Baseball team inks several players to contracts
The Sugar Land Skeeters recently announced that the club has re-signed the 2016 Atlantic League Player of the Year, outfielder Jeremy Barfield, for the 2017 season, in addition to several other players.
Last season, the Houston native became the first Skeeters player to win the league MVP award in the franchise’s five-year history.
Barfield led the Atlantic League and set single season franchise records in home runs (27), total bases (272) and extra-base hits (60). He became the first Skeeters player ever to win the Atlantic League home run crown. Barfield also finished second in the league in runs scored (87), tied for third in RBI (85), fourth in slugging percentage (.533) and walks (62), tied for fourth in hits (156) and finished fifth in doubles (31).
The 28-year-old also set a single season franchise record in multi-hit games (51) while placing second in hits (156), RBI (85) and third place in doubles (31). In 2016, Barfield was voted to the ALPB All-Star Game, named to the End-Of-Season All-Star team and was also named the Skeeters MVP hitting .306 with 27 home runs, 95 RBI, 87 runs and 31 doubles. Jeremy batted .308 in the playoffs and helped lead the Skeeters to their first ever Atlantic League championship and a perfect 6-0 record in the post season.
Barfield played most of his minor league career in the Oakland A’s farm system reaching as high as AAA Sacramento in 2013. He spent a short time with the Skeeters in 2015 appearing in 17 games, but in that short time, helped the Skeeters put together a 10-game winning streak which tied for second longest in franchise history before being signed by the Colorado Rockies and reaching the AAA level for the second time in his career.
The Klein High School graduate was drafted by the New York Mets in the 9th round of the 2006 MLB June Amateur Draft. The Oakland A’s chose him in the 8th round of the 2008 MLB Amateur Draft, but decided to attend college first (San Jacinto College). In eight minor league seasons he batted .260 with 72 HR and 392 RBI. Barfield is the son of former major leaguer Jesse Barfield and the brother of former major leaguer and Atlantic League player Josh Barfield.
The Sugar Land Skeeters has re-signed Atlantic League veteran infielder and former big leaguer Lance Zawadzki for the 2017 season. Zawadzki, 30, returns to begin his first full season with the Skeeters after joining the club last season in July.
After spending three seasons in the Atlantic League (2014-2016) with the Lancaster Barnstormers, Zawadzki joined the Skeeters last season and played a significant role in helping the club capture the 2016 Atlantic League championship. During the Skeeters 6-0 playoff run in 2016, he started all six games and batted .261 with one home run and four RBI. He solidified the Atlantic League championship for the Skeeters after catching the final out in the last game of the Atlantic League Championship Series against the Long Island Ducks.
Ironically, Zawadzki helped the Barnstormers defeat Sugar Land in the 2014 Atlantic League Championship Series, giving him two championships in the last three years. The power hitting shortstop has 88 career home runs, 167 doubles, 25 triples and 423 RBI in 958 games played. Lance earned Atlantic League All-Star honors with the Barnstormers both in 2014 and 2015.
Right-handed pitcher Mark Haynes, 30, returns after joining the Skeeters in September. The Sugar Land native posted a 3.38 ERA in three games last season with the club. Haynes began his Independent League career in the American Association in 2010 with the Shreveport-Bossier Captains and played two seasons. In 2012 he joined the Laredo Lemurs and pitched four years. Last season prior to joining the Skeeters, he played for the Kansas City T-Bones where he posted a 5-2 record in 40 relief appearances, a 3.86 ERA with 15 saves. In his seven seasons pitching for Independent League teams he has pitched in 206 games (19 starts) with 28 career saves.
Haynes was a three-year starter and baseball letterman at Austin High School. The right-hander later played for Rice University, where he was primarily a middle reliever. Injuries limited Haynes his first two seasons at Rice (9 game pitched) but he would appear in 42 games for the Owls from 2009-2010. In his four years at Rice he was 3-0 in 51 total games (3 starts) with a 4.11 ERA in 92.0 innings pitched.
The Sugar Land Skeeters have re-signed right-handed reliever Zech Zinicola.
Zinicola, 32, returns for his second season with the Skeeters after appearing in 60 games in relief last season and posted a 2.93 ERA in 61.1 innings pitched with three saves. The right-hander helped the Skeeters during their 6-0 playoff run in 2016 as one of four Skeeters relievers who combined for a 1-0 record and allowed no runs in 10.1 IP, five hits, five strikeouts and three walks. Zech was first drafted by the Atlanta Braves (43rd round) in the 2003 MLB Amateur Draft out of Arlington High School (Riverside, Calif.) and would later be drafted again by the Washington Nationals (6th round) in the 2006 Amateur Draft out of Arizona State University. While at Arizona State, he was teammates with a number of current major leaguers including Andrew Romine (DET) and Dustin Pedroia (BOS).
Infielder and former big leaguer Ozzie Martinez has been signed for the 2017 season.
Martinez makes his Atlantic League debut with the Skeeters after spending last season in the Baltimore Orioles system. The 28-year-old native of Carolina, Puerto Rico, was first drafted by the Florida Marlins (11th round) in the 2006 MLB Amateur Draft out of Porterville College (Porterville, Calif.).
He spent six seasons in the Marlins system, making his big league debut with the team in 2010. He was named the No. 5 prospect for the Marlins in 2011 and the No. 10 prospect for the Chicago White Sox the following year.
Martinez appeared in 14 games for the Marlins in 2010 and another 20 games in 2011, with a combined .258 batting average. In 2011, he was traded by the Marlins to the Chicago White Sox and would then spend time in the Los Angeles Dodgers, Atlanta Braves and Baltimore Orioles systems over the next five seasons.
After being a part of the coaching staff with manager Gary Gaetti last season as bullpen coach, former big leaguer Rafael Montalvo returns for his first season as pitching coach and brings 13 years of professional baseball playing experience to Sugar Land. He spent time in the Los Angeles Dodgers, Houston Astros and California Angels systems. He pitched one season in the Atlantic League in 1999 for the Atlantic City Surf and went 10-8 in 24 starts with a 3.89 ERA. Overall he played 12 seasons in the minor leagues and was 49-40 with a 3.72 ERA in 914.0 innings pitched.
Montalvo went on to serve as a pitching coach in the Tampa Rays organization from 2000-2009 at all levels ranging from Rookie ball to Triple-A in their minor league system. In 2010 he joined the Road Warriors as a pitching coach in the Atlantic League and served as pitching coach and special advisor from 2011-2015 for both Japan and Mexico Leagues.