Winter Hot Stove Roundup

We all can now begin to feel the crisp, cold weather making its way into the northeast. After what has been a fairly mild offseason thus far, the air is beginning to turn cooler as the holidays approach. Despite that, baseball news has begun to break left and right again with the Winter Meetings taking place this week at National Harbor in Washington D.C. Many Major League players were on the move and/or signed big contracts. Former Ducks pitcher Rich Hill was one of the most notable names, as he inked a 3-year, $48 million deal to stay with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Other Ducks alumni were also in the news recently, so let’s check in on some of the latest updates from this offseason:

Barbosa to Brewers
barbosa-brewers

While no official confirmation has been given by the team just yet, 2015 Long Island Ducks pitcher Andrew Barbosa announced on Thursday morning that he has been signed by the Milwaukee Brewers organization. Included with the agreement is an invitation to the team’s Major League spring training, held in Maryvale, Arizona. The Brewers become his third MLB organization since pitching with Long Island two seasons ago, and it keeps his dream of reaching the Major Leagues alive.

Barbosa spent the 2016 season with the Mets organization and posted strong numbers despite two stints on the disabled list. Though limited to just 16 appearances (15 starts), the southpaw went 3-0 with a 1.51 ERA and 71 strikeouts to just 19 walks over 71 and two-thirds innings. He spent time in Rookie-Level, Single-A, Double-A and Triple-A during the year. In August, he tossed seven no-hit innings and struck out 11 batters with only one walk while pitching for Advanced-A St. Lucie. Six days later, he threw eight scoreless innings and yielded just one hit and two walks while striking out five for Double-A Binghamton.

Despite the success, the Mets did not offer Barbosa a contract for the 2017 season and he elected free agency on November 7. The 29-year-old joined Indios de Mayaguez to pitch in the Puerto Rican Winter League, and he is expected to start sometime next week. According to the lefty, his goal is “to break camp with the big league team” in the spring.

Shawn Soars to Clearwater
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2012 Atlantic League champion Shawn Williams continues to climb up the managerial ranks in the Philadelphia Phillies organization. The former Ducks infielder has been promoted to the club’s Advanced-A affiliate, the Clearwater Threshers, of the Florida State League. It marks the third different club he has managed in the Phillies organization after spending 2014 with the Williamsport Crosscutters (A-) and the past two seasons with the Lakewood BlueClaws (A).

Williams had a successful two seasons at the helm of Lakewood. He combined to post a 147-130 record during the regular season, including a 45-25 mark in the second half of the 2016 campaign. That was good enough to win the Second Half North Division title in the South Atlantic League, and he eventually led the BlueClaws to an appearance in the South Atlantic League Championship Series. Unfortunately, they fell short of their championship goal, losing in four games to the Rome Braves. Despite not reaching the playoffs in 2015, he did help the BlueClaws to an overall record of 73-65 that year.

The Florida resident was a key contributor to the Ducks’ championship run in 2012. Serving as the team’s utility infielder, he posted strong numbers during his playing time in the regular season. The switch-hitter batted .272 with six homers, 46 RBI and 47 runs in 102 games. Williams provided strong value too in his speed, stealing 18 bases while being caught just five times, and in his versatility. He played six different positions during the regular season — catcher, first base, second base, third base, left field and right field – and combined to make just seven errors.

Ducks Down Under
treece-blanke-australia

We have previously focused on several Ducks and Atlantic League alumni who are playing winter baseball down in the Caribbean this offseason. However, that’s not the only place you can find members of the 2016 Flock. Two have recently joined teams in the Australian Baseball League to keep playing the game before the 2017 season begins.

Right-handed pitcher Zac Treece, a late addition to the Ducks roster in 2016, is currently pitching in the six-team league for the Brisbane Bandits. The team has gotten off to a bit of a slow start at 5-7, currently fifth in the league, but three games out of first place. Treece did well in his first two outings, both in long relief, combining to pitch four scoreless innings and yielding just one hit while striking out six. However, he has surrendered nine runs in just one and one-third innings over three appearances since that point.

The 27-year-old put together a phenomenal campaign in 2016, posting a 3-1 record with a 1.86 ERA and 22 saves in 41 games for the River City Rascals of the Frontier League. He struck out 75 batters in just 48 and one-third innings while walking only 15 as well. The Ducks took notice and acquired him for a player to be named later prior to the start of the postseason. Treece went on to make four appearances in the playoffs for Long Island, throwing three and two-thirds scoreless innings, allowing one hit and one walk with six strikeouts.

The second Ducks alumnus playing in Australia is catcher Mike Blanke. He has joined the roster of the Perth Heat, who are currently last in the league with a 4-9 record. The backstop has yet to get into a game, but with three coming up in the next two days, it certainly seems possible he might get some action. The team does list three other catchers on their roster though.

The Canada native posted some strong numbers during his second season with the Ducks in 2016. Blanke clubbed 10 home runs and drove in 50 runs, both of which equaled career-highs he previously set in 2012 with Winston-Salem (A+, White Sox). He also played in 113 games, the most of his career with one team and second-most overall, just two games shy of the 115 he played in 2011 with Kannapolis (A, White Sox) and Winston-Salem.

Other Atlantic League alumni that are currently playing in Australia include:

RHP Chris Oxspring (Somerset, 2011) – Sydney Blue Sox
RHP Virgil Vasquez (Southern Maryland, 2011-12) – Melbourne Aces
C Allan de San Miguel (Southern Maryland, 2014) – Melbourne Aces
INF Luke Hughes (Lancaster, 2015) – Perth Heath

Stay tuned for more updates as the offseason continues! With the Caribbean Winter Leagues regular season winding down, we’ll be sure to keep you aware of which Ducks and Atlantic League alumni have stood out among the rest and which will be playing postseason baseball down south.

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Posted on December 8, 2016, in Winter Hot Stove and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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