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Browsing Posts tagged Jeff Urlaub

By Scott Barancik, Editor

Here they are, your minor-league updates from the week of May 23-29, 2016.

Jewish Baseball News Player of the Week

Jared Lakind (Pirates/AA) had a busy week, delivering four scoreless relief appearances to stretch his streak to 10. The 24-year-old gave up one hit and three walks while striking out five over a combined six innings. Lakind’s season ERA has shrunk to a slim 2.00.

Other highlights

Richard Bleier (Yankees/AAA) was called-up to the Majors for the first time in his nine-year professional career. Through May 29, he had not yet made his on-field debut.

LF Mike Meyers (Red Sox/High-A) knocked in four runs to boost his season total to 27, tying him for 11th in the Carolina League. His four triples rank fifth.

SS Alex Bregman (Astros/AA) added two HRs, two doubles, three walks and six RBIs last week while striking out just once. The 22-year-old phenom’s slugging percentage (.652) and OPS (1.077) rank second among all minor-leaguers, and his walk-to-strikeout ratio (1.54) ranks fifth.

C Garrett Stubbs (Astros/High-A) continued tearing up the ball, hitting .400 with a home run, two doubles, three walks, and four RBIs. For the season, the 23-year-old USC alum is hitting .292 with 5 HRs, 23 RBIs, 8 stolen bases, and a .394 on-base percentage in just 106 at-bats.

In just his second game back after a month on the disabled list, C Maxx Tissenbaum (Marlins/A) went hit a grand-slam home run.

CF Rhett Wiseman (Nationals/A) hit .357 with a home run, two doubles, and three RBIs.

LF Zach Borenstein (Diamondbacks/AAA) hit .333 with a home run, triple, two doubles, and four RBIs. His walk/strikeout ratio was a little lopsided, with eight whiffs and zero bases on balls.

Cincinnati Reds starter Jon Moscot was dominant in his third rehab game, pitching six shutout innings and striking out four batters while yielding four hits and no walks. He is scheduled to start tomorrow’s Reds game against the Rockies (May 31).

Reliever R.C. Orlan (Nationals/High-A) was busy too, earning two saves in three appearances. His three scoreless outings extended his streak to eight in a row. For the year, Orlan is 1-0 with a 1.27 ERA, six saves in seven opportunities, and is holding opposing batters to a .113 average and just 0.89 walks/hits per inning.

Also nailing four scoreless appearances was P Jason Richman (Rangers/High-A), who yielded four hits and a walk over a total of five innings while striking out five.

P Scott Effross (Cubs/A) was perfect in each of two relief appearances, striking out three batters over as many innings. The 22-year-old hasn’t yielded an earned run in eight straight outings.

Transactions

Former major-leaguer Ryan Lavarnway signed a minor-league deal with the Blue Jays and logged three games with the franchise’s Double-A team.

Former Athletics prospect Jeff Urlaub has joined the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the independent Atlantic League.

The Padres assigned former major-leaguer Josh Satin (AAA) to extended spring training.

Injury updates

Cleveland Indians prospect Rob Kaminsky (AA) remains on the disabled list.

Cincinnati Reds prospect Zack Weiss (AA) remains on the disabled list.

Birthdays

Astros prospect Garrett Stubbs (High-A) turned 23 on May 26.

Red Sox prospect Zach Kapstein (A-short season) turned 24 on May 28.

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By Scott Barancik, editor

Nu, so what’s going on in the Minors?

Cody Decker — the San Diego Padres’ all-time minor-league HR leader and a participant in this month’s Triple-A Home Run Derby — has hit three HRs since the All-Star break, including Thursday’s solo shot (7/23/2015). The El Paso Chihuahuhas star has 18 HRs, and he’s hitting them at a league-leading pace of one in every 14 at-bats.

Jeff Urlaub is back from Tommy John surgery, albeit in a rehab assignment with the rookie-league AZL Athletics. In his first game in more than 14 months, the 28-year-old reliever pitched a scoreless inning of relief Thursday, striking out two batters and walking one. Mazel tov, Jeff!

At age 28 and in his first season with the Washington Nationals franchise, 2012 Team Israel member Richard Bleier is enjoying his best season yet. Check out this write-up in the Nats’ hometown paper, a modest rag called the Washington Post. And if you wish, check out JBN’s recent article on the lanky southpaw, too.

Diamondbacks prospect Zach Borenstein continues to tear-up Double-A pitching. Yesterday, he smashed his 10th HR in 220 at-bats, a 2-run shot that ran his RBI total to 50. The 25-year-old left fielder is hitting .318 with a .408 OBP and .958 OPS.

Charlie Cutler, who was batting .380 for the Salt Lake Bees (AAA) when the Angels released him earlier this month, remains unsigned. Why? Insiders agree the 28-year-old can hit. Owner of a .306 career average and .393 on-base percentage, the 2008 draftee is tough to strike out and walks as often as he whiffs, a rarity these days. But Cutler’s catching skills are uneven (he nixed only 2 of 23 stolen-base attempts in Triple-A this year), and with no more than 5 home runs per season, he lacks the power expected of a first baseman or designated hitter. Rough game, baseball is.

Dave Rosenfield, who served as general manager of the Norfolks Tides (AAA) from 1963 to 2011, hasn’t retired just yet. Among other duties, the 86-year-old vice president still creates the International League’s (AAA) entire season schedule by hand. You can learn about Dave’s storied baseball career in his 2013 book, Baseball: One Helluva Life.

SUNY-Purchase alum Mike Skoller has signed to play in the independent Ozarks Pro Baseball League, a newly-formed league that has a unique plan for moving players onto MLB-affiliated teams.

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By Scott Barancik, editor

As baseball fans celebrate Opening Day, Jewish Baseball News is taking a look back at the 21 Jews who participated in MLB Spring Training this year.

Fifteen position players and six pitchers saw playing time, some as full-fledged team members, others as non-roster invitees, and several via short-term stints. Their stats are shown at the bottom; players who made their franchise’s Opening Day roster are shown in bold.

Following are some of the Spring’s top stories.

  • It will take a lot more for him to earn back some fans’ trust and affection, but Milwaukee’s Ryan Braun — fresh from a 65-game suspension for taking performance-enhancing drugs — dazzled, hitting .417 with nine RBIs and eight extra-base hits in 36 at-bats.
  • Ike Davis and Josh Satin both made the Mets’ Opening Day roster and will share First Base duties with Lucas Duda. But Davis — who squeaked by with a .241 average in Spring Training — is among the candidates to be sent down later this week to make room for Jon Niese.
  • Nate Freiman‘s 11 RBIs ranked eighth on the A’s, but it wasn’t enough to make the team’s Opening Day roster. Meanwhile, teammate Sam Fuld wowed his way onto the roster with four triples, 7 RBIs and a .348 on-base percentage.
  • With Boston’s Craig Breslow starting the season on the disabled list, Scott Feldman is the only Jewish pitcher to make an Opening Day roster. He also was the only Jewish starter during spring Training. As a group, Jewish pitchers went 1-and-5.
  • After missing much of the past three seasons with surgeries and injuries, former Boston Red Sox OF Ryan Kalish earned a spot on the Cubs’ Opening Day roster. Kalish hit .304 with 3 RBIs, stole 6 of 7 bases, and reached base 38.5% of the time.
  • Texas prospect Aaron Poreda earned some respect in his first MLB Spring Training since 2011. Poreda claimed one save in two chances, held opposing hitters to a .265 average, and walked just one batter over 8.1 innings.
  • Ian Kinsler, traded by Texas during the off-season for Detroit’s Cecil Fielder, outperformed “Big Daddy” with 3 HRs, 9 extra-based hits, 9 RBIs, a perfect 4-for-4 in stolen bases, a .300 average, and a .382 on-base percentage. Fielder matched Kinsler’s power (3 HRs, 9 extra-base hits, 10 RBIs) but hit .246 while striking out 16 times and drawing only two walks.
  • Ben Guez, a 27-year-old outfielder who spent part of the last four seasons with Detroit’s Triple-A club but has yet to be called up, made a brief but exciting splash in three Spring Training games. Against Toronto on 3/18/2014, Guez reached base all six times, going 3-for-3 with two doubles and three walks. His career MLB Spring Training average is a robust .529, along with a .692 on-base percentage.

 MLB Spring Training hitting, 2014

Team AB H 2B 3B HR RBI SB AVG OBP
Zach Borenstein LAA 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 NA 1.000
Ryan Braun MIL 36 15 5 0 3 9 0 .417 .500
Ike Davis NYM 29 7 2 0 2 7 0 .241 .313
Cody Decker SDP 10 3 1 0 1 4 0 .300 .417
Nate Freiman OAK 42 10 2 1 1 11 0 .238 .327
Sam Fuld OAK 59 16 1 4 1 7 1-1 .271 .348
Ben Guez DET 7 5 2 0 0 2 0-1 .714 .818
Ryan Kalish CHC 46 14 1 0 0 3 6-7 .304 .385
Ian Kinsler DET 60 18 5 1 3 9 4-4 .300 .382
Ryan Lavarnway BOS 38 11 1 0 2 5 0 .289 .357
Jake Lemmerman SDP 1 0 0 0 0 0 0 .000 .500
Joc Pederson LAD 38 7 1 0 3 6 0 .184 .311
Kevin Pillar TOR 33 5 1 1 0 4 0-1 .152 .176
Josh Satin NYM 50 13 2 0 1 4 0 .260 .333
Danny Valencia KCR 48 11 1 0 1 4 1-1 .229 .327

Notes: Zach Borenstein walked in his only plate appearance

MLB Spring Training pitching, 2014

Team W L ERA G IP H BB SO AVG WHIP
Jeremy Bleich NYY 0 0 9.00 1 1.0 2 0 0 .500 2.00
Scott Feldman HOU 0 2 5.40 4 16.2 21 2 14 .292 1.38
Aaron Poreda TEX 0 1 3.24 8 8.1 9 1 8 .265 1.20
Danny Rosenbaum WAS 0 1 2.70 3 3.1 3 2 2 .300 1.50
Jeff Urlaub OAK 1 1 8.10 4 3.1 4 2 1 .333 1.80
Josh Zeid HOU 0 0 4.15 7 8.2 12 4 12 .333 1.85

Notes: Aaron Poreda earned one save in two chances; Josh Zeid earned a save in his sole opportunity. Boston’s Craig Breslow did not play, due to injury

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Danny Valencia (mlb.com)

Danny Valencia (mlb.com)

Nate Freiman (mlb.com)

Nate Freiman (mlb.com)

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

A flurry of roster moves is taking place as Spring Training player evaluations near an end.

The Oakland A’s picked up Nate Freiman on Saturday (3/23/2013) after the Houston Astros put him on waivers. The 26-year-old first baseman, who dominated opposing pitchers during Team Israel’s World Baseball Classic bid last year, hit .278 for Houston during Spring Training, with 1 HR, two doubles, no walks and 7 whiffs in 36 at-bats.

According to MLB.com, the A’s are considering Freiman for a potential platoon job at first base. Acquired by the Astros in the Rule 5 postseason draft, the 6-foot-8, 250-pounder hit .298 with 24 HRs and 105 RBIs  for the San Diego Padres’ double-A team in 2012.

As Jewish Baseball News contributor Zev Ben Avigdor points out in his minor-league Twitter feed, Freiman joins a franchise rich in Jewish players, including pitchers Max Perlman and Jeff Urlaub and catcher Nick Rickles.

Danny Valencia‘s bid to start the 2013 season on the Baltimore Orioles’ roster ended Thursday (3/21/2013) when he was reassigned to the Norfolk Tides, the franchise’s triple-A team. The move came despite a strong Spring in which the 28-year-old third baseman hit .323 with 1 HR and 4 RBIs in 31 at-bats and had a .417 on-base percentage. He hit a game-winning HR in Tuesday’s (3/19/2013) 8-7 win over the Boston Red Sox.

According to the Baltimore Sun:

The 28-year-old Valencia entered camp as a possible right-handed designated hitter because of his .316/.359/.472 career batting line against right-handed pitching. He also competed for a utility infield spot this spring, playing both third base and first base.

The Sun also noted that during the offseason, Valencia‘s name “appeared on a list tied to a Miami-area anti-aging clinic that is being investigated by MLB for supplying major league players with performance-enhancing drugs. Valencia addressed the report on the first day of camp, denying that he’s ever used PEDs.”

Pittsburgh Pirates prospect (and one-time Major Leaguer) Aaron Poreda was released earlier this month by the club’s double-A team, the Altoona Curve. The 26-year-old hurler started three games for the Curve in 2012, going 2-0 with a 2.25 ERA. Poreda played briefly in 2009 for the San Diego Padres and the Chicago White Sox.

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By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Jewish Baseball News, the website that brings you “News and stats on Jews with bats,” has selected the top Jewish minor-leaguers of the 2012 season.

Here are the award winners:

Rookie of the year

Jack Marder, 2B/C/LF, High Desert Mavericks (Seattle Mariners)

Most improved

Mauricio Tabachnik, P, Guerreros de Oaxaca (no MLB affiliation)

Comeback player

Jeremy Bleich, P, Tampa Yankees (New York Yankees)

Best starter

No winner

Best reliever

Jeff Urlaub, Stockton Ports (Oakland Athletics)

Power hitter

Nate Freiman, 1B, San Antonio Missions (San Diego Padres); obtained by the Houston Astros on 12/6/2012.

Most valuable player

Robbie Widlansky, DH/OF/1B, Bowie Baysox (Baltimore Orioles); obtained by the Los Angeles Angels on 12/6/2012.

Additional information on the award winners and runners-up is provided below.

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Detailed information

Rookie of the Year

Jack Marder, 22, made his minor-league debut in 2011. Because he had just 71 at-bats that year, Jewish Baseball News considers 2012 his “rookie” season. And what a season it was. The versatile 22-year-old hit .360, including .410 with runners in scoring position, and reached base 42.5 percent of the time. Marder had only 278 at-bats but still drilled 24 doubles, 4 triples, and 10 HRs, drove in 56 runs, and stole 16 bases in 22 attempts.

Honorable mention (in alphabetical order): Sean Bierman (Tampa Bay Rays), Jeremy Schaffer (St. Louis Cardinals), Maxx Tissenbaum (San Diego Padres)

Most improved

Mauricio Tabachnik, 23, spent three years in the San Diego Padres’ farm system before being released in 2011. A native of Mexico, he took his right arm to the Mexican League that year but did not impress. In addition to compiling a 5.36 ERA, he gave up an average of two walks and/or hits per inning and walked more batters (41) than he struck out (24). But Tabachnik was a different player in 2012, finishing 4-2 with a 3.18 ERA, more strikeouts (38) than walks (27), and giving up an average of five fewer hits and/or walks per nine innings.

Honorable mention: Richard Bleier (Texas Rangers), Cameron Selik (Washington Nationals)

Comeback player

Jeremy Bleich, 25, was a starting pitcher with the Trenton Thunder (AA) when he seriously hurt his shoulder in May 2010. It would be another two years before the former 1st-round draft pick would pitch again, this time as a reliever. Bleich’s 2012 comeback was impressive. He went 2-1 with a career-best 3.86 ERA, struck out 24 while walking just eight, and held opposing batters to a .242 average.

Honorable mention: Ryan Kalish (Boston Red Sox)

Best reliever

Jeff Urlaub, 25, finished the 2012 season with a winning record (7-6) and a 3.18 ERA, despite playing for two teams with losing records. He produced some eye-popping stats along the way, striking out a combined 58 batters while walking only 9, holding opposing teams to a .197 batting average, and allowing just 4 HRs in 65 innings.

Honorable mention: Corey Baker (St. Louis Cardinals), David Colvin (Seattle Mariners), Ian Kadish (Toronto Blue Jays)

Power hitter

Nate Freiman, 25, doesn’t just look imposing at the plate. The 6-foot-7-inch terrorized Texas League pitchers in 2012 with a career-high 24 HRs and a league-leading 105 RBIs. He didn’t sacrifice discipline, turning in a tidy .298 batting average and .370 on-base percentage. Later, Freiman brought his big bat to the World Baseball Classic, where he launched 4 HRs in 12 at-bats for Team Israel.

Honorable mention: Cody Decker (San Diego Padres)

Most valuable player

Robbie Widlansky, 28, helped the Bowie Baysox (AA) earn a playoff berth with the best performance of his 6-year professional career. He ranked among Eastern League leaders with a .316 batting average (3rd place), 83 RBIs (3rd), 35 doubles (2nd/tie), and a .404 on-base percentage (2nd). Widlansky also stole 11 bases, and his walk-to-strikeout ratio (64 to 74) was a career high.

Honorable mention: Joc Pederson (Los Angeles Dodgers), Nate Freiman (San Diego Padres)

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Jeff Urlaub, Oakland A’s prospect

By Zev Ben Avigdor/Jewish Baseball News

Jeff Urlaub was in no rush to turn pro. The lanky pitcher from Scottsdale, Ariz., turned down draft offers in 2005 (right out of high school) and 2008 before finally accepting a contract in 2010 with the Oakland A’s.

Since then, the 25-year-old reliever has been a model of consistency. He produced a 2.39 ERA for the A’s rookie-league team in 2010, had a combined 2.41 ERA with the franchise’s short-season and Class A affiliates in 2011, and finished 2012 with a combined 3.18 ERA for Oakland’s Class A and A-advanced teams.

Urlaub produced some eye-popping stats along the way. In 147 and 1/3 innings across three minor-league seasons, the 6’2″, 160-pounder has struck out 156 batters, walked a mere 22 — that’s a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 7-to-1 — and given up just 8 HRs. In 2012, he held opposing teams to a combined .197 batting average.

Though being a Jewish minor leaguer can be lonely, Urlaub has had the good fortune of playing with two other tribe members in the A’s farm system, catcher Nick Rickles and pitcher Max Perlman.

Jewish Baseball News contributor Zev Ben Avigdor had a chance to talk with Urlaub in August 2012, shortly before the affable southpaw learned he would be playing for Team Israel in the World Baseball Classic. An edited transcript of that interview follows.

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Tell the readers of Jewish Baseball News about your background.

I grew up Jewish. My mother’s Jewish. Both grandparents are Jewish. It was a little different, as far as religious beliefs go, and all that, but ultimately just a normal family. I was not bar mitzvahed; I chose to play baseball instead. I guess in the end that worked out for me. I observe the holidays, and we go to temple every now and then as a family, and I enjoy it.

What about now? Do you have time for Jewish stuff, when you’re so busy with baseball?

I really don’t. It’s pretty tough, especially when we’re going from city to city, but the good thing about minor-league baseball is they have chapel services and stuff like that, where it’s not necessarily for a specific religion, but it’s basically for everybody, and they try to keep it pretty generic. So I try to go to those on Sundays when I can, time permitting. It gives me a chance to kind of get away for a little bit. It gets me as close to temple as I can. It’s good to kind of listen in, with everything being pretty similar. It doesn’t matter what religion you are with the services that minor-league baseball provides. It’s for everyone, so it’s good.

So it’s pretty non-denominational?

Yeah, which helps. It makes you feel a little bit more comfortable when you go in there and listen that it’s not one particular religion or belief. They encourage all of us to come and listen in.

What’s your favorite Jewish holiday?

I would have to say Chanukah, just because we get eight nights, which is a lot longer than Christmas or anything like that. The eight nights is good because you get to be with family to celebrate.

How many holidays do you get to be with your family?

That’s a good question. Chanukah for sure, and that might be it. I don’t know if I get anything else. Everything else is during the season. Everything else is doing it on the road, and the only way to celebrate is to make a couple of phone calls.

Who got you started in baseball?

Growing up my dad played baseball in high school, played a little bit recreationally in college, and then semi-pro. I would just go with him to games. I really developed the love for the game at such a young age, so that really the only thing I wanted to do was to play catch, swing a bat, and just be around the game, whether it was in the dugout, when I was four or five years old watching my dad play semi-pro, or watching on TV. It just basically consumed my life.

So were those the guys you modeled yourself after, the guys you saw playing with your dad?

Yeah, mainly it was my dad. And then when I was really young I met two guys who played professional baseball with the A’s. I met them when I was about two years old. They used to come over and hang out at the house and talk baseball with me and throw a ball around. So it was really my dad and the two guys that my family knows who played pro ball in the big leagues. I really just tried to learn, especially from my dad at such a young age, but then to watch two family friends who are playing in the major leagues every day and just to watch how they play the game. And the older you get, the more you pick up and the more you talk about it.

You were drafted by the A’s, and you grew up as an A’s fan?

I did. I grew up as an A’s fan, and in the Coliseum.

What’s that like, to be able to play in the organization you grew up watching?

It was surreal…When I found out I got selected by Oakland, I was out with my mom, and one of our family friends called me and said, “You’ll never believe what just happened.” I didn’t know what to say. It was almost too good to be true. Talking with our friends, and having them tell me just exactly how the A’s minor-league system works, and the cities you play in—it seemed too perfect, almost. But when I got drafted, we had a party that night for family and friends, and my mom brought out an old photo—I was probably five years old, in an A’s jersey, with my name on the back. I couldn’t believe it. It was perfect. I really don’t have a better word to describe it.

When you were in Vermont last season and in Burlington this season, you had another Jewish teammate.

Yeah, Nick [Rickles].

What’s that like?

It was fun. We didn’t really talk about it a whole lot, but just knowing that there’s another guy in the clubhouse that shares the same beliefs that you do makes you feel a little bit more comfortable. And just being able to talk about it—it’s not necessarily awkward with other guys, but you actually have beliefs in common. It’s comforting.

How does that affect you, as a player, to feel a little more comfortable?

Minor-league baseball is such a diverse community. You almost feel a little bit more pressure, going out and playing and trying to do well, because you’re considered a minority in the game. It’s all about being able to handle that pressure, or what you might consider pressure, and to be able to talk about it. People watch you a little bit closer just because you are technically a minority in the game, and you don’t want to let those people down. At the same time, you’re just like everybody else on the field: we’re all trying to accomplish our dream and make it to the big leagues.

How important is the psychological part to your ability to make it to the big leagues?

I would say the mental part is a lot harder than the physical part. This game is such a grind. It will bring you up and it will make you feel great, like you’re where you belong, and then at times, when you’re not doing well, it will absolutely just tear you down, and you will feel lower than the ground and start questioning if this is what you’re supposed to do and if you want to continue playing. Mentally you just have to stay focused. It’s a grind—you don’t get many off days. If you can stay focused mentally and still believe in yourself, even when things aren’t going well, then you’ll have success. The game is so tough on you mentally that it’s not the physical part that causes guys to walk away from the game, it’s the mental part.

So feeling more secure in your culture—can that be a part of giving you mental strength?

It does. It definitely does. If you’re in your place and comfortable, it helps out on the field.

What’s the coolest part about being a Jewish baseball player?

The coolest part probably is the recognition. You kind of stand out a little bit more than most of the other players because of your religious beliefs. I would say you’re in an elite class of your own, and it’s fun. You get a wide variety of interaction with fans. A guy asked me for an autograph. He had an all-time Jewish baseball book with all Jewish players in it, and I actually got to look through it before I signed it. I looked at all the different players, not knowing that certain players were Jewish, and assuming that they weren’t. Guys come up to me and say, “You’re a Jewish baseball player,” and I say,“Yeah,” and they say, “Oh, there’s not many of you guys in the game,” and I say, “You know, there’s more than you think,” but with the stereotype the way it is, people don’t think about that right away. Everyone says, “Aren’t you supposed to be a banker, a doctor?” but I say, “We play baseball, too. Not all of us are the stereotype.” It just is what it is. People get stereotyped all the time. I don’t mind it.

Do you get a sense that there are a lot of baseball fans out there, young and not-so-young, for whom you are becoming kind of a hero, because you are Jewish?

It feels good to know that people look up to you. I wouldn’t use the term “hero”  just yet, but to be a good role model for younger kids, especially younger Jewish kids. You can be anything you want to be, as long as you put your mind to it. Just because some people say, ‘You’re Jewish, you can’t be athletic’—prove those people wrong…You go out there and prove those people wrong, and most of the time you just have to have fun with it. You hear things on the outside, some positives and a lot of negatives. You don’t pay attention to those negatives, and you really try to focus on those positives.

Speaking of positives, what would happen if you had an opportunity to play for Israel in the World Baseball Classic?

That would be great. When I found out they had a team, it was something that I became interested in right away, and without a doubt it would be a honor to play for Team Israel and really meet and get to know other Jewish baseball players who are going through the minor leagues, just like I am, and to represent who you are, and to show people that  Jewish people are not just who you think they are. There are a lot of great Jewish athletes, not just in baseball but in other sports as well. It’s something that would be a tremendous honor and a privilege to be a part of.

I first met you in short-season, single-A, and it seems to me that the more you move through baseball, the prouder you seem to be not just a successful baseball player, but a successful Jewish baseball player. Is that true?

That is. When you start out in the lower ranks, you’re just another guy, but the more you progress and move up, you do get a little bit more sense of self-accomplishment and a little bit more pride in what you’re doing and knowing that not a lot of people get this opportunity, and you really just have to soak it in and enjoy the moments, because the game doesn’t last forever, and eventually when time’s up, time’s up, so going out and enjoying every day is the one thing that I really try to focus on, and I’m honored to be able to put a uniform on every day, I’m honored to be able to go out on the mound and pitch in front of a crowd, because it’s what I love to do. It’s been my dream to continue to move up and eventually make it to the big leagues.

(Editor’s note: “Zev Ben Avigdor” is the pen name of a university scholar who writes for Jewish Baseball News. Click here to see more of his interviews.)

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It’s here: Team Israel reveals its roster

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

The long wait to see which players will represent Israel at World Baseball Classic qualifiers this week is over.

Team Israel’s 28-man roster (see below) includes two former Major Leaguers (player/coaches Shawn Green and Gabe Kapler), three Israelis, and 23 minor-leaguers. Because the MLB season is still underway, no current Major Leaguers are on the roster. Also missing are a number of Triple-A and even Double-A players whose teams wanted them around as potential call-ups later this month.

The double-elimination tournament takes place Sept. 19-23 in Jupiter, Fla., and pits Israel against teams from France, Spain, and South Africa. Whoever prevails will earn a spot in the main World Basic Classic competition, in November 2013. If Israel wins, the team it fields in 2013 likely will include a number of Major Leaguers (such as Kevin Youkilis, who already has committed to play) and Triple-A players.

Additional commentary on this week’s roster is shown below the table.

Team Israel: Roster for the WBC qualifying tourney
No.PlayerPos.AgeHometownMinor-league teamParent club
27COLVIN, DavidRHP23Mill Valley, CAClinton LumberKings (A)Seattle Mariners
34KAPLAN, JeffRHP27Dana Point, CABinghamton Mets (AA)New York Mets
36KOPP, DavidRHP26Coral Springs, FLErie SeaWolves (AA)Detroit Tigers
16LEICHMAN, AlonRHP23Kibbutz Gezer, IsraelN.A.N.A.
22LIPETZ, ShlomoRHP33Tel Aviv, IsraelN.A.N.A.
10LORIN, BrettRHP25Laguna Niguel, CAMobile Bay Bears (AA)Arizona Diamondbacks
21PERLMAN, MaxRHP24Jupiter, FLStockton Ports (A+)Oakland A's
(-)ROTHEM, DanRHP35Tel Aviv, IsraelN.A.N.A.
26SCHUMER, JustinRHP24Houston, TXSan Jose Giants (A+)San Francisco Giants
28ZEID, JoshRHP25New Haven, CTCorpus Christi Hooks (AA)Houston Astros
14BERGER, EricLHP26Goldsboro, NCColumbus Clippers (AAA)Cleveland Indians
35BLEIER, RichardLHP25Davie, FLFrisco Roughriders (AA)Texas Rangers
17GOULD, JeremyLHP24Buffalo Grove, ILSavannah Sand Gnats (A)New York Mets
29URLAUB, JeffLHP25Scottsdale, AZStockton Ports (A+)Oakland A's
37CUTLER, CharlieC26San Fransico, CAAltoona Curve (AA)Pittsburgh Pirates
3MARDER, JackC/IF22Calabasas, CAHigh Desert Mavericks (A+)Seattle Mariners
19RICKLES, NickC22Ft. Lauderdale, FLBurlington Bees (A+)Oakland A's
6DECKER, Cody1B25Santa Monica, CASan Antonio Missions (AA)San Diego Padres
25FREIMAN, Nate1B25Wellesley, MASan Antonio Missions (AA)San Diego Padres
9ORLOFF, Ben2B25Simi Valley, CACorpus Christi Hooks (AA)Houston Astros
2SATIN, Josh2B27Hidden Hills, CABuffalo Bisons (AAA)New York Mets
33HAERTHER, Casey3B24West Hills, CAArkansas Travelers (AA)Los Angeles Angels
7LEMMERMAN, JakeSS23Coronoa del Mar, CAChattanooga Lookouts (AA)Los Angeles Dodgers
15GREEN, ShawnOF39Des Plaines, ILN.A.N.A.
24GUEZ, BenOF25Houston, TXToledo Mud Hens (AAA)Detroit Tigers
18KAPLER, GabeOF37Hollywood, CAN.A.N.A.
31PEDERSON, JocOF20Palo Ato, CARancho Cucamonga Quakes (A+)Los Angeles Dodgers
23WIDLANSKY, RobbieOF/3B27Plantation, FLBowie Baysox (AA)Baltimore Orioles

Here are some other facts and observations on Team Israel’s roster for the qualifiers:

  • Of the 23 minor leaguers on the roster, three ended the 2012 season with a Triple-A team, 12 at the Double-A level, six at A-advanced, and two with a Single-A team.
  • Adam Greenberg, a former Major Leaguer who is trying to mount a comeback, was invited to Jupiter for tryouts but is not on the roster.
  • Josh Satin, who played briefly for the New York Mets in 2011 and 2012, is the only player with MLB experience.
  • The youngest player on the roster is 20-year-old outfielder Joc Pederson, who is ranked the Los Angeles Dodgers’ No. 3 prospect by MLB.com. The oldest player is 39-year-old Shawn Green, whose 15-year MLB career included five seasons with the Dodgers and ended with the New York Mets in 2007. Green’s 328 career HRs are second only to Hank Greenberg’s 331 among Jewish ballplayers.
  • Israeli player Alon Leichman plays for Cypress College, a community college in California.
  • During the qualifiers for the 2012 European Championship, Israeli pitcher Shlomo Lipetz was masterful, giving up just one earned run over 16-and-a-third innings while striking out 18 and walking three.
  • Three players on Team Israel are 6-foot-7-inches tall: pitchers Brett Lorin and Max Perlman, and 1B Nate Freiman. At 5-foot-8-inches, Alon Leichman is the shortest.
  • Nate Freiman and Cody Decker, teammates on the San Antonio Missions (AA), finished 2nd and 3rd in HRs this season among Texas League players.

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Good news Monday (7/9/2012)

By Scott Barancik/Jewish Baseball News

Our cup runneth over with good news this week:

  • Does Kevin Youkilis have a flair for the dramatic, or what? The newly-minted Chicago White Sox third baseman homered in his first at-bat at U.S. Cellular Field (see video) and finished the day 3-for-6 with 4 RBIs. He’s 9-for-23 (.391) during the current homestand, with 3 HRs and 10 RBIs.
  • Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Joc Pederson must have eaten his Wheaties on July 1. The 20-year-old outfielder with the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (A-advanced) homered three times in a 17-4 rout of the High Desert Mavericks to tie a franchise record. Quite a feat, especially since he’d managed just 3 HRs in his first 52 games.
  • Baltimore Orioles prospect Robbie Widlansky, who will be participating in the upcoming Eastern League (AA) All-Star game, was named Player of the Month in June after hitting .407 with 10 doubles, 2 HRs, 21 RBIs, and an OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging) of 1.116. (Read our interview with Widlansky here.)
  • Los Angeles Dodgers prospect Jake Lemmerman tweeted this photo of himself and hero Tommy Lasorda last week.
  • Sorry to hear that Los Angeles Dodgers CF Matt Kemp injured his hamstring, but the upside is that Milwaukee Brewers LF Ryan Braun will be an N.L. starter in this week’s All-Star Game rather than a reserve player.
  • Jewish Baseball News contributor Zev Ben Avigdor snapped this photo (below) at a Binghamton Mets (AA) home game against the Altoona Curve on July 3. Guess who threw out the first ball that night? Cleveland Cavaliers F Omri Casspri, the first Israeli to play in the NBA.
  • Fans unfurl an Israel flag at a Binghamton Mets game.

  • Max Ungar, an 18-year-old catcher selected by the Washington Nationals in the 36th round of this year’s amateur draft, is going to attend Denison University instead. Ungar confirmed the decision in a tweet to Jewish Baseball News. “I chose college over the pro’s,” he wrote. “A classic ‘Moneyball’ move.”
  • What’s it’s like to be a newly-drafted rookie about to begin your first minor-league assignment? Maxx Tissenbaum, an 11th-round draft pick of the San Diego Padres, tells you all about it in his blog The Padres Life.
  • Boston Red Sox prospect Ryan Lavarnway will be the starting catcher for the International League (AAA) in its annual All-Star game against the Pacific Coast League (AAA).
  • The bad news is that Sam Fuld went 0-for-3 in an appearance July 7 with the Charlotte Stone Crabs (A-advanced). The good news is that it marked the first game he’s played since undergoing wrist surgery. The Tampa Bay Rays outfielder is expected to complete a 20-game rehab stint before returning to St. Petersburg.
  • The Oakland A’s have promoted reliever Jeff Urlaub to the Stockton Ports (A-advanced). Can you blame them? In 25 appearances with the Burlington Bees (A) this season, the 25-year-old stringbean — he’s 6’2″, 160 lbs. — assembled a 5-4 record with 3 saves, a 2.60 ERA, 27 strikeouts and only one walk. And Urlaub continues to impress. Four games into his new gig with Stockton, he’s given up one hit, no walks, and no runs while holding opposing hitters to a .059 batting average.
  • Friday night (July 6) was a memorable one for Los Angeles Angels prospect Zach Borenstein, who went 4-for-5 with two doubles, two HRs, and 6 RBIs. His second HR of the night, struck in the bottom of the 9th inning, propelled the Cedar Rapids Kernels (A) to a 12-11, walk-off win over the Wisconsin Timber Rattlers.

Have any good news about Jewish athletes? Send it to sbarancik@jewishbaseballnews.com.

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JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — More than 50 Jewish athletes played minor-league baseball in 2011, and Jewish Baseball News has identified the very best.

Here is our 2011 list of the top Jewish minor-leaguers:

Lenny Linsky, P
Winner: Best rookie pitcher
Bowling Green Hot Rods (A)
Hudson Valley Renegages (A-short season)
Franchise: Tampa Bay Rays

 A 21-year-old in his first pro season, Linsky was 3-0 with 3 saves, a 1.23 ERA, 30 strikeouts, and just 7 walks in 29-and-1/3 innings. He held opposing batters to a .204 batting average.

Max Perlman, P
Runner-up: Best rookie pitcher
Sacramento River Cats (AAA)
AZL Athletics (Rookie)
Franchise: Oakland Athletics

Perlman’s story is among the season’s most interesting. Selected by Oakland in the 35th round of the 2011 amateur draft, the 23-year-old played just 13 games of rookie-league ball before the franchise’s AAA squad called him up. In his first AAA start, Perlman gave up only a single and a walk in five innings. For the season he went a combined 3-2 with a 2.63 ERA, 47 strikeouts, 13 walks, and an opposing-batter average of .187.

Nick Rickles, C
Winner: Best rookie batter
Vermont Lake Monsters (A-short season)
AZL Athletics (Rookie)
Franchise: Oakland Athletics

The 21-year-old rookie hit .310 this season with 2 HRs, 11 doubles, 2 triples, and 35 RBIs in 168 at-bats. Rickles had an on-base percentage of .370 and stole 6 bases in 7 attempts.

Zach Borenstein, LF
Runner-up: Best rookie batter
AZL Angels (rookie league)
Franchise: Los Angeles Angels

A first-year pro, Borenstein accomplished a lot in just 113 at-bats, hitting 2 HRs, 4 triples, 6 doubles, and driving in 21 runs. Although the 21-year-old hit a relatively modest .274, he hit .315 with runners in scoring position and had an on-base percentage of .397. Borenstein also stole an impressive 12 bases in 13 tries.

Charlie Cutler, C
Winner: Comeback player
Springfield Cardinals (AA)
Franchise: St. Louis Cardinals

Cutler fared so poorly with the Springfield Cardinals early last season that the franchise demoted him. His bad luck continued into the 2011 season, with injuries keeping him out of action much of the first several months. But the 25-year-old returned with a vengeance, ending the year with a team-high .333 average as well as 5 HRs, 34 RBIs, and a .404 average with runners in scoring position.

Danny Rosenbaum, P
Winner: Best starting pitcher
Potomac Nationals (A)
Harrisburg Senators (AA)
Franchise: Washington Nationals

Rosenbaum amassed a 9-6 record and a 2.52 ERA while striking out 135 batters and walking 52. The 23-year-old was particularly effective against lefties, whom he held scoreless across 10-and-2/3 innings.

Brett Lorin, P
Runner-up: Best starting pitcher
Bradenton Marauders (A-advanced)
Franchise: Pittsburgh Pirates

Lorin finished the year with a 2.84 ERA, 99 strikeouts, and just 19 walks. Though thin run support left him with a middling 7-6 record, the 24-year-old went 5-2 during the season’s second half and held opposing teams to a .230 batting average.

Michael Schwimer, P
Winner: Best reliever
Lehigh Valley IronPigs (AAA)
Franchise: Philadelphia Phillies

One of three Jewish minor-leaguers to reach the Majors this year, Schwimer baffled AAA batters, going 9-1 with 10 saves and a 1.85 ERA. The 25-year-old averaged 1.25 strikeouts per inning versus just 0.32 walks.

Jeff Urlaub, P
Runner-up: Best reliever
Burlington Bees (A)
Vermont Lake Monsters (A-short season)
Franchise: Oakland A’s

Urlaub finished the 2011 season with a 4-3 record, 5 saves, and a 2.41 ERA. The 24-year-old held opposing teams to a .217 batting average and struck out 7 times as many batters as he walked.

Ryan Lavarnway, C
Winner: Most Valuable Player
Pawtucket Red Sox (AAA)
Portland Sea Dogs (AA)
Franchise: Boston Red Sox

One of three Jewish minor-leaguers to reach the Majors this year, Lavarnway had career highs in batting average (.290) and HRs (32) while driving in 93 runs. The 24-year-old’s combination of plate discipline and power resulted in a .376 on-base percentage and .563 slugging percentage.

Josh Satin, 2B
Runner-up: Most valuable player
Buffalo Bisons (AAA)
Binghamton Mets (AA)
Franchise: New York Mets

One of three Jewish minor-leaguers to reach the Majors this season, Satin hit a career-high .323 with 12 HRs, 43 doubles, 2 triples, and 76 RBIs. The 26-year-old struck out 124 times but also drew 71 walks, giving him a .411 on-base percentage.

Nate Freiman, 1B
Honorable mention: Most Valuable Player
Lake Elsinore Storm (A-advanced)
Franchise: San Diego Padres

In his third year as a pro, Freiman batted .288 and led the Storm with 22 HRs and 111 RBIs. The 24-year-old’s RBI total was third-highest in the California League.

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POTD: Valencia, Lemmerman, Urlaub

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Here are your Players of the Day for Wednesday (8/18/2010):

  • 3B Danny Valencia of the Minnesota Twins singled in the go-ahead run en route to a 7-5 win over the White Sox (see video). The 25-year-old rookie went 1/4 and is batting .331, tops among AL rookies.
  • SS Jake Lemmerman of the rookie-league Ogden Raptors (Los Angeles Dodgers) continued his torrid hitting streak, going 3/5 with two doubles, a walk and 2 RBIs in a 14-4 victory over the Billings Mustangs. The top Jewish pick in the 2010 draft (5th round, 172nd overall), Lemmerman is ranked 1st in the Rookie Pioneer League in doubles (21) and runs scored (52), 2nd in slugging percentage (.560), 3rd in on-base percentage (.424), and 6th in batting average (.355).
  • RP Jeff Urlaub of the rookie-league AZL Athletics (Oakland Athletics) pitched 2 scoreless innings in a 2-1 loss to the AZL Rangers, giving up just one hit and walking none. A 30th-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft (905th overall), Urlaub has a 2.31 ERA with a strikeout-to-walk ratio of 23/3.

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POTD: Stern, Pevsner, Urlaub

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Here are your Players of the Day for Monday, Aug. 9, 2010:

  • Batting leadoff, LF Adam Stern of the “AAA” Nashville Sounds went 2/4 with a double, a walk, and one run scored in a 12-2 win over the Las Vegas 51s. The 30-year-old Canadian also threw out a runner who was trying to extend a single into a double. Stern — who went 0/8 in brief stints with the Milwaukee Brewers this season — is hitting .299 with 4 HRs and 25 RBIs in 214 at-bats at Nashville.
  • RP Jeff Urlaub of the rookie-league AZL Athletics (Oakland Athletics) earned his first minor-league save in a 6-3 victory over the AZL Royals, striking out three of the four batters he faced. A 30th-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, he has a 2.66 ERA with 22 strikeouts and only 3 walks.
  • RP Andrew Pevsner of the rookie-league Ogden Raptors (Los Angeles Dodgers) continued his stellar debut, striking out 2 of the 4 batters he faced and giving up one hit in a 3-2 loss to the Orem Owlz. A 16th-round pick in the 2010 draft, Pevsner is 3-0 with a 1.62 ERA, and he has struck out 17 batters in 16-and-2/3 innings pitched. He is a teammate of shortstop (and fellow Hebe) Jake Lemmerman.

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POTD: Kipnis, Freiman, Urlaub

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — Here are your Players of the Day for Tuesday, August 3, 2010:

  • A day after going 4/7 in a doubleheader, 2B Jason Kipnis of the “AA” Akron Aeros (Cleveland Indians) went 2/4 with a triple and HR in a 5-1 loss to the Altoona Curve. A 23-year-old out of Arizona State, Kipnis raised his batting average to .337, which would be second-highest in the Eastern League if he had enough at-bats. (He began the 2010 season with the “A+” Kinston Indians.)
  • 1B Nate Freiman of the “A” Fort Wayne TinCaps (San Diego Padres) went 3/4 with a double and a walk in a 5-0 win over the Lansing Lugnuts. Freiman, a 6’7″ recruit out of Duke University, is batting .302 with 11 HRs and 65 RBIs in his second minor-league season.
  • RP Jeff Urlaub of the rookie-league AZL Athletics (Oakland Athletics) pitched 3 perfect innings and struck out four in a 9-1 loss to the AZL Brewers. A 30th-round pick in the 2010 amateur draft, Urlaub has a 2.84 ERA with 19 strikeouts in 19 innings and just 3 walks.

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Tally of Jews in MLB draft reaches 11

JEWISH BASEBALL NEWS — The running count of Jews chosen in last month’s MLB amateur draft has reached 11.

Jewish Baseball News last reported that at least six of the 1,500 players selected in the three-day draft were Jewish. Since then, our friends at Jewish Sports Review have identified another five Jews, shown below in red. Where possible, we list the signing status of each player, and which minor-league squad they have been assigned to, if any:

  1. Jake Lemmerman, SS (Los Angeles Dodgers: 5th round, 172th overall pick). Background: Duke University. Status: Signed.  Playing for the Ogden Raptors (Rookie Pioneer League).
  2. Zach Weiss, P (Pittsburgh Pirates: 10th round, 297th overall pick). Background: Northwood High School, Irvine, Calif. Status: Not signed. May play at UCLA instead.
  3. Jason Markovitz, RP (Seattle Mariners: 13th round, 402nd overall pick): Background: Long Beach State. Status: Signed. Playing for the Everett AquaSox (Class A-short season).
  4. Andrew Pevsner, P (Los Angeles Dodgers: 16th round, 502nd overall pick). Background: Johns Hopkins University. Status: Signed. Playing for the Ogden Raptors (Rookie Pioneer League).
  5. Mike Schwartz, 1B (Chicago White Sox: 17th round, 518th overall pick). Background: University of Tampa. Status: Signed. Playing for the Bristol White Sox (Rookie Applachian League).
  6. Eric Jaffe, 1B/P (Boston Red Sox: 19th round, 593rd overall pick). Background: Bishop O’Dowd High School, Oakland, Calif. Status: Not signed.
  7. Jeremy Gould, P (New York Mets: 28th round, 842nd overall pick). Background: Duke University. Status: Signed. Playing for the GCL Mets (Rookie Gulf Coast League) .
  8. Jeff Urlaub, P (Oakland A’s: 30th round, 905th pick). Background: Grand Canyon University. Status: Signed. Playing for the AZL Athletics (Rookie Arizona League).
  9. Zach Kapstein, C (Boston Red Sox: 44th round, 1343th pick). Backgound: Tiverton High School, Little Compton, R.I. Status: Signed. Playing for the GCL Red Sox (Rookie Gulf Coast League).
  10. Michael Fagan, SP (San Diego Padres: 45th round, 1354th pick). Status: Not signed. According to his school’s web site, Fagan “has decided to delay his professional (baseball) career and attend Princeton University in the Fall.”
  11. Harris Fanaroff, P (Washington Nationals: 50th round, 1496th pick). Status: Not signed. Will likely attend Lehigh University in the Fall.

Although he was not selected in the 2010 amateur draft, Lehigh University SP Andrew Berger attended a couple of the post-draft MLB tryouts as a free agent and later signed with the Arizona Diamondbacks. Berger is playing for the Yakima Bears (Class A-short season).

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