Searching For Gems In the Golden League
This season, the average attendance at a Golden Baseball League game is 2,147. Pretty soon, they’ll have that many scouts packing the stands.
The independent Golden League is where Boston discovered Daniel Nava when he played for the Chico Outlaws. In his first 9 major league games, Nava is batting .355/.412/.613 with 5 2B, 1 HR, and 7 RBI.
A year after they signed Nava, the Red Sox unearthed Robert Coello in the GBL after he had pitched for the Calgary Vipers and Edmonton Cracker Cats (now known as the Capitals).
(photo courtesy of Kelly O’Connor)
On Tuesday night, Coello made his first Triple-A start and dominated the Scranton/WB Yankees, striking out 10 batters in 5.2 IP in Pawtucket’s 3-1 win.
“He’s got a downhill fastball, he’s aggressive in the strike zone with it, and quality secondary stuff is always going to be the recipe for a solid outing,” PawSox manager Torey Lovullo said. “He was attacking the hitters all night long and it was great for us to watch. We were a little thin, and for him to pitch into the 6th inning was just a great effort and we’re really pleased.”
Coello has been nothing short of dazzling since being promoted from Double-A Portland on June 12th. In his first three outings for Pawtucket, the 25-year-old righty is 1-0 with a 0.73 ERA and has 19 strikeouts in 12.1 IP while only giving up 5 hits.
Tuesday’s outing marked the second time this month that Coello has registered double-digit strikeouts in less than 6 IP. On June 2nd, he whiffed 11 batters in 5.2 IP in a start for the Portland Sea Dogs. For the season, he has 70 strikeouts in 55.2 IP between Double-A and Triple-A.
“He’s got a big league arm,” Lovullo said. “In his last relief outing for us, I turned to (pitching coach) Rich Sauveur in the middle of an inning and said, ‘We’re looking at big league pitches. This is what a big league fastball looks like.’ He has the highest percentage of swings and misses of anyone in the system this season.”
What makes Coello’s story so remarkable is that he’s only been pitching for 3 ½ years. Robert was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds as a catcher in 2004, but never caught in a professional game due to injury.
The Angels gave him a shot as a pitcher, but released Coello even thought he posted a 1.37 ERA in his only season in their organization. That led to Robert’s stint in the independent GBL where Boston purchased his rights in November of 2008.
“It’s pretty impressive that we have scouts watching this type of baseball – semi-pro type baseball – hunting and searching for guys like this,” Lovullo said. “It’s another great story.”
This week, the Red Sox grabbed another player from the GBL as they signed pitcher Jay Broughton from the Calgary Vipers and assigned him to the Lowell Spinners.
Is it possible that they discovered another hidden gem?
I guess that’s why it’s called the Golden Baseball League.
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With Josh Reddick promoted to Boston for the third time this season and Ryan Kalish still on the disabled list with a hip flexor strain, the PawSox were hurting for outfielders on Tuesday.
Enter 22-year-old Alex Hassan from Single-A Salem.
The Boston-area native joined Pawtucket and made his Triple-A debut as a defensive replacement in the 9th inning and immediately caught two fly balls.
He did so without any of his own equipment.
The Carolina League is on its 3-day All-Star break, and Hassan elected to spend the time with friends in Richmond, VA. As a result, when he got the call to join the PawSox in Scranton, he arrived with a small duffle bag of clothes but didn’t have any of his baseball gear.
“I took a piece of equipment from just about every guy on the team,” Hassan told me after the game. “I think my glove belonged to the clubbie, but I’m not really sure. I wore Ryan Kalish’s shoes.”
Hassan is only in his 2nd professional season after being drafted in the 20th round out of Duke University last year. The Milton, MA resident was batting .228 with a .352 OBP in 47 games with Salem.
“I know I’m here just to help out the team because they’re a little short right now,” Hassan said. “Hopefully I can play good defense and help out the team for as long as they need me. My family is pretty excited. Hopefully they’ll be able to come to at least one game while I’m still on the team.”
Hassan says he attended games at McCoy Stadium on summer camp field trips when he was a kid, so it would be exciting to still be with the PawSox when they return home next Tuesday.
By then, he’ll definitely have his own glove.
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The PawSox continue their series at Scranton/WB on Wednesday night at 7:05. I hope you’ll join us for radio coverage beginning with the pre-game show at 6:50 on the PawSox radio network and pawsox.com.
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