Tag Archives: Washington Wild Things

Is the Third Time a Charm for Pitcher Al Yevoli?

Former Washington Wild Things pitcher, Al Yevoli, will be getting his third shot at affiliated ball in the spring.  After a stellar 2014 season in the Wild Things’ bullpen, Yevoli was recently signed by the Arizona Diamondbacks where he will be reunited with former Wild Things teammates Stewart Ijames and Troy Marks.

It hasn’t always been an easy road for Yevoli, but even with thoughts of giving it all up, he persevered and pushed through.

After three tough years at High Point University, where just finding the strike zone was difficult at times, Yevoli was trying to find a reason to quit. He thought about it, but realized that he couldn’t just give up the game that he loved.  He wasn’t finished yet, and all he needed was a fresh start to prove it.  After finishing his junior year with a 14.14 ERA, he transferred to Tennessee Wesleyan.  He had the best year of his college career posting a 2.57 ERA in 21 innings pitched while helping his team win the 2012 NAIA World Series.

This performance had him gaining notice with independent teams.  The Washington Wild Things of the Frontier League sent him a contract after his college career was complete. After driving 14 hours to Washington, Yevoli realized that the team was really just asking him to come try out.  He threw an impressive bullpen session and was offered a spot on the team in June.  Being signed to a professional team helped him turn it all around.  He worked hard and made the most of his chances. Yevoli had rededicated himself to the game and became nearly unhittable down the stretch.  The rookie with his 94 mph fastball became an essential part of the Wild Things bullpen by striking out 34 batters in 34 and a third innings.  He was named #5 on Baseball America’s 2012 list of top independent ball prospects.

After his great year, Yevoli was signed by the Atlanta Braves in the offseason.  During spring training, he did well pitching with the Class A team, but his fastball dropped a few mph from midseason form.  After the Braves signed new pitchers before the end of spring training, Yevoli became the odd man out and was released during the last round of cuts.

Determined to continue playing and earn another chance, Yevoli headed back to Washington for the 2013 season.  After a rough first month, he settled down and began pitching lights out.  His ERA, as high as 33.00 at one point, was slowly climbing back down.  By mid-July, he had lowered it to 6.65.  The Chicago Cubs noticed his turn around and officially purchased his contract on July 24th.

Assigned to the single A Kane County Cougars, Yevoli pitched well and finished out the season with a 3.15 ERA and 19 strikeouts in 20 innings.  He spent 2014’s spring training with the Cubs organization pitching with the High A team while dressing for three major league games.  Despite throwing 5 scoreless innings and recording 6 strikeouts and only 2 walks, he didn’t make it through spring training cuts.

Once again, Yevoli headed north to return to Washington knowing that he still had unfinished business to take care of in baseball.  He felt that he still had what it takes to make it in affiliated ball, and he was out to prove it.  He spent the entire 2014 season with the Wild Things, and thrived in the 8th inning set up role.  In 48 appearances, a Wild Things record for single season relief appearances, he compiled a 4-5 record and a 2.92 ERA.  In July, Yevoli was named a Frontier League All-Star.  He pitched one inning in the All-Star game striking out the side.

Earlier this month, the Arizona Diamondbacks purchased Yevoli’s contract.  He was also recently listed as the fifth best prospect signed out of independent ball this year according to Baseball America.  They site the fact that the DBacks have worked with him to get more direct to the plate as well as the addition of a cutter which pairs well with his 94-95 mph fast ball. He has what it takes to play at the higher levels of baseball.

A hard throwing southpaw is a hot commodity in baseball. They aren’t often let go, and Yevoli is trying to prove why he deserves to stay around this time.  Hopefully, the third time really is the charm for Al Yevoli.

Finding a Diamond(back) in the Rough – The Indy Ball Edition

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.