by C.C. McCandless
The Silver League has a reputation as the CBA’s most competitive tier, with teams from top to bottom always having something to play for. This season has been no exception, as four teams sit within four games of the automatic Premiere League promotion spot, and five clubs bunched within two games of each other for the unenviable second slot in the relegation game. The final results will be determined in no small part by unexpected contributions from several improved players across the league. Here are half a dozen key Silver League blossoming stars that have flown below the radar and are making “The Leap” to star status this season.
IAN COLLINS, 3B, MIDWEST PLAINSMEN. The 2026 second rounder made unimpressive cameo appearances on the major league roster in 2027 and 2028, playing a total of 47 games and posting an OPS under .550. In 2029, he has looked like an entirely different player. He has slugged 16 bombs, logged an OPS of .881, and played stellar defense at the hot corner. He has 11 hits over his last seven starts, helping Midwest keep pace in the brutal race for a Premiere League promotion. 2027+2028 WAR: -0.4. 2029: +2.1.
RYAN SMITH, RF, SACRAMENTO GOLDEN BEARS. Smith has played a huge part in Sacramento’s second half surge, homering in five straight games after the President’s Cup break. The 27th overall pick in 2025, Grant debuted last season, posting a .768 OPS over 38 games. In 2029, he has already cracked 21 homers and has an OPS near .900. 2029 WAR improvement: +2.1.
JOSH HARLAN, LF, DENVER WOLVES. At age 30, Harlan looked like he might be the typical AAAA player, as he was unable to secure a full-time major league roster spot through 2027. Last season he was given a shot on Denver’s 25 man roster and took full advantage of it, putting up an .850 OPS playing both corner outfield spots. In 2028 he has started in LF from day one and is having an All-Star caliber season (.345/.392/.536/.928), surpassing Kevin Rayos as the Wolves’ most important bat. Career major league WAR through 2027: -0.9. 2028+2029: +4.8.
JUAN SALAZAR, LF, LOS ANGELES CHILIS. Salazar has kicked around the Chilis organization since being drafted straight out of high school in 2022. He made stops at every minor league level and went to Winter League affiliates three times. He never contributed in the majors until this season, when he has appeared in 75 games, hit 17 homers, and accumulated an impressive .871 OPS. Career WAR entering this season: -0.5. 2029 WAR: +1.5.
SHELDON GRANT, 2B, ATLANTA SWARM. Still shy of his 24th birthday, “Heavy” Grant should be a keystone player up the middle for years to come. He made a solid debut for the Swarm in 2028, reaching the majors and hitting .293 over 60 games. This season he has started every game, posting a stellar .356/.435/.532/.967 slash line while playing plus defense at 2B. 2029 WAR improvement: +2.7.
RYAN BRISBIN, SP, CHICAGO GALE. Brisbin’s career began in Sacramento and continued with a year and a half stop in Cincinnati before he arrived in the Windy City. He gave an indication of being major league ready toward the end of the 2027 Reserve League season with four impressive starts and carried that over into 2028, posting a 2.49 ERA in 12 more games at that level. He was tabbed for five major league starts last season, and has been a fixture in the Gale rotation since the beginning of this season (17 starts, 3.29 ERA). Pre-2029: nearly 750 minor league IP. 2029 WAR: 1.8.