Major League Baseball organizations are signing independent players at an alarming rate this summer.
Baseball America has reported that 150 players have been signed from the MLB Partner Leagues (Atlantic League, American Association, Frontier League, and Pioneer League) as of their article on June 25th.
With the reduction in minor league affiliated teams, it makes sense for the MLB Partner Leagues to act as true feeder leagues to major league organizations. On top of that, the summer off for most players last year also has to be attributing to the injury-riddled rosters.
And while the number of contracts purchased gives indy ball players hope, it is starting to affect the level of play (especially pitching) for those still within the partner leagues.
If you’ve watched any game from a Partner League this season, you may have noticed that the level of play is down from years past. That was evident in the beginning of the season, but even more so now that their rosters have all been poached for talent to fill spots. Specifically, there is a huge drop in the level of pitching. Teams are really just trying to find arms to fill spots and eat up innings. Throwing strikes with some sort of velocity is a plus, but even that is getting harder and harder to find.
So if the major league organizations find players in the partner leagues, where do the partner leagues go to fill their depleted rosters?
Of course, the normal college grads are always an option but…
There are various true independent leagues running around the country that each have a goal to get players the game reps they need to be seen and hopefully move up to a partner league.
Right now, the Yinzer League (based in the Frontier League Washington Wildthing’s ballpark in Pennsylvania) are playing games every day. This league, ran by Joe Torre and the Black Sox (you may be familiar with them if you’re a reader of this site), has worked hard to get guys seen and signed this summer. Players have gone to each partner league in the month that they have been playing.
The USPBL (which also runs out of a single stadium in Utica, MI) is another option for players who need a spot to play.
Likewise, the Pecos League in the southwest and the Empire League in the northeast are giving players opportunities to play, gain stats, and hopefully move up to a team that is looking for a player who is already game ready.
If you’re sitting at home but want to get back in the game… there ARE spots available. A LOT of spots. It may not be easy finding them. It may be a true grind once you get there. But teams are looking.