Ex-TinCaps outfielder traded twice in one afternoon

Mallex Smith takes a pitch during a Fort Wayne TinCaps game in 2013. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Mallex Smith takes a pitch during a Fort Wayne TinCaps game in 2013. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Former Fort Wayne TinCaps outfielder Mallex Smith was traded twice Wednesday, going from the Atlanta Braves to the Seattle Mariners to the Tampa Bay Rays in one afternoon, with only 77 minutes separating the two transactions.

Both trades involving Smith also included former Clinton LumberKings pitchers.

Known primarily for his speed on the basepaths, Smith spent the entire 2013 season and the first half of the 2014 season playing for the TinCaps. The then-San Diego Padres prospect batted .274 with 4 HR, 44 RBI and 112 SB in 175 Midwest League games.

The Padres sent Smith to the Braves in December 2014, as part of the trade that brought Justin Upton to San Diego. (Upton, a former South Bend Silver Hawks outfielder, signed a six-year contract with the Detroit Tigers before the 2016 season. You can read about his season in the Midwest League, and see a photo of him batting for the Silver Hawks, here.) Smith made his major-league debut for the Braves last season; he batted .238 with 3 HR, 22 RBI and 16 SB in 72 MLB games.

On Wednesday, the Braves sent Smith and RHP Shae Simmons to the Mariners for left-handed pitching prospects Luiz Gohara and Thomas Burrows. Gohara started two games for the LumberKings in 2015, and made 10 more starts for Clinton in 2016. He cumulatively went 5-3 with a 1.83 ERA, 65 strikeouts and 26 walks in 64 innings pitched in the Midwest League.

Luiz Gohara delivers a pitch for the Clinton LumberKings last year.(Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Luiz Gohara delivers a pitch for the Clinton LumberKings last year. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Mariners later traded Smith and two minor-leaguers, infielder Carlos Vargas and LHP Ryan Yarbrough, to the Rays for LHP Drew Smyly. Yarbrough briefly pitched for the LumberKings in 2015, giving up eight earned runs and four walks while striking out only one batter in 5.1 innings (two starts). He pitched for the Double-A Jackson Generals in 2016, going 12-4 with a 3.16 ERA, 99 strikeouts and 31 walks in 128.1 innings (25 starts).

Plouffe agrees to deal with A’s

Former Beloit Snappers shortstop Trevor Plouffe reportedly has agreed to a one-year deal with the Oakland Athletics. He is expected to primarily play third base for the A’s.

Plouffe batted .260 with 12 HR and 47 RBI in 84 games with the Minnesota Twins last year. He played for the Snappers in 2005, batting .223 with 13 HR and 60 RBI in 127 games.

Posted in Beloit Snappers, Clinton LumberKings, Fort Wayne TinCaps, Jackson Generals, Midwest League, South Bend Silver Hawks, Southern League | Leave a comment

Quad Cities gets four new coaches for 2017 season

new primary logo

The Houston Astros announced their minor-league coaching assignments Tuesday, revealing that the Quad Cities River Bandits will have four new coaches for the 2017 season.

The Quad Cities field staff will be manager Russ Steinhorn, pitching coach Drew French, hitting coach Ben Rosenthal, and developmental coach Jason Bell.

Steinhorn is entering his fifth season with the Astros organization, after managing in the Dominican Summer League last year and serving as hitting coach for the short-season Tri-City Dust Devils the previous three years. He also is a former college coach.

This will be French’s second season with the Astros. He served as Tri-City’s pitching coach last year, and also has experience coaching collegiately.

Rosenthal was most recently the hitting coach at Point Loma University in San Diego. The former catcher had a four-year professional playing career that included a brief stop in the Midwest League. He went 3-for-10 with two walks in three games with the 2004 Peoria Chiefs.

Bell joins the Astros organization after previously coaching at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore and Heartland Community College.

Posted in Midwest League, Northwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits, Tri-City Dust Devils | Leave a comment

Rasmus reportedly agrees to one-year deal with Rays

Free-agent outfielder Colby Rasmus reportedly has agreed to a one-year, $5 million deal with the Tampa Bay Rays.

Rasmus batted .206 with 15 HR and 54 RBI in 107 games with the Houston Astros last year. He played in the Midwest League in 2006, batting .310 with 11 HR, 50 RBI and 17 SB in 78 games with the Swing of the Quad Cities.

Rasmus has three brothers, one of whom also played in the Midwest League. Casey Rasmus was a catcher in the St. Louis Cardinals organization from 2011 to 2014, during which time he played 49 games with the 2012 Quad Cities River Bandits and 26 games with the 2013 Peoria Chiefs. He cumulatively batted .244 with 2 HR and 15 RBI in 75 MWL games, and also pitched an inning for the Chiefs. He was playing for the High-A Palm Beach Cardinals in 2014 when he decided to retire.

One of their brothers, Cory, is a relief pitcher for the Los Angeles Angels. He posted a 5.84 ERA with 17 strikeouts and 16 walks in 24.2 innings at the big-league level last year. The fourth Rasmus brother, Cyle, decided not to pursue professional baseball after college due to injuries.

Their father, Tony Rasmus, played in parts of three minor-league seasons in the Angels organization. He ended his playing career in the Midwest League, batting .244 in 13 games with the 1988 Quad City Angels.

Posted in Florida State League, Midwest League, Palm Beach Cardinals, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

Former Red Sox manager will lead Cougars in ’17

New Kane County Cougars skipper Butch Hobson argues with an umpire during a game in 1993 when he managed the Boston Red Sox. (Getty Images photo)

New Kane County Cougars skipper Butch Hobson argues with an umpire during a game in 1993 when he managed the Boston Red Sox. (Getty Images photo)

Former Boston Red Sox player and skipper Butch Hobson will manage the Kane County Cougars in 2017, the Arizona Diamondbacks announced Thursday.

Hobson brings 28 seasons of managerial experience to Kane County, including three years as skipper of the Red Sox (1992-94) and the past 17 seasons as an independent-league manager (mostly in the Atlantic League). He managed the Lancaster Barnstormers the past six years, leading the team to the playoffs four times, the finals twice, and the league championship in 2014. This year will be his first with the Diamondbacks organization.

Hobson played in parts of eight seasons in the major leagues — six with the Red Sox and one each for the California Angels and the New York Yankees. His best seasons in the majors came in a three-year stretch from 1977 to 1979, during which time he averaged 25 HR and 95 RBI for the Red Sox.

He did not play in the Midwest League, but his son K.C. Hobson did. K.C. played in the Toronto Blue Jays farm system from 2010 to 2016, reaching Double-A before being released late last May. He finished the 2016 season playing for his father in Lancaster before signing a minor-league contract with the Chicago White Sox this offseason.

K.C. Hobson played 279 games for the 2010-12 Lansing Lugnuts, cumulatively batting .263 with 16 HR and 148 RBI.

The Cougars coaching staff will be rounded out by pitching coach Rich Sauveur, hitting coach Jose Amado, and fourth coach Darrin Garner. Sauveur is the only returning member of the Cougars staff, after coaching Kane County pitchers to a Midwest League-best 3.06 ERA in his first season with the team last year.

Amado begins his second season in the Diamondbacks organization after serving as hitting coach for the short-season Hillsboro Hops last year. He played professional baseball for 14 seasons, including seven years in affiliated ball. He spent two seasons in the Midwest League, splitting 1996 between the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers and the Lansing Lugnuts — who, at the time, were affiliated with the Seattle Mariners and the Kansas City Royals, respectively — and all of 1997 with Lansing. He batted .326 with 14 HR and 128 RBI in 179 MWL games.

Garner also is entering his second season with the Diamondbacks, after managing the rookie-level AZL D-backs in 2016. His seven-year playing career in the minors included part of the 1985 season in the Midwest League. He batted .171 in 47 games with the Burlington Rangers.

Posted in Atlantic League, Burlington Bees, Hillsboro Hops, Kane County Cougars, Lancaster Barnstormers, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Northwest League, Wisconsin Timber Rattlers | Leave a comment

Construction continues at Fifth Third Ballpark

Construction on multiple offseason projects at Fifth Third Ballpark continues, and I have photo proof thanks to the West Michigan Whitecaps, who have been posting pictures regularly on their Facebook page.

Here is a look at work on a new hospitality area being built in what was the lower lawn area on the third-base side of the ballpark, directly behind the visitor’s bullpen:


And here is a look at work on the playground area that is being expanded from 2,500 square feet to 6,400 square feet:


The Whitecaps also are replacing and expanding the field’s warning track, mainly to improve drainage.

You can read more about all three projects here and see more photos here. The work is expected to be finished by Opening Day.

Posted in Midwest League, West Michigan Whitecaps | Leave a comment