During the Frontier League season, my friend Stewart Ijames of the Washington Wild Things was just one of six players in the league who signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks organization. After the season, two more Washington Wild Things and four additional Frontier League players also had their contracts purchased by the Diamondbacks. In a span of five months, the Arizona Diamondbacks took a total of 12 players from the Frontier League, which is by far the most for any major league organization; The next closest was 5 taken by the Braves.
However, the Frontier League was not the only independent league the Arizona Diamondbacks were scouting. From May through the end of September, they also signed four players from the American Association, five from the Canadian American Association (Can-Am), and two from the Atlantic League. If you’ve lost count, that is 23 players that the Arizona Diamondbacks signed from the top 4 leagues in the indy ball ranks since the beginning of the season. The Braves came in at a distant 2nd after signing a total of 13 independent league players from those leagues during the same time frame.
Of those 23 players signed, 15 of those players were given contracts during the MiLB season and assigned to an affiliated team. The other eight players were signed to contracts after the season had ended. Currently, 13 of the 15 players are still listed as “active” within the organization. Two of these players played at the AAA level, four at the AA level, and six players spent time with the Championship winning class A team, the Hillsboro Hops. Signing players from the independent leagues is usually done to fill holes within the lower levels of an organization while trying to find a diamond in the rough who may advance all the way to the major leagues. It can offer a huge reward for very little risk.
The Arizona Diamondbacks’ coordinator of independent league scouting, Chris Carminucci, knows a thing or two about finding a diamond(back) in the rough. This year alone, three of his independent league players (Andy Marte, Bo Schultz, and David Peralta) spent time on the Arizona Diamondbacks major league roster. One player, Peralta, was a breakout star. After signing halfway through 2013 and spending the rest of the season with the class A Visalia team, he broke this year’s spring training camp with AA Mobile. On June 1st, he made his major league debut and began getting acclimated with the higher level of play. He became the Diamondbacks every day right fielder and finished the season with 8 HRs, .286 avg, .450 SLG, and a .770 OPS in 88 major league games.
David Peralta’s story is unlikely, but it is nowhere near the only one of its kind. The Diamondbacks have found some great talent courtesy of Chris Carminucci. He has managed to tap into a market that few major league organizations have done, and he has managed to do it with great success. Is there another Peralta within the 21 independent players who were signed in 2014 and are still active with the Diamondbacks? Only time will tell, but it should be an interesting story to follow.