With only a few days until the real action starts here’s where the German players will start the season.
C Kai Gronauer (AAA Las Vegas 51’s, Mets)
After finishing the year with his hometown Solingen Alligators Gronauer will most likely be the 3rd catcher for Las Vegas in 2014 with Juan Centeno and Taylor Teagarden in front of him. A very unpleasant job in which he won’t get a lot of at-bats and can only hope to stay sharp by training hard and opening some eyes that way. Maybe he’ll get a change of scenery during the season if there’s a trade that involves some spare parts. On the other hand, spending your summer in the city of Las Vegas can’t be that bad. And, think of it this way, he’s got the chance to catch pitchers like Syndergaard, de Grom, Montero or Mejia. How about that for a reference.
2013 AAA numbers: 18G, 39 PA, 36 AB, 3R, 1HR, 4RBI, 2BB, 10K, .250/.289/.417
OF/1B Donald Lutz (AAA Louisville Bats, Reds)
All eyes will be on Lutz in Germany, the first German major leaguer who learned the trade in Germany (that he was born in the States makes for an interesting trivia question, by the way). He’s been assigned to AAA and before anyone moans in disappointment let’s not forget he made the jump to the majors from AA. If he can hold his ground there and there are some injuries on the 25 man roster, he should be in for another promotion. His numbers after he was sent down should be taken with a grain of salt, too, as he was nursing a wrist or finger injury.
2013 MLB numbers: 10G, 19PA, 17AB, 4R, 1HR, 5RBI, 1BB, 3K, .235/.316/.529
OF/1B Max Kepler (A+ Fort Myers Miracle, Twins)
Kepler was taken onto the Twins’ 40 men roster during the offseason which should show you how high the organization values his tools. He’s played in the Arizona Fall League against AA and AAA opposition during the winter and held his own there, hitting .234/.306/.313 with 5 doubles, 7BB and 13K. Remember, he had a late start to the low-A season due to an injury. The Twins gave him a few AB during spring training before sending him down and he responded by hitting a healthy .500/.571/.583 with 2BB and 3K. And, well, yes, those 14 PA are a tiny sample size. He should move up the ladder if he stays healthy and AA should be his goal for the end of the season.
2013 A- numbers: 61G, 263PA, 236AB, 35R, 9HR, 40RBI, 24BB, 43K, .237/.312/.424
RHP Daniel Thieben (RKL Pulaski Mariners, Mariners)
I haven’t found anything on Thieben as of yet, but if he returns to the Mariners organization he should be assigned to either the Pulaski Mariners of the Appalachian League with whom he won the title in 2013, or the short-season A Everett Aquasox of the Northwest League. Thieben had somewhat of an up and down year last year, but he ended up winning two rings at the end of it. One in the States and one with the Buchbinder Legionäre Regensburg in Germany. He needs to work on his control as his walk numbers were way too high. But I can’t really estimate where he’ll end up at the end of the year.
2013 RKL numbers: 18G, 22.0IP, 1-0, 6.95ERA, 25BB, 1IBB, 19K, 5WP, 2.227WHIP
OF/1B Maik Ehmcke (RKL AZL Diamondbacks, Diamondbacks)
RHP Sven Schüller (RKL AZL Dodgers, Dodgers)
OF Julsan Kamara (RKL, GCL Phillies, Phillies)
Those three players will join their organizations in the summer so my guess is they’ll be assigned to their respective Rookie League teams.
RHP Markus Solbach (INDY Windy City Thunderbolts, Frontier League)
Solbach was released by the Twins last year and found a new home with the Thunderbolts to whom he returned during the winter. Solbach looked pretty good for Windy City down the stretch, starting 5 games and even tossing one complete game shutout. During spring training I heard some commentator mention a player who also played in the Frontier League and he made it to the majors, so there’s always hope for Solbach that he might find a club that is willing to give him a chance.
2013 INDY numbers: 10G, 41.1IP, 5-1, 3.27ERA, 11BB, 35K, 3WP, 11.210WHIP, 1CG, 1SHO