The Sugar Land Skeeters, Lancaster Barnstormers and Long Island Ducks announced more signings on Feb. 7.
Perhaps the biggest one is the announcement of slugger Jason Botts going to the Skeeters along with outfielder Drew Locke.
Botts started 2011 with the York Revolution, batting .370 and nailing four homers and driving in 13 runs in just 14 games before he was picked up by the New York Mets and assigned to Class AAA Buffalo Bisons.
The Barnstormers signed outfielder Blake Gailen (last year’s American Association batting champion) and starting pitcher Mark Brackman (who owned the Frontier League’s best ERA in 2011).
The Ducks brought back the franchise’s all-time hits leader Ray Navarrete, who will play in a record seventh season for Long Island.
Except for a year spent playing overseas in Japan in 2009, Botts has played affiliated or big league ball every year since 2005. The 6-foot-6, 250-pound slugger played a collective 93 games for the Texas Rangers from 2005 to 2008, batting .230 with five homers and 28 RBIs.
With Buffalo last season, Botts got off to a hot start before injuries caught up to him and caused him to be on the DL for the majority of the second half of the year. He finished with a .268 batting average, three homers and 19 RBIs in 59 games.
It seems the draw for ballplayers to play in Texas is coming to fruition. Revs manager Andy Etchebarren pointed out the Skeeters advantage during an interview a couple weeks ago, shortly after Sugar Land announced the signing of former Atlantic League co-MVP Josh Pressley.
Pressley, a Texas native, opted to play for Sugar Land because he wanted to stay close to home. So the move makes sense for the 31-year-old Botts, who has spent a majority of his pro career playing in the Lone Star state.
Locke, who turns 29 in less than a month, is a former Los Angeles Dodgers and Houston Astros prospect who has played at the Class AAA level each of the last two seasons. With Class AAA Round Rock (Tex) in 2010, Locke batted .279 with 17 homers and 74 RBIs in 135 games. His numbers dipped a little in 2011, batting .264 with 11 homers and 58 RBIs in 125 games with Class AAA Oklahoma City.
Locke, a Massachussetts native, has a career .297 batting average in seven minor league seasons. This will mark his first time playing independent ball.
Sugar Land now has three players under contract for 2012 (Botts, Locke, Pressley).
Gailen, 26, batted .406 in 69 games in 2011 for the Lincoln Saltdogs, of the independent American Association, before being picked up by the Los Angeles Angels and assigned to Class AA Arkansas.
Gailen struggled with Arkansas, though, batting just .208 with two homers and 13 RBIs in 29 games.
After playing in college for UNLV until 2007, Gailen had played entirely in independent ball before the Angels signed him. He owns a career .352 batting average in a combined 328 games with four different independent clubs over five seasons.
Brackman, 26, is coming off back-to-back solid seasons with the Gateway Grizzlies, of the independent Frontier League. Brackman went 13-4 with a 3.16 ERA in 2010 and accumulated a 2.15 ERA and 7-5 record in 15 starts in 2011.
The 6-foot-7 right-hander has thrown eight complete games over the past two seasons.
With the addition of Gailen and Brackman, the Barnstormers now have four players under contract for 2012, joining relief pitcher Ching-Lung Lo and outfielder Adam Godwin.
Navarrete will begin 2012 as the Ducks’ all-time franchise leader in hits (719, ), home runs (112), RBI (420), runs scored (485), and doubles (174), and he remains just three games shy of tying Justin Davies for the most games played in franchise history (637).
He has been selected to play in the Atlantic League All-Star Game a team-record four times and was named the 2009 Atlantic League MVP.
The 33-year-old clubbed a team-high 27 home runs in 2011 (second in the Atlantic League), totaled 79 RBI (sixth), and scored 86 runs (third). Navarrete also finished among the top five in games played (122 – second) and at-bats (492 – second) despite an unimpressive .242 batting average (123-for-524).
Navarrete is a career .282 hitter over 1,320 professional games and has reached as high as Class AAA with the New York Mets organization in 2006. The New Jersey native was originally signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2000.
Navarrete is the fourth player Long Island has under contract so far for 2012, joining outfielder Kraig Binick and relievers Travis Minix and Jeremy Hill.Read More