper Butch Hobson, who managed the Cougars in 2017. Hobson, who previously managed in independent leagues for 17 years, recently was named the inaugural skipper for the Chicago Dogs, a new American Association team based in Rosemont, Illinois.

The 2018 Cougars coaching staff will be rounded out by pitching coach Rich Sauveur, who is entering his third season with the team; and newcomers Rick Short and Jorge Cortes, who will serve as hitting coach and bench coach, respectively.

Posted in American Association, Chicago Dogs, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs | Leave a comment

Ex-MWL MVP McBroom en fuego in Mexican Pacific League

Ryan McBroom, seen here during the 2015 Midwest League All-Star Game, is raking in the Mexican Pacific League this offseason. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Former Midwest League MVP Ryan McBroom is on fire in the Mexican Pacific League, batting .459 in the 11 games he’s played for Los Tomateros de Culiacan.

McBroom has three homers, two doubles, six walks, eight runs batted in, and eight runs scored. He has a .545 on-base percentage and a .757 slugging percentage.

On Tuesday he went 3-for-4 with a home run, a double, a walk, two RBI, and four runs scored in his team’s 10-6 win. He went 2-for-4 with one RBI in his previous game (on Sunday), and went 3-for-3 with two homers, four RBI, and a walk in Friday’s game.

The Mexican Pacific League’s regular season ends on December 29.

McBroom was the Midwest League MVP in 2015, when he batted .315 with 12 HR and 90 RBI in 127 games with the Lansing Lugnuts. The Toronto Blue Jays traded him to the New York Yankees in July of this year.

He played exclusively in Double-A during the 2017 season, for both the Blue Jays and the Yankees. He cumulatively batted .247 with 16 HR and 70 RBI in 134 games.

Posted in 2015 All-Star Game, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League | Leave a comment

Former Cougars skipper will manage Snappers next year

A longtime Oakland Athletics minor-league coach will manage the Beloit Snappers in 2018.

Webster Garrison will be at the helm of Beloit’s coaching staff, replacing 2017 Snappers skipper Scott Steinmann, who will manage the Midland RockHounds (Oakland’s Double-A affiliate in the Texas League) in 2018. Garrison has been a coach in the A’s organization since 1999, when he was a player-coach for the RockHounds. He has managed at five different levels of the A’s farm system, and also has served as a hitting coach. He most recently managed Oakland’s rookie-level team in the Arizona League, in 2016 and 2017.

Garrison previously managed in the Midwest League in 2003, when he led the Kane County Cougars to a league-best 80-59 record in the regular season before his team was knocked out of the playoffs in the first round. He was named the Midwest League Manager of the Year.

Garrison’s ’03 Cougars team included nine future major-leaguers, including Andre Ethier (.272 BA, 11 RBI in 40 games), Nelson Cruz (.238 BA, 20 HR, 85 RBI in 119 games), John Baker (.309 BA, 6 HR, 49 RBI in 82 games) and Joe Blanton (8-7, 2.57 ERA, 144 Ks, 19 BB in 133 IP/21 starts).

Garrison’s playing career spanned 16 minor-league seasons with the A’s and the Toronto Blue Jays, who drafted him out of high school in the second round of the 1983 draft. He appeared in five MLB games for the A’s in 1996, going 0-for-9 with a walk at the plate. He was primarily a middle infielder, but also played the corner positions and outfield on occasion.

Rounding out the 2018 Snappers coaching staff is hitting coach Juan Dilone, who enters his third season in that position for Beloit; and pitching coach Don Schulze, who previously served in that capacity for Beloit in 2016 (and Kane County in 2008). Schulze was Midland’s pitching coach in 2017.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Kane County Cougars, Midland RockHounds, Midwest League, Texas League | Leave a comment

Ex-MWLer Vizquel to manage in White Sox farm system

Former major-league star, possible future Baseball Hall-of-Famer and definite ex-Midwest League player Omar Vizquel will manage in the Chicago White Sox organization next year.

Vizquel batted .213 with 4 HR, 28 RBI and 19 SB in 105 games with the 1986 Wausau Timbers. He has the distinction of being the last Wausau player to appear in a major-league game. (The Wausau franchise moved after the 1990 season and became the Kane County Cougars in 1991.)

Vizquel retired from playing after the 2012 season. He was an active major-leaguer for 24 years and won 11 Gold Glove awards during that time. He played in more than 3,000 MLB games (2,968 regular-season and 57 postseason contests).

He is in his first year of eligibility for the Baseball Hall of Fame. Voting results of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America election will be announced on Jan. 24, 2018.

In the meantime, Vizquel is preparing for his first season as a manager. He was announced Monday as the new skipper of the Winston-Salem Dash, the High-A affiliate of the White Sox. The 50-year-old Venezuela native managed his country’s team in the 2017 World Baseball Classic, leading them to the second round of the tournament. He also had a brief stint as a Midwest League manager, serving as a fill-in skipper for the Burlington Bees for a four-game series at Community Field in 2013. (The Clinton LumberKings beat the Bees in three of those four games.)

Omar Vizquel’s 1986 Wausau Timbers card

Posted in Baseball Hall of Fame, Burlington Bees, Carolina League, Clinton LumberKings, Gold Glove Awards, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Winston-Salem Dash, World Baseball Classic | Leave a comment

Three 2017 Midwest League players traded

J.B. Woodman bats for the Lansing Lugnuts earlier this year. He was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals on Friday. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Three players who were in the Midwest League this year were traded in separate transactions late last week.

The Arizona Diamondbacks traded RHP Curtis Taylor to the Tampa Bay Rays for former closer Brad Boxberger, who led the American League with 41 saves in 2015. Taylor spent the 2017 season with the Kane County Cougars, for whom he went 3-4 with a 3.32 ERA, 68 strikeouts and 23 walks in 62.1 innings (13 starts).

The Los Angeles Angels traded LHP Justin Kelly to the Atlanta Braves for former closer Jim Johnson and international signing bonus allocation. Johnson led the majors in saves in 2012 and 2013, when he pitched for the Baltimore Orioles. Kelly pitched at five different levels in the Angels farm system in 2017; that included time in the Midwest League. He went 2-3 with a 2.43 ERA, two saves, 26 strikeouts and 11 walks in 29.2 innings (11 games/three starts) for the Burlington Bees.

The Toronto Blue Jays traded outfielder J.B. Woodman to the St. Louis Cardinals for major-league shortstop Aledmys Diaz. Woodman spent the 2017 season in the Midwest League, where he batted .240 with seven homers, 19 doubles, 45 runs batted in, and 157 strikeouts in 96 games with the Lansing Lugnuts.

Castillo signs with White Sox

Former Peoria Chiefs catcher Welington Castillo signed a two-year, $15 million contract with the Chicago White Sox. The deal includes an $8 million club option for the 2020 season.

Castillo batted .271 with 11 HR and 44 RBI in 98 games with the 2007 Chiefs. He has played in the major leagues for the Chicago Cubs, the Seattle Mariners, the Arizona Diamondbacks, and the Baltimore Orioles.

Posted in Burlington Bees, Kane County Cougars, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs | Leave a comment