Spring training roster almost complete
On the Frontier League website, under the league and transactions tabs, recently listed were several roster moves made by the Wild Things. Another player from last year's team, pitcher Aaron Newcomb, was placed on the suspended list and left-handed relief pitcher Chris O'Hare was given his outright release.
Washington has signed right-handed pitchers John Bengard, Ben Carlson, Tim Giel, Kyle Vazquez, Tyler Wilson, third baseman Sam Mende and outfielders Chris Knott and Tanner Mathis. The club, however, has announced only the signings of Bengard, Carlson, Knott and Mathis. Here is a quick capsule rundown of the eight newcomers:
Bengard - Bengard was a very good pitcher at California Baptist -- that's the school California University recently beat to win the NCAA Division II women's basketball national championship -- then was drafted by the Chicago White in the 30th round in 2013 and spent two years in affiliated ball. Was used strictly as a reliever by the White Sox. He was 2-0 and saved eight games in rookie ball last year.
Carlson - Played at Furman University and was a 40th round draft pick of the Los Angeles Angels. Pitched better than what you would expected from a 40th rounder. He was 7-3 with 24 saves in two seasons, including 3-2 with a 2.70 ERA and 14 saves for Burlington of the Class A Midwest League. Those are numbers that usually keep you in affiliated ball.
Giel - The only WPIAL product of the group. Played at Shady Side Academy and then in the Ivy League at Columbia University. He is the second Columbia grad to be signed by the Wild Things. The first was Matt Buckmiller in 2003 (I'll have to revisit Buckmiller's brief stay in Washington because it provided my favorite story of all the people who played for the Wild Things). Giel is from Gibsonia and was a nondrafted free agent by the New York Yankees in 2013. He played two years in the organization, including last year at Staten Island, where his manager was former Wild Things catcher Mario Garza. Played summer ball in the Cape Cod League. Was a standout athlete in three sports at Shady Side Academy.
Vazquez - Is the player the Wild Things received from Sioux Falls of the American Association in the trade that sent Shawn Blackwell to the Canaries. An older guy by Frontier League standards, Vazquez will turn 27 in June. He was a teammate the last two years of new Wild Things pitching coach Ben Moore. Played at Franklin Pierce, a Division II powerhouse in New Hampshire and was drafted by the San Francisco Giants in 2012. Was both a starter and reliever in the Giants' system and had nine saves in 2009 but was released after the season. Pitched the last two years in independent ball and was only 8-14 with an ERA of more than 5.00 both seasons. The teams he played on, however, were lousy, finishing a combined 50 games under .500.
Wilson - With the Wild Things not announcing this signing and the player having a somewhat common name, I'm guessing about which this Tyler Wilson is. I'm thinking he's a pitcher who played college ball at Tennessee Wesleyan, the same school that produced Al Yevoli. Wilson had some walk issues last year at Tennessee Wesleyan but was drafted in the 20th round by San Diego. In rookie ball, he pitched only 8 1/3 innings but struck out 17 and walked only three batters.
Mende - The only player Washington has signed for 2015 that was listed as a third baseman, so you have to think it's his job to lose entering camp. Mende was drafted twice, including in the 31st round by the Colorado Rockies in 2011 out of South Florida. Mende actually got an at-bat last year in a major league spring training game with the Rockies and had a hit. A look at Mende's statistics shows that he probably hasn't played regularly at one position since 2012, when he played third base for Asheville in Class A. Has been playing multiple infield positions and right field in affiliated ball. Played in the Cape Cod League.
Knott - Played college ball at East Stroudsburg and was named the PSAC's East Division Player of the year last season. Drafted in the 34th round by Tampa Bay last year and hit .248 in rookie ball. Was the Warriors' first all-region selection since 1991 after leading the PSAC in slugging percentage, extra-base hits, RBI and runs. He set seven school records at East Stroudsburg.
Mathis - This is the player on this list that I find most interesting. Mathis comes to Washington after playing two seasons in the Houston Astros' system and four years in the SEC at Mississippi. What Mathis does best is get on base. His on-base percentage at two levels in the Houston organization was .390. In four seasons at Ole Miss, his OBP was .422 including .466 as a junior. Was signed as a nondrafted free agent by Houston.
By my count, Washington has 31 players under contract. None of the 31 are catchers. The Wild Things still hold the options on catcher Maxx Garrett, second baseman Austin Wobrock and pitcher Matt Sergey from last year's team and pitcher Matt Phillips who missed all of last season with an injury.