I know I’ve mentioned before that prospects are a major part of why I follow minor league baseball. Maybe it’s because they provide the best opportunity for “Hey, I saw him when he played in ______” moments. Or maybe it’s because they’re the most visible players, and therefore the easiest to follow. Or maybe it’s because they represent greatness, and writing about and interviewing them allows me to touch that greatness for a moment. Maybe it’s a combination of all three.
The thing about the minor leagues, though, is that it’s not all about the prospects. It’s also about the guys who spend years in the minors, scratching and clawing and fighting every day just to keep their jobs. When one of those guys gets called up, it feels entirely different, because their stories are about hard work and perseverance and succeeding against long odds.
This season, five guys with a ton of minor league experience, all of them over the age of thirty, have gotten the call. Three of them have already made their debuts, while two others are still waiting to enter a game for the first time as major leaguers.
Jesus Feliciano, New York Mets – June 10 – Feliciano made his major league debut four days after his 31st birthday, striking out as a pinch hitter against San Diego’s Mike Adams in the first game of a doubleheader. He started the second game and went 0-4. In 31 games so far, he has hit .275/.286/.362. He has hit .300 at Triple-A in each of the last four seasons, including .339 in 336 at-bats this year.
Erik Kratz, Pittsburgh Pirates – July 17 – Kratz has only played 625 minor league games, but he’s already thirty, so I thought he merited inclusion here. That, and his call-up story was great: playing in the Triple-A All-Star game, his manager told him he could go to the major leagues or stay in the game. Easy call. He spent two weeks with the Pirates, going 2-5 with a run scored and an RBI in his first game before falling into a 2-31 slump.
Max St. Pierre, Detroit Tigers – September 4 – St. Pierre spent fourteen seasons in the minor leagues, appearing in 978 games and earning a reputation for being a solid defensive backstop. He made his debut last Saturday, starting a rally with his first major league hit in his fourth at-bat (he turned into pinch-runner Brennan Boesch, who scored the eventual winning run).
John Lindsey, Los Angeles Dodgers – has not played – Lindsey has nearly 1,600 minor league games on his resume since 1995. In 2005-06, he played 125 games in the independent Can-Am League; since returning to affiliated ball, he’s hit exactly 100 homeruns, driven in 401 runs, and hit over .300 three times.
J.C. Boscan, Atlanta Braves – has not played – Boscan was called up on September 1 after fourteen seasons and 976 games. The defensive numbers are incomplete, but he thrown out 34% of would-be base stealers in his career, including 100 out of 152 in 1999 alone (a year in which he also had 13 errors and 15 passed balls).