Skyler Stromsmoe will be making his first career Triple-A start on Sunday, April 8th. The infielder was somewhat of a surprise to open the 2012 season on the Grizzlies roster, but that does not mean he belongs elsewhere.
But, who is Skyler Stromsmoe?
The Giants signed Stromsmoe as a non-drafted free agent in 2007 following his three-year career at Division II Southern Arkansas University. He holds the SAU record for stolen bases in a single season with 52 in 2007. Overall, Stromsmoe successfully stole 103 bases in 117 attempts with the Muleriders.
His hometown, Etzikom, Alberta, is a small settlement in the Canadian countryside. Etzikom is home to not only about 30 people, but it also home to the Etzikom Museum and Canadian National Historic Interpretive Windmill Centre.
Stromsmoe helped lead Canada to a gold medal this past offseason in the Pan Am Games held in Central America. Canada’s starting second baseman had two hits in the gold medal game, which followed a solo home run in the semifinal against Mexico the previous day. It was Canada’s first win in a major international senior baseball tournament.
The stint with Team Canada shortly followed Stromsmoe’s Eastern League playoff run with Double-A Richmond. In game one of the EL Championship Series, Stromsmoe made the Flying Squirrels 10-9 winners with a ninth-inning, two-run home run.
He played every position except catcher for Richmond in 2011, with the most games logged at shortstop. The versatile Stromsmoe even appeared in four games as a pitcher, not allowing a run in three of those four games.
Primarily serving as a bench player for the most of the season, Stromsmoe began to see more consistent at-bats by mid-July and eventually became the everyday shortstop in early August. He batted .321 (36-for-112) from July 24 through the end of the regular season. Over that same time span, he was fifth in the Eastern League in OBP (.407).
Back in 2009, the 28-year-old appeared in three games with the Grizzlies. He appeared in three games in September of that season, going hitless in his three pinch-hit at-bats.
Entering April 8th, the switch hitter has played in 263 career games, batting .249 (174-for-698) with 24 doubles, four triples, eight home runs and 66 RBI. He is 28-for-38 in stolen base attempts over his five-year career.
Roger Kieschnick made his first professional season a memorable one. In 2009, the Rockwall, Texas native ranked third in all of Minor League Baseball with 110 RBI. He mashed a team-leading 37 doubles and 23 home runs, earning himself the California League Rookie of the Year Award. He was named a mid-season and post-season California League All-Star. And, to top it all off, he helped the San Jose Giants win the California League Championship.
Kieschnick didn’t come out of college with a typical resume, though. In his freshman year at Texas Tech, Kieschnick was named Freshman of the Year and a member of the First Team All-Big 12 by the conference’s coaches. Kieschnick followed up his freshman campaign by being named to the Second Team All-Big 12 in his sophomore and junior seasons.
College baseball players tend to flock to wood-bat leagues in the summer, getting more playing time and using the equipment utilized at the next level. Kieschnick, however, participated in international tournaments with the United States National Team. He won a gold medal at the World University Championships in 2006 and a silver medal in the Pan American Games in 2007.
The international experience provided Kieschnick not only with the familiarity of facing some of the best baseball players that are his peers, but also performing in front of the professional baseball gatekeepers: scouts.
The outfielder entered MLB’s First-Year Player Draft as a junior in 2008, feeling he had done plenty to impress the scouts with his bat, arm and range. The Giants selected him in the third round, but he did not appear in a pro game that summer.
He did not go into hibernation during his first professional offseason, however. Kieschnick played in the defunct Hawaii Winter Baseball league in 2008. He was a teammate of Buster Posey and Steve Edlefsen with the Waikiki BeachBoys. The trio helped the BeachBoys win their first (and the last) Hawaii Winter League baseball championship. Winning seemed to be following Kieschnick wherever he went.
The international experience, the winter league stint and his stellar season as a first-time professional provided Kieschnick with plenty of momentum entering 2010 – his first at the Double-A level.
By July of that season, Kieschnick was forced to the disabled list with back inflammation. His second pro season was cut short to 60 games, and he hit just four home runs in 223 at-bats – a distant number relative to his 23 in 517 at-bats in 2009.
The 2011 season became even more important for Kieschnick than it already was, and he did not disappoint. Kieschnick returned to Richmond, where he was named an Eastern League mid-Season All-Star and hit 22 doubles, five triples and 16 home runs in 126 games. He did not quite match his 2009 offensive output, but the Eastern League is known to be more of a pitcher’s league, especially compared to the high altitudes and windy locations of the California League.
The Giants rewarded Kieschnick with a 40-man roster spot in November of 2011, providing him with a secure mindset going into 2012. With the 40-man spot comes an invitation to Major League Spring Training, which is his second time taking part in big league camp.
Kieschnick seems to be an organizational favorite. All signs point to him appearing at the Triple-A level in 2012, possibly as soon as Opening Day. With the types of numbers put on display in the Pacific Coast League, Kieschnick may provide plenty of power for the Grizzlies.