D-backs, Mariners swap Segura for Walker in 5-player trade

LHP Zac Curtis was one of five players involved in Wednesday's Diamondbacks-Mariners trade. He led the Midwest League with 33 saves in 2015. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

LHP Zac Curtis was one of five players involved in Wednesday’s Diamondbacks-Mariners trade. He led the Midwest League with 33 saves in 2015. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Diamondbacks and the Mariners made a major trade Wednesday night, as Arizona sent infielder Jean Segura, LHP Zac Curtis and outfielder Mitch Haniger to Seattle for RHP Taijuan Walker and infielder Ketel Marte.

All five players are Midwest League alumni.

Segura is coming off a career year during which he batted .319 with 20 HR, 64 RBI and 33 SB in 153 games with the Diamondbacks. He led the National League with 203 hits. The middle infielder played for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2010, batting .313 with 10 home runs, 12 triples, 24 doubles, 79 runs batted in, and 50 stolen bases in 130 games. (His Kernels teammate Mike Trout was the Midwest League MVP and Prospect of the Year for that season.)

Curtis made his major-league debut this year, and split the 2016 season between the Diamondbacks and their High-A and Double-A affiliates. The lefty reliever pitched for the Kane County Cougars just one year earlier, going 4-4 with a 1.33 ERA, 75 strikeouts and 12 walks in 54 innings (53 games). His 33 saves led the Midwest League and set a new single-season record for the Cougars.

Haniger also made his MLB debut this year, appearing in 34 games for the Diamondbacks. He batted only .229 with 5 HR and 17 RBI at the big-league level, but did much better in the 129 games he split between Double-A and Triple-A in 2016 (.321 BA, 25 HR, 94 RBI). The outfielder played 55 games with the 2012-13 Wisconsin Timber Rattlers, cumulatively batting .294 with 6 HR and 33 RBI.

Formerly a top Mariners prospect, Walker just finished his second full season in the major leagues. He went 8-11 with a 4.22 ERA, 119 strikeouts and 37 walks in 134.1 innings (25 starts). The hard-throwing righty pitched for the Clinton LumberKings in 2011, going 6-5 with a 2.89 ERA, 113 strikeouts and 39 walks in 96.2 innings (18 starts).

Marte batted .259 with 33 RBI in 119 games with the Mariners this year after making his MLB debut in 2015. The middle infielder played 102 games for the 2012-13 LumberKings, cumulatively batting .304 with 31 RBI and 17 SB.

Seattle Mariners RHP Taijuan Walker on the mound for the 2011 Clinton LumberKings. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

RHP Taijuan Walker throws to first base during one of his starts for the 2011 Clinton LumberKings. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

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

Photos of Clinton’s infield renovation

The Clinton LumberKings are renovating the infield of their baseball diamond this offseason and shared some photos showing the project’s progress Monday. The following pictures are all courtesy of the team.

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More moves involving ex-MWLers

More former Midwest Leaguers are on the move, including one who changed teams just days earlier.

The Texas Rangers claimed lefty reliever David Rollins off waivers from the Chicago Cubs on Tuesday, just four days after the Cubs claimed the pitcher off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. Rollins pitched for the Lansing Lugnuts in 2012, going 6-1 with a 2.78 ERA, 75 strikeouts and 36 walks in 77.2 innings (18 starts).

The Rangers also hired Josh Bonifay as their major-league field coordinator. He was the Midwest League Manager of the Year in 2015, when he led the Quad Cities River Bandits to an 88-50 record in the regular season before being knocked out of the playoffs by the eventual Western Division champion Cedar Rapids Kernels. The River Bandits had the best winning percentage in Minor League Baseball (.638) that year.

The Baltimore Orioles signed utility player David Washington to a minor-league contract. The former St. Louis Cardinals farmhand briefly played in the Midwest League, getting three hits and drawing six walks in 15 plate appearances for the 2013 Peoria Chiefs.

Posted in 2015 Playoffs, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Peoria Chiefs, Quad Cities River Bandits | Leave a comment

Four former Midwest Leaguers traded Friday

Dalton Kelly was one of three former Clinton LumberKings traded by the Seattle Mariners on Friday. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Dalton Kelly was one of three former Clinton LumberKings traded by the Seattle Mariners on Friday. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Four former Midwest League players were traded Friday, including three who once suited up for the Clinton LumberKings.

Three of those ex-Midwest Leaguers were traded in a five-player deal between the Seattle Mariners and the Tampa Bay Rays. The Mariners sent RHP Dylan Thompson and two former LumberKings, RHP Andrew Kittredge and first baseman/outfielder Dalton Kelly, to the Rays for utility player Richie Shaffer and former Bowling Green Hot Rods third baseman/outfielder Taylor Motter.

Motter spent the 2012 season with the Hot Rods, and also played briefly for Bowling Green in 2011. He cumulatively batted .242 with 6 HR, 40 RBI and 25 SB in 102 Midwest League games. He made his major-league debut for the Rays in May.

Kelly played with the LumberKings this year. He batted .293 with 7 HR, 58 RBI and 21 SB in 130 games.

Kittredge briefly pitched for the LumberKings in 2012, posting a 0.84 ERA with one save, 16 strikeouts and one walk in 10.2 innings (five appearances).

Also on Friday, the Mariners traded former LumberKings RHP Zack Littell to the New York Yankees for LHP James Pazos. Littell pitched for Clinton during the past two seasons. In 2015, he went 3-6 with a 3.91 ERA, 84 strikeouts and 30 walks in 112.2 innings (21 starts). In 2016, he went 5-5 with a 2.76 ERA, 95 strikeouts and 21 walks in 97.2 innings (16 starts) for the LumberKings before being promoted to High-A.

Zack Littell pitched for the Clinton LumberKings in 2015 and 2016. He was traded to the New York Yankees on Friday. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Zack Littell pitched for the Clinton LumberKings in 2015 and 2016. He was traded to the New York Yankees on Friday. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Brewers claim Walker off waivers

The Milwaukee Brewers claimed former Cedar Rapids Kernels outfielder Adam Brett Walker II off waivers from the Minnesota Twins on Friday. Walker is a Milwaukee native.

Walker was named the 2013 Topps Midwest League Player of the Year after batting .278 with 27 HR and 109 RBI in 129 games with the Kernels. He led the Midwest League in home runs and runs batted in, and his 83 runs scored were good for second in the league.

Twins outfielder Byron Buxton, who was Walker’s teammate in Cedar Rapids for the first half of the 2013 season, was named the Midwest League MVP and Prospect of the Year, as well as the Topps Minor League Player of the Year, that year.

Walker spent the 2016 season with the Rochester Red Wings, Minnesota’s Triple-A affiliate. He batted .243 with 27 HR and 75 RBI in 132 games. He struck out a career-high 202 times, and drew 44 walks.

Adam Brett Walker II played for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2013. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Adam Brett Walker II played for the Cedar Rapids Kernels in 2013. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Posted in Bowling Green Hot Rods, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Clinton LumberKings, International League, Midwest League, Rochester Red Wings | Leave a comment

Happ, Covey lead Solar Sox in AFL Championship Game win

Former South Bend Cubs outfielder Ian Happ and ex-Beloit Snappers RHP Dylan Covey led the Mesa Solar Sox to a 6-1 win over the Surprise Saguaros in the Arizona Fall League Championship Game on Saturday.

Happ went 4-for-4 with two home runs, a double, three runs batted in, and three runs scored. The switch-hitter homered from both sides of the plate, something he told reporters he had never done before in his life.

Happ played 38 games with South Bend in 2015, batting .241 with 5 HR and 22 RBI. He split the 2016 season between High-A and Double-A, cumulatively batting .279 with 15 HR and 73 RBI in 134 games.

Covey started the championship game for Mesa and got the win after giving up only one run on one hit and one walk while striking out three batters in five innings. Earlier this month he pitched the first five innings of a no-hitter for Mesa against Surprise. It was only the third no-hitter in the 25-year history of the Arizona Fall League.

Covey pitched for the Snappers in 2013 and 2014, cumulatively going 5-10 with a 4.79 ERA, 101 strikeouts and 43 walks in 148.1 innings (28 games/27 starts). The Oakland Athletics prospect started 2016 with the Double-A Midland RockHounds, going 2-1 with a 1.84 ERA, 26 strikeouts and 17 walks in 29.1 innings (six starts) before a torn oblique muscle ended his regular season in early May.

Oakland Athletics prospect Dylan Covey pitched for the Beloit Snappers in 2013 and 2014. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

Oakland Athletics prospect Dylan Covey pitched for the Beloit Snappers in 2013 and 2014. (Photo by Craig Wieczorkiewicz/The Midwest League Traveler)

The Solar Sox were managed by former Snappers skipper Ryan Christenson. He is slated to manage Oakland’s Triple-A team, the Nashville Sounds, in 2017.

Torres is AFL’s MVP, batting champ

New York Yankees prospect Gleyber Torres was named the Arizona Fall League’s Most Valuable Player after leading the AFL in batting average (.403) and on-base percentage (.513), and finishing second in slugging percentage (.645). The former South Bend Cubs shortstop is the youngest MVP winner in AFL history; he turns 20 on December 13.

Torres was named the Midwest League Prospect of the Year in 2015, when he batted .293 with three homers, 24 doubles, 62 RBI and 22 stolen bases in 119 games with South Bend. He played in High-A for the Cubs and the Yankees during the 2016 season, leaving Chicago for New York in late July as a key piece in the Aroldis Chapman trade. He batted .270 with 11 HR, 66 RBI and 21 SB in 125 games.

Posted in 2016 AFL Championship Game, Arizona Fall League, Beloit Snappers, Midland RockHounds, Midwest League, Nashville Sounds, Pacific Coast League, South Bend Silver Hawks, Texas League | Leave a comment

Recent news involving former Midwest League managers

Former Lansing Lugnuts skipper Mike Redmond was one of several former Midwest League managers in the news this week. (Photo by Rod Sanford/Lansing State Journal)

Former Lansing Lugnuts skipper Mike Redmond was one of several former Midwest League managers in the news this week. (Photo by Rod Sanford/Lansing State Journal)

Several former Midwest League managers were in the news this week. One received a major award, and the other three landed new jobs.

Cleveland Indians skipper Terry Francona was named the American League Manager of the Year on Tuesday. His first managerial job was in the Midwest League, as skipper of the 1992 South Bend White Sox. I recently wrote about his MWL tenure here. (I also wrote about Chicago Cubs manager Joe Maddon in that same post, as it was about this year’s World Series skippers having managed in the MWL early in their coaching careers.)

Former Kane County Cougars skipper Mark Grudzielanek was announced Wednesday as the new manager of the Charlotte Knights, Triple-A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox. “Grudzie” managed the Cougars in 2015 and was an assistant coordinator in the Arizona Diamondbacks organization for the 2016 season. He also played in the Midwest League, batting .246 with 5 HR, 54 RBI and 25 SB in 128 games with the 1992 Rockford Expos.

Former Miami Marlins manager Mike Redmond will serve as bench coach for new Colorado Rockies skipper Bud Black. Redmond managed the Lansing Lugnuts in 2011, leading them to the MWL Championship Series. (The Lugnuts lost the series to the Quad Cities River Bandits.) Redmond was named the MWL Manager of the Year that season. He played in the MWL in 1993 and 1994, cumulatively batting .254 with 1 HR and 34 RBI in 135 games with Kane County.

Former Minnesota Twins manager Ron Gardenhire will serve as bench coach for new Diamondbacks skipper Torey Lovullo. Gardenhire’s first job as a manager was in the Midwest League, as skipper of the 1988 Kenosha Twins. That team lost the MWL Championship Series to the Cedar Rapids Reds.

Posted in 2011 Playoffs, Cedar Rapids Kernels, Charlotte Knights, International League, Kane County Cougars, Lansing Lugnuts, Midwest League, Quad Cities River Bandits, South Bend Silver Hawks | Leave a comment