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    The Twins organization is filled with players from all over the globe. They scout the entire country, Canada and Puerto Rico for the draft. They’ve done a nice job signing international players in recent years. The Twins do a great job in Australia. They have players from Europe and talent from Taiwan. They have players from Central and South America, but also from South Africa.

    The last couple of seasons, the Twins have gone in a direction that is likely most rare. In the last two seasons, the Twins have signed four players out of the independent leagues. To this point, none of them have made it to the big leagues, and often, these players are not signed to get to the big leagues. They are signed to fill a role with one of the team’s affiliates. When the Baltimore Orioles signed OF Lew Ford out of the independent ranks, they basically came out and said he would likely not play in the big leagues. But once in a while, there is a success story. Ford played so well in AAA that the O’s called him up which was a great story.

    Here is a little bit about each of the four players the Twins signed from the independent leagues:

    Andrew Albers – LHP – 26

    Albers pitched for four years at the University of Kentucky before being drafted in the 10th round of the 2008 draft by the Padres. He pitched in the rookie leagues for them that summer, but injured his elbow and needed Tommy John surgery. He missed the entire 2009 season, and when he went to spring training with the team in 2010, he was still not 100% He was released, and in 2010 he pitched for Quebec in the CanAm League. He went 3-0 with 17 saves and a 1.40 ERA. In 57.2 innings, he gave up 41 hits, walked 16 and struck out 59.

    The next spring, he was trying to work out tryouts with big league clubs, looking for an opportunity for another shot with an affiliation. A couple of those opportunities didn’t pan out. To make a short story long, he called the Twins and said that he would drive from Arizona to Ft. Myers for a tryout. IF they liked him, they could reimburse his travel. If not, he would drive back home, to Saskatchewan, and call it a career. The Twins liked what they saw and signed him. He was my choice for Twins minor league relief pitcher of the year in 2011 when he went 4-1 with a 1.55 ERA in Ft. Myers and then 4-1 with a 2.91 ERA in New Britain.

    He has been a starter this season for the New Britain Rock Cats. He is 4-3 with a 3.61 ERA in 17 games (15 starts). He is an aggressive, strike-thrower, walking just 11 in 87.1 innings. He has been on the disabled list twice.



    Caleb Thielbar – LHP – 25

    Thielbar is from the town of Randolph, Minnesota. He pitched at South Dakota State. In 2009, he went 5-8 with a 5.44 ERA for the Jackrabbits yet was drafted in the 18th round that year by the Milwaukee Brewers. He made it up to Low A Wisconsin of the Midwest League where he pitched in 30 games in 2010. In 2011, he pitched in 43 games for the St. Paul Saints and went 3-3 with a 2.54 ERA. In 49.2 innings, he gave up 41 hits, walked 15 and struckout 62. The Twins signed him in August, and he pitched in three games for the Ft. Myers Miracle. He did well, but the assumption by many was that he was just helping fill out the roster and may not make it to the 2012 season.

    Instead, he went to minor league spring training with the Twins and has been one of the fast-risers in the system. The left-hander started the season with the Miracle. He pitched in seven games and 12.1 innings. He gave up four hits, walked two and struckout 16. He was quickly promoted to New Britain where he pitched in 16 games. In 25 innings, he gave up 18 hits, walked just three and struck out 26. He earned a mid-June promotion to AAA Rochester. He has leveled off some, but in 23 games and 34 innings, he has given up 37 hits, walked 13 and struck out 26. Overall, he is 6-2 with a 2.14 ERA.



    Chris Colabello – 1B – 28

    Colabello had a solid, four-year career at Assumption College, a small Division II school in Worcester, Massechusetts. However, he was not drafted. Since that time, 2005, he has played independent baseball, primarily for Worcester, which is also in the CanAm League. He has hit over .300 in six of those seven seasons. He was a league All-Star in 2008 and again in 2011 when he had a terrific season. The first baseman hit .348/.410/.600 (1.010) with 32 doubles, 20 homers and 79 RBI). He was named the CanAm League player of the year, and also Baseball America named him the Independent League player of the year.

    The Twins felt they had a need for a bat and a first baseman at AA New Britain, so they gave Colabello his first opportunity with an affiliated team at the age of 28. To say that he has proven he belongs would be an understatement. He has hit in the middle of the Rock Cats lineup and hit .285/.354/.488 (.842) with 35 doubles, 18 homers and 91 RBI. For a guy who came into the season likely wondering if he would fit in and how he would do. At this point, the assumption is that he should be back and playing in Rochester in 2013. Can he be a right-handed bench bat for the Twins? We will find out.



    Dan Sattler – RHP – 28

    Sattler pitched in the Big 10, for Purdue, from 2004 through 2007. In that time, he went 12-18 with a 4.39 ERA. He was drafted by the Rangers in the 33th round in 2006 but went back for his senior season. He went undrafted but signed with the Rangers. He pitched in the Texas organization in 2007 and 2008. In 2009, he pitched for independent league Kansas City, but late in the season, he signed with the A’s and pitched in their system through the 2010 season. In 2011, he was with the Angels organization. He signed with the St. Paul Saints early this year, but the Twins signed him after he pitched in just five games. He was 1-0 with three saves.

    Blessed with a fastball in the upper 90s, Sattler signed and reported to Ft. Myers. He pitched in three games for the Miracle. On June 19, he was promoted to New Britain where he pitched in five games. On July 6, he was promoted to Rochester where he pitched in seven games. All told, he was 2-0 with a 2.12 ERA. In 29.2 innings, he gave up 18 hits, walked ten and struck out 20. Opponents hit just .173 against him. Unfortunately, he went on the disabled list with elbow problems and needed Tommy John surgery.



    Generally, when teams sign players from independent leagues, it is to fill a minor league roster. However, there are always exceptions. I was fortunate to play ball in college with Chris Coste who spent several years with the independent Fargo/Moorhead Redhawks before getting an opportunity in affiliated ball. It took a few years, but you may recall that he became The 33-Year-Old Rookie and won a World Series ring with the Philadelphia Phillies. The beauty is that you just never know. Of these four players, it is possible none of them will see time with the Twins. It’s also possible that any of them could fill a role of some sort with the big league club. We shall see.
    This article was originally published in blog: Independent Thinking started by Seth Stohs
    Comments 12 Comments
    1. twinsnorth49's Avatar
      twinsnorth49 -
      Nice article Seth, guys like this are the epitome of the term "chasing the dream". Playing for peanuts and bouncing from small town to small town, living out of a gym bag, just in the hopes someone notices and gives them a shot. One of my favorite independent success stories in recent memory was Jeff Zimmerman of the Texas Rangers. He played for the Goldeyes in 1997 and dominated the league, enough for the Rangers to sign him as a free agent in 1998. Over the next three years he became one if their best arms, culminating in an All Star game appearance in 1999. Unfortunately injuries derailed his career but his story is still one that gives all of these types of players the hope to keep playing.
    1. BeefMaster's Avatar
      BeefMaster -
      Seth, you can't mention "independent league Kansas City" and not point out that they're called the "T-Bones", which George Costanza will agree is an excellent nickname.
    1. J-Dog Dungan's Avatar
      J-Dog Dungan -
      Is the guy you are talking about in the last paragraph the guy around which the movie "The Rookie" was based?
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by J-Dog Dungan View Post
      Is the guy you are talking about in the last paragraph the guy around which the movie "The Rookie" was based?
      No, that was Jim Morris... Here is the story on Chris Coste

      http://www.amazon.com/The-33-Year-Ol...ear+old+rookie
    1. DAM DC Twins Fans's Avatar
      DAM DC Twins Fans -
      Thanks Seth for a great article and a different type. Hopefully one or two will reach the show and realize their dream.
    1. mike wants wins's Avatar
      mike wants wins -
      I too enjoyed this article quite a bit.
    1. greengoblinrulz's Avatar
      greengoblinrulz -
      All but Sattler have legit possibilities to make the majors by maybe next yr
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Quote Originally Posted by greengoblinrulz View Post
      All but Sattler have legit possibilities to make the majors by maybe next yr
      And if not for the TJ surgery, the 98 mph is still intriguing. I guess that's my point. These guys are signed to fill roster spots somewhere in the minors, and they have all done that well. If they can get to the big leagues, its' a tremendous story.
    1. clutterheart's Avatar
      clutterheart -
      With the new draft rules restricted to 30 rounds i would guess that we will see more guys go to the independent leagues and these types of storries will be increasingly common.
    1. Thrylos's Avatar
      Thrylos -
      It is an interesting story. And traffic back and forth from the independents to affiliates baseball has increased it seems this season. Twins' very ex-own Luke Hughes was on his way to Independent ball after cut by the As before he signed with Toronto...

      One thing I might disagree with:
      they gave Colabello his first opportunity with an affiliated team at the age of 28. To say that he has proven he belongs would be an understatement
      I don't think any 28-year old belongs to AA. But I like the Twins signing independent league star players better than signing washouts (like they did in the past and less this season) for Rochester. Colabello would look good in Rochester (but Burroughs for some reason has been ahead of him). And he might make it to the majors; Watkins did after all
    1. old nurse's Avatar
      old nurse -
      Quote Originally Posted by thrylos98 View Post
      It is an interesting story. And traffic back and forth from the independents to affiliates baseball has increased it seems this season. Twins' very ex-own Luke Hughes was on his way to Independent ball after cut by the As before he signed with Toronto...

      One thing I might disagree with:
      they gave Colabello his first opportunity with an affiliated team at the age of 28. To say that he has proven he belongs would be an understatement
      I don't think any 28-year old belongs to AA. But I like the Twins signing independent league star players better than signing washouts (like they did in the past and less this season) for Rochester. Colabello would look good in Rochester (but Burroughs for some reason has been ahead of him). And he might make it to the majors; Watkins did after all
      Some guy named Parmalee has been playing first for Rochester for the best part of the season. Seems there was this guy named Morneau at the major league level. Uninjured and paid a lot of money. Burroughs has been playing a little all over on the diamond. He probabbly could have played third base full time but there was this rising star named Valencia at third base. If Parmalee would have stuck at the major league level midseason, then Colabello would have moved up. If they figured out Valencia quicker, Romero would have moved up. At the start of the year they did not know what they had in either of these players for sure.
    1. Seth Stohs's Avatar
      Seth Stohs -
      Yeah, again, Colabello was signed as a "filler" of sorts, so I don't care about the age thing. Also, we're talking about a guy who, if he were to make it to the big leagues, would be a role player, a backup 1B and RH pinch hitter. I think he goes to Rochester next year, and if something breaks right for him, he could get to call himself "Big Leaguer" for the rest of his life. That's pretty cool! That's a pretty great story!
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