Guide to the 2018 Midwest League coaching staffs

As spring training gets underway this week, you may be thinking ahead to the Midwest League season and wondering who the coaches for each team will be. Here are links to my posts about all of them:

Beloit Snappers

Bowling Green Hot Rods

Burlington Bees

Cedar Rapids Kernels

Clinton LumberKings

Dayton Dragons

Fort Wayne TinCaps

Great Lakes Loons

Kane County Cougars

Lake County Captains

Lansing Lugnuts

Peoria Chiefs

Quad Cities River Bandits

South Bend Cubs

West Michigan Whitecaps

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Bowling Green Hot Rods, Burlington Bees, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Great Lakes Loons, Kane County Cougars, Lake County Captains, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Silver Hawks, West Michigan Whitecaps, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Ex-Hot Rods catcher Ciuffo suspended for drug violation

Major League Baseball announced four drug-related suspensions Saturday, with one former Midwest League player among the punished.

Tampa Bay Rays catching prospect Nick Ciuffo, who played for the Bowling Green Hot Rods in 2015, was banned 50 games for a second positive test of a drug of abuse. He batted .258 with 1 HR and 32 RBI in 94 games with the Hot Rods. He spent last season in Double-A, batting .245 with 7 HR and 42 RBI in 102 games with the Montgomery Biscuits.

Ciuffo was named the Rays farm system’s Defensive Player of the Year in 2016 and 2017. Last season he had a .990 fielding percentage in 619.1 innings behind the plate, and threw out 23 of 60 (38.3 percent) potential base stealers.

The other three minor-leaguers suspended on Saturday were Pittsburgh Pirates infielder Mitchell Tolman (50 games for a second positive test of a drug of abuse), Philadelphia Phillies RHP Steve Geltz (100 games for a third positive test of a drug of abuse), and San Diego Padres RHP Alex Cunningham (50 games for testing positive for Amphetamine, a stimulant).

Nick Ciuffo holds a dog prior to a “Bark at the Park” game at Bowling Green Ballpark in 2015. Also pictured is Hunter Lockwood, who homered twice that day. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Posted in Bowling Green Hot Rods, Midwest League, Montgomery Biscuits, Southern League | Leave a comment

Two ex-Midwest Leaguers involved in A’s-Royals trade

The Kansas City Royals and the Oakland Athletics recently completed a four-player trade involving two former Midwest Leaguers.

The Royals acquired right-handed pitchers Jesse Hahn and Heath Fillmyer in exchange for left-handed pitcher Ryan Buchter, designated hitter/first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss, and cash considerations. Buchter and Fillmyer played in the Midwest League.

Buchter was a Chicago Cubs farmhand when he pitched for the Peoria Chiefs in 2009. He went 3-0 with a 1.33 ERA, five saves, 79 strikeouts and 34 walks in 61 innings/38 games. He split last season between the Royals and the San Diego Padres, cumulatively going 4-3 with a 2.89 ERA, one save, 65 strikeouts and 26 walks in 65.1 innings/71 games.

Fillmyer pitched for the Beloit Snappers in 2015. He went 3-13 with a 4.98 ERA, 77 strikeouts and 56 walks in 99.1 innings (23 games/22 starts). He spent last season in Double-A, where he went 11-5 with a 3.49 ERA, 115 strikeouts and 51 walks in 149.2 innings/29 starts for the Midland RockHounds.

Some other recent deals involving former Midwest Leaguers:

Third baseman Todd Frazier signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the New York Mets. He batted .321 with 9 HR and 25 RBI in 36 games with the 2007-08 Dayton Dragons. He split last season between the Chicago White Sox and the New York Yankees, cumulatively batting .213 with 27 HR and 76 RBI in 147 games.

The Arizona Diamondbacks signed catcher Alex Avila to a two-year, $8.25 million contract. He batted .305 with 1 HR and 22 RBI in 58 games with the 2008 West Michigan Whitecaps. He split last season between the Cubs and the Detroit Tigers, cumulatively batting .264 with 14 HR and 49 RBI in 112 games.

The Texas Rangers signed infielder Darwin Barney to a minor-league deal with an invite to major-league spring training. He played for Peoria in 2007, batting .273 with 2 HR and 21 RBI in 44 games. (Baseball Hall-of-Famer Ryne Sandberg managed the Chiefs that season.) Last year Barney played for the Toronto Blue Jays, batting .232 with 6 HR and 25 RBI in 129 games.

The Diamondbacks signed RHP Neftali Feliz to a minor-league deal with an invite to major-league spring training. He went 6-3 with a 2.52 ERA, 106 strikeouts and 28 walks in 82 innings/17 starts for the 2008 Clinton LumberKings. He split last season between the Royals and the Milwaukee Brewers, cumulatively going 2-5 with a 5.48 ERA, eight saves, 37 strikeouts and 23 walks in 46 innings/49 games.

The Tigers signed LHP Travis Wood to a minor-league deal with an invite to major-league spring training. He pitched for Dayton in 2006, going 10-5 with a 3.66 ERA, 133 strikeouts and 56 walks in 140 innings/27 starts. He split last season between the Royals and the Padres, cumulatively going 4-7 with a 6.80 ERA, 65 strikeouts and 45 walks in 94 innings (39 games/14 starts).

Posted in Baseball Hall of Fame, Beloit Snappers, Clinton LumberKings, Dayton Dragons, Midland RockHounds, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Texas League, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment

Burlington Bees announce 2018 coaching staff

Banners representing the Bees and their MLB affiliate, the Los Angeles Angels, hang outside Burlington’s Community Field. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Former Angels third baseman/outfielder Jack Howell will manage the Burlington Bees this coming season.

This is the first managerial assignment for Howell since his one-year stint as skipper of the Diamondbacks’ team in the rookie-level Pioneer League in 2002. Since then, he served as a coach and instructor for the Diamondbacks, the Marlins and the Mariners before rejoining the Angels organization in 2016. He was the Minor League Field Coordinator for the Angels last year.

Howell’s playing career lasted 17 seasons, with major-league stints in 11 of them. The majority of his MLB games were played for the Angels, but he also suited up for the Astros and the Padres in the big leagues.

Matt Spring is the new hitting coach for the Bees, after he served in that same capacity for the rookie-level Orem Owlz last year. He was the fourth coach on the Bees staff in 2016, which followed a 12-year playing career in the minor leagues. The former catcher/first baseman played in the Midwest League in 2006, batting .205 with 4 HR and 13 RBI in 48 games with the Southwest Michigan Devil Rays.

Jonathan Van Eaton is Burlington’s new pitching coach. He was the pitching coach for the Orem Owlz last year and coached in the rookie-level Arizona League in 2015 and 2016. He pitched for Orem in 2013, but an elbow injury in 2014 required Tommy John surgery and prompted him to retire as a player.

The Bees also will have a defensive coach, a newly-created position that will be filled by former Rockies outfielder Cole Garner. His 13-year playing career included four MLB games in the major leagues in 2011.

Posted in Burlington Bees, Midwest League, Orem Owlz, Pioneer League | Leave a comment

Brewers announce Timber Rattlers coaching staff

Wisconsin Timber Rattlers manager Matt Erickson (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

All three coaches on the 2017 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers field staff are returning to the team this year, the Milwaukee Brewers announced Wednesday.

As reported last week, Matt Erickson will return as manager of the team for an eighth consecutive season. He has been with the team since 2009, serving as hitting coach for two years before becoming manager in 2011. He led the Timber Rattlers to the Midwest League title in 2012, and brought them back to the playoffs in 2014 and 2016.

As a player, Erickson was primarily an infielder during his 11 seasons in the minor leagues. He appeared in four major-league games for the 2004 Brewers, with his only MLB hit coming off Hall-of-Famer Greg Maddux. He played in the Midwest League as a Florida Marlins farmhand, batting .324 with 4 HR, 64 RBI and 17 SB in 124 games with the 1998 Kane County Cougars.

Steve Cline is returning for a second consecutive season as pitching coach of the Timber Rattlers, after previously serving in the same capacity for 16 years for Milwaukee’s rookie-level Arizona League team. He pitched in the San Francisco Giants farm system for six seasons (1974-79) before making one last appearance in 1982. That last appearance was a two-out relief appearance for the Clinton Giants. He also pitched in the Midwest League in 1975, going 5-12 with a 3.85 ERA, 108 strikeouts and 52 walks in 152 innings (23 starts) for the Cedar Rapids Giants.

Hitting coach Hainley Statia also is returning for a second season on the Timber Rattlers field staff. This will be his third year coaching in the Brewers organization. The former infielder played 10 minor-league seasons for the Brewers and the Anaheim Angels. He played for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2006, batting .297 with 1 HR, 38 RBI and 23 SB in 111 games.

Posted in Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Kane County Cougars, Midwest League, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment