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Independence Day

April 25, 2008 | By RotoRob | comment on this post
Keith Reed is a former Orioles prospect.
One-time Oriole first rounder Keith Reed is hoping to get another crack at the Show. (Photo by Ashmore)

Ever wonder what became of that hotshot prospect who flamed out in the minors? There’s a decent chance he wound up in an Independent League, the baseball equivalent of purgatory.

With the Atlantic League kicking off its schedule Friday, I thought it might be fun to check in on a few of these players who are trying desperately to use Indy ball in an effort to springboard back into organized ball.

Righty Mike Bumstead spent seven seasons in the minors, mostly in the Padre organization, before landing on the Atlantic League defending champion Newark Bears this season. Originally signed as an undrafted free agent out of Cal State Fullerton in 2001, Bumstead reached Triple-A by 2004, pitching quite well there that year as a swingman. However, he never tasted the fruit of the majors. After a 4.39 ERA over 595 1/3 minor league innings, this 30-year-old’s chances of getting back to organized ball look slim.

Righty reliever Josh Fields, a 23rd round pick by the ChiSox in 2001, looked like a decent relief prospect when he recorded a 2.75 ERA in 55 games in his first taste of Triple-A in 2005. However, injuries sidetracked his career and he was never able to make it past Double-A again. Now, the 28-year-old will try his luck in Newark.

Corey Willey is back in an Indy league for the second time. Originally signed by the BoSox as an undrafted free agent in 2004, Willey reached the Sally League that year, but missed the entire 2005 season. The following year, he pitched very well in the Indy Cam-Am League, catching the attention of the Phillies. Last year, the Phils started him out at High-A ball, and he excellent before taking a pounding in Double-A. The 27-year-old hopes another solid performance in Indy ball will get him a third try at organized ball.

Oriole fans surely remember Keith Reed, the team’s first round pick in 1999 who had an All-American college career at Providence. Reed progressed quickly, first making it to Triple-A in 2001. Unfortunately, he was never able to duplicate that original splash, when he hit .311 in 20 games, showing good patience. He spent the next three seasons stuck at Double-A, finally making it back to Triple-A in 2005. That same season, Reed got his one and only cup of coffee in the Show, going 1-for-5 in a six-game stint with the O’s. In 2006, he spent the season at Triple-A, showing decent pop, but his overall numbers slipped and he found himself in Indy ball the following year. Reed had a strong season for Newark last season, but the 29-year-old will need to show even more to get himself another shot at the majors.

Other players who have resurfaced in the Atlantic League include:

  • OF Cory Aldridge, 28, the Braves’ fourth rounder in 1997, who went hitless for the Braves in five at bats in 2001.
  • 2B/3B Bobby Hill (not to be confused with the pudgy cartoon kid from King of the Hill), 30, the Cubs’ second-round pick in 2000, who played 249 games in four big league seasons before being released by the Padres organization after the 2006 campaign.
  • IF Tim Sweeney, 27, Montreal’s 20th round pick in 2002, who never got past the Sally League in his two seasons in the Expos’ system. This is his second year in Indy ball.
  • LHP Benito Baez, 30, who was signed by the A’s out of the Dominican Republic in 1993. He reached the majors in 2001 with Florida, getting shelled for a 13.50 ERA in eight relief appearances covering 9 1/3 IP. This will be Baez’s third year in Indy ball.
  • RHP Matt Sweeney, 25, who was a Phillies’ 11th round pick in 2001. In seven minor league seasons, Sweeney pitched just 14 games above Class-A, never getting back Double-A. This is his first crack at Indy ball.
  • RHP David Pellegrine, 22, the Angels’ 11th rounder in 2006. He spent one season in the Halos’ system, showing awful command at rookie ball.
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