For a while now this website has been trending more and more towards independent or unaffiliated baseball coverage. When I released the Baseball Streaming Guide I think that’s when I first realized that this site was going to probably trend more towards 70% unaffiliated, 20% historical, and 10% affiliated coverage. It’s not that I don’t like watching Major League Baseball or Minor League Baseball. Rather, it’s that I get more enjoyment out of unaffiliated baseball these days.
To that end, this site is now going to do regular check-ins with various indie leagues. Sometimes this may be because a pennant race is heating up or a player I want to talk about is doing interesting things, and so on and so forth. Most of the time it’s going to be nothing more than another opportunity for me to talk about a topic that interests me in an unaffiliated league and hopefully that will get the word out about why unaffiliated baseball is worth watching. The first of these nowhere near regularly scheduled check-ins will focus on some players in the first month of the Liga Mexicana del Pacífico 2019-2020 season that have caught my eye.
I’m not looking to profile prospects or focus solely on players with affiliated ball experience. These won’t always be positive write-ups either. Sometimes players disappoint and that’s worth talking about as well. Without wasting more time, here are five players, in no particular order, worth your attention in the infancy of the new LPM season,
Keon Barnum – Designated Hitter for Mayos de Navojoa
Barnum is coming off of a campaign with the American Association’s Chicago Dogs where he earned Most Valuable Player honors. Throughout his first few games, it looked like Barnum was being exposed by LMP pitching. Lots of weak contact and an uncharacteristically high number of strikeouts. Barnum stayed within his approach and he’s started doing what he does best, taking his walks and driving the ball to all fields. In 98 plate appearances, the former Chicago White Sox first-round pick is slashing .273/.347/.455 with 3 home runs and 7 doubles. Watching Barnum at the plate he looks much the same as in the 2019 AA season and if this new power to all fields Barnum holds up there’s no reason he shouldn’t be getting another crack at affiliated ball.
Telvin Nash – First Baseman for Mayos de Navojoa
In his second season with the Mayos Nash has managed to be the opposite of Barnum in just about every way. His 2019 play with the York Revolution in the Atlantic League was good enough to earn him the ALPB’s Player of the Year award. That was on the heels of a productive 2018-2019 season with the Mayos. 2019-2020 has been anything but productive for Nash. He’s slashing .111/.158/.139 in 38 plate appearances. Nash took the drive the ball in the air approach that saw him hit 41 homers with York (previous career high was 29 in 2012 with the Lancaster JetHawks) and hasn’t managed to do much with it in LMP action. A current Nash at-bat consists of him fouling off a couple of fastballs he can’t catch up to and then getting underneath a breaking ball for a lazy popup to the outfield. It’s hard to see Nash turning it around, but the Mayos really need him to start producing.
Anthony Giansanti – Center Fielder for Venados de Mazatlán
Since his 2016 release from the Chicago Cubs organization, Giansantis has become a staple of unaffiliated baseball. The Connecticut native is exactly what unaffiliated teams want from their players: a contact-oriented hitter who sees lots of pitches and can leg out plenty of hits while providing some pop and decent defense. This season he seems to have found another gear as he’s already hit 4 home runs and 4 doubles in 91 plate appearances. For comparison’s sake, Giansanti has routinely put up single-digit power numbers over 350+ plate appearances throughout the majority of his career. His .316/.385/.519 triple slash says volumes about why he has become the prototypical indie ball center fielder.
Elih Villanueva – Starting Pitcher for Charros de Jalisco
Villanueva is someone I become more familiar with due to his time in the Chinese Professional Baseball League the past two years. Villanueva was hoping to build on a very good 2019 with the Chinatrust Brothers, but his CPBL playoff blemishes have followed him to LMP. He’s started 3 games and only managed to last 11.1 innings. A H/9 of 11.6 and BB/9 of 7.7 have led to a WHIP of 2.143. Villanueva has looked downright awful through his 3 starts, lacking not just command but velocity as well. Unfortunately, based on his career track record his numbers from the 2019 CPBL season appear to be an aberration and his LMP numbers are more in line with his usual production.
Dariel Álvarez – Right Fielder for Charros de Jalisco
Álvarez has logged 12 seasons of professional baseball and in that time he has only batted below .250 once. It’s hard for me to find a reason why Álvarez is not in affiliated baseball. He spent all his time in affiliated ball with the Baltimore Orioles organization and he was as consistent with them as he has been in unaffiliated ball. Álvarez can be counted on to make lots of contact, hardly ever strikeout or walk, and provide some power behind his lanky frame. With Jalisco this year Álvarez has been the same, only striking out 12 times and walking 6 in 99 plate appearances. Meanwhile, he’s slashed .308/.364/.549 with 6 home runs and 4 doubles. The former Serie Nacional de Béisbol product has been a stud at every stop in his career. He simply came about in an era where his skillset was not going to be valued by an MLB front office. Luckily unaffiliated ball exists and Álvarez continues to get the chance to show the world what a great ballplayer looks like.
There are plenty more players from LMP worth getting some column space, but I have to keep these things in check somewhat. The players mentioned this time out are interesting for a variety of reasons and represent both the promise and failure of baseball. Even in unaffiliated ball the best-laid plans often fail to come to pass while stars are gonna star. I have no idea what league or topic I’ll be checking in about next time, but I’ll see you when I do check-in.
Lead photo courtesy of Unknown – El Linea BC