Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Sifting through the long list of minor league free agents: NL East Edition (Part 1)

It is Christmas morning/week/month here in Blacksburg: Baseball America has published their annual list of minor league free agents! There are 533 players listed this year and I can promise you that I will look at each and every one of their Fangraphs and Baseball-Reference pages. Looking through all of these guys is obviously a long process, so I will post these guys in chunks by their 2010 teams. Once I get through everyone, I will reorganize them by position in one big post.

Notes: Ages as of Opening Day 2011.

P.S. This is going to take a long time to complete. My goal is to have things done so by the time New Year's rolls around and players latch onto new teams in full force, fans will be able to come here for a one-stop shop on their new spring training invites and minor leaguers.

Atlanta Braves (10)
RHP James Parr (25 years old, 36 and 1/3 IP of ML experience)
Parr, a Braves 4th rounder back in 2004, has had two cup-of-coffee ML stints in 2008 and '09. He threw 6 shutout innings against the Nationals in his ML debut, but had little success after that, with a 5.20 ERA and 4.71 FIP in his short career. He's a decent strikeout guy (7.0 K/9 in his minor league career and 6.4 in the majors) but he needs to keep his walk totals down if he wants to get back to the majors. He's still young enough to get back to the majors, but 2011 will be a bounceback year, as he only had 9 starts in AAA due to injury.

LHP Mariano Gomez (28 years old, no ML experience)
While Gomez has put up pretty good conventional numbers over the last 3 years in AAA with ERA's of 2.76, 1.99 and 2.89, respectively, his peripherals likely are the reason he has not reached the bigs. His FIP's have ranged from 3.43 to 4.11 to 3.78 over the last 3 years, and his career K:BB ratio is 1.95 (and 1.58 in 3 seasons of AAA). Gomez is a big guy at 6'6", 240 lbs, but his hope of being the second Honduran to pitch in the major leagues continues to fade.

C Orlando Mercado (26 years old, no ML experience)
Orlando Mercado had an illustrious career as a backup catcher from 1982-1990, hitting .199/.259/.281 over about 600 at-bats. His son Orlando, a 2003 6th round pick, has not made it to the majors yet. He still looks to be better than pops, though, with solid defense and on-base skills. The younger Merdado could be a useful piece with the ability to fill in at the ML level, but he needs to prove he can handle AAA first.

C Clint Sammons (27 years old, 31 games of ML experience)
Sammons hasn't done much in the minors (.243/.314/.347) or the majors (.176/.243/.235) and isn't getting any younger. He'll sign with a team to be their AAA backup or platoon guy, but barring a major improvement this year, his 3 ML stints are all he's going to get.
FanGraphs, B-R (Majors), B-R (minors)

2B Joe Thurston (31 years old, 183 games of ML experience)
Joe Thurston is not a good Major League player. He's got speed, but doesn't steal bases well. He can play a lot of positions at or below average. For a lefthanded batter, he hits righthanded pitchers very poorly. He draws a fair number of walks, but strikes out way too much. That being said, Joe Thurston is a good minor league player. With a .293/.355/.420 career minor league triple slash and the ability to play pretty much anywhere on the field, he is the perfect utility guy to have on your AAA team. He won't embarrass you if you call him up to your ML squad, but he won't exactly help you win games, either.
FanGraphs, B-R (Majors), B-R (minors)

3B Christian Colonel (29 years old, no ML experience)
At different points of his career, Colonel has put up numbers that suggest he has a broad range of skills; he stole 35 bases in 2004, put up 64 extra base hits in 2007 and has hit over .300 three different times in his career. Colonel's problem is that his speed and power have diminished greatly over the years without any other tools getting much better. His ability to play the infield and outfield corners can be useful for a AA or AAA squad, but Colonel's chances of playing Major League Baseball are looking slim at this point.

3B Eric Duncan (26 years old, no ML experience)
The 2003 first round pick hasn't figured out AAA yet. He's still young enough to keep getting chances thanks to his 1st round pick tag, but corner infielders who can't hit AAA pitching (and can barely hit AA pitching) aren't too valuable.

3B Wes Timmons (31 years old, no ML experience)
Poor Wes Timmons. With decent speed and great on-base skills, you think the guy would have gotten a shot by now. His problem to this point is that he has very little power and was previously limited to 1B/3B action. He plays a little bit of 2B; playing it well could be his ticket to a successful career in Japan. He's not quite a Rick Short-type of player, but he has a few valuable skills that could help an AAA team or an ML one in a call-up stint.

SS Luis Bolivar (30 years old, no ML experience)
Bolivar is your prototypical AAAA shortstop. He's quick, can play multiple positions and can't hit worth a dime. He'll sign to someone's AAA team and serve as a utility guy, but I doubt we'll be seeing him in the Majors unless he makes some big strides this year. He threw a scoreless inning with a strikeout in 2009, so maybe he should try pitching. It's never too late to do that, right Matt Bush?

OF Mike Daniel (26 years old, no ML experience)
Daniel showed a little bit of speed and power in 2007 with a fancy-looking .294/.362/.458 triple slash in A and high A ball. I was instantly a fan and though he would make a nice 4th outfielder for the Nats. Unfortunately, his career never progressed much past 2007 and he's stuck between being a good AA player and a mediocre AAA player. Daniel is still young and toolsy enough to keep getting calls, but he needs to improve his hitting if he wants to reach the majors as a 4th/5th OF, pinch-runner type.

Florida Marlins (31)
RHP Natividad Dilone (28 years old, no ML experience)
Natividad has a cool name and a 3.80 career ERA, but that's about it. He's a 28 year old who has never graduated high A ball. He can strike guys out, but only when he can figure out where the ball is going (and with a career BB/9 just under 5, we can tell that it doesn't happen too much). Keep moving, folks.

RHP Jon Fulton (27 years old, no ML experience)
Fulton was drafted in the 3rd round of the 2003 draft out of high school as an infielder. He couldn't hack it as a hitter and switched to pitching in 2008. His first two seasons as a pitcher went well, posting ERA's of 3.04 and 2.42 and FIP's of 2.65 and 2.71 with tons of strikeouts and tons of walks. His third year, 2010, did not go so well, with a declining K rate and poor overall numbers. 2011 is a very important year if Fulton wants to make it; while he has the ability to get guys out, he needs to transform it into a habit of getting guys out, as he can only be a "project" player for so long.

RHP Brian Lawrence (34 years old, 963 IP of ML experience)
I got really excited when the Nats traded Vinny Castilla for Lawrence after the 2005 season. Finally, a starter who can eat innings without getting bombed! Turns out he had a torn labrum and rotator cuff, so his stint in DC effectively never happened. Lawrence is finally looking like the pitcher he was before his injury; his innings total is building back up, his walks are staying down and his strikeouts are starting to rise back into the 6-7 range rather than the 4-5 range. Lawrence could be a real steal out of these minor league free agents; I wouldn't be surprised to see him make a team out of Spring Training.
FanGraphs, B-R (Majors), B-R (minors)

RHP Tom Mastny (30 years old, 94 IP of ML experience)
If Mastny never pitches another inning in the Majors, he'll still be in the record books; Mastny is the first Indonesian-born player in ML history. I'm sure he'd much rather be in the record books for being an awesome pitcher, but I guess you take what you can get. Mastny's career ML ERA is 6.13, and although his FIP at 4.91 suggests he was unlucky, he still wasn't that good. He pitched decently in AAA this year and will surely keep getting AAA opportunities, but his chances of being a significant ML contributor are pretty low at this point.
FanGraphs, B-R (Majors), B-R (minors)

RHP Matt Peterson (29 years old, no ML experience)
As another former high draft pick (2nd round-2000 by NYM), Matt Peterson saw his numbers plummet from pretty good with the Mets to awful with the Pirates after his mid-season 2004 trade. He proceeded to move to the bullpen, where he consistently put up decent (albeit generally overachieving) numbers. Peterson has never been much of a strikeout pitcher and his walk totals are pretty lackluster. Generally, I see guys get converted to relief work, put up nice ERA's in AAA and see bright futures for them. Peterson still has a chance to break out at an ML level, but I don't expect it to happen based on his peripherals.

RHP Nic Ungs (31 years old, no ML experience)
Question: If a guy who is great in AAA but can't quite hack the Majors is called an "AAAA" player, what do you call a guy who is great in AA but can't quite hack AAA? Answer: Nic Ungs. Ungs has pretty good career numbers as a whole, generally keeping his BB/9 close to 2 and his K/9 over 6...that is, until he pitches in AAA, where they are closer to 3 and 5, respectively. His chances at ML success are slim unless the Marlins, who he has spent all but one year of career with, decide to throw him a bone with a September call-up. Ungs, if nothing else, has a pretty cool name.

RHP Tim Wood (28 years old, 50 IP of ML experience)
Wood was decent in 2009, posting a 2.95 FIP in AAA and 4.31 in the majors. He regressed in 2010, though, to a 6.06 FIP in AAA and 4.92 in the bigs. He doesn't strike out nearly enough guys (7.4 K/9 in his minors career, 4.7 in ML) to justify his high walk rates (3.8 BB/9 in his minors career, 4.5 in ML). He might get some more ML opportunities, but I wouldn't go expecting another 2.82 ERA like he had in 22 and 1/3 innings in 2009.
FanGraphs, B-R (Majors), B-R (minors)

LHP Jeff Gogal (28 years old, no ML experience)
Gogal might have turned a corner in 2010. He finally kept his walks low (2.4 BB/9) and strikeouts high (8.3 K/9). Whether or not he keeps it up in 2011 is a different story, but he still needs to show he can handle AAA before he sniffs the Majors.

LHP James Houser (26 years old, 1.1 innings of ML experience)
I really hope Houser gets another shot at the majors; a 20.25 career ERA is just sad. The former 2nd round pick (TB, 2003) has put up decent numbers in AA and below but lackluster ones in AAA. He's still young enough (and a lefty), so he'll get plenty of opportunities, but he still is a while away from being a ML contributor.
FanGraphs, B-R (Majors), B-R (minors)

LHP Wes Whisler (27 years old, 1.1 innings of ML experience)
Whisler did a little bit better in his 1.1 ML innings, with a 13.50 ERA. Okay, not really. The White Sox' 2004 second round pick has never been a control guy or a strikeout guy, and I don't expect him to be an ML contributor unless he becomes one or the other.
FanGraphs, B-R (Majors), B-R (minors)

C John Otness (29 years old, no ML experience)
Otness has decent on-base numbers in his minor league career, but has only played 8 games in AAA. Looks like an organizational depth guy at this point, but with 1B/3B/OF experience, he could be a nice AA/AAA piece for a team looking for a vet.

C Neil Wilson (27 years old, no ML experience)
Poor defensive catcher with poor on-base skills and a little pop. Wilson will likely serve as a backup catcher for somebody's AAA squad.

1B Mark Saccomanno (30 years old, 10 games of ML experience)
Saccomanno is an AAAA slugger who can routinely put up 20 homers with a below average eye and a bunch of K's. He had a down year in 2010 but will likely be back to portraying the AAA version of Adam Dunn next year.
FanGraphs, B-R (Majors), B-R (minors)

2B Wes Long (28 years old, no ML experience)
Long spent three years in the A's organization, never progressing above A ball. After three more years in independent leagues, he resurfaced in 2010 only to fail to progress above A ball again (at the age of 28, no less). He's got speed and the ability to play a handful of positions to his credit, but not a whole lot else.

2B Danny Richar (27 years old, 79 games of ML experience)
It's refreshing to see a familiar face on the list every once in a while. Richar was involved in the Ken Griffey Jr. to the White Sox trade back in 2008 and hasn't done a whole lot since. Lefthanded-hitting middle infielders with a little power are definitely not in great abundance, making it impressive that Richar has kept himself out of the Majors like he has. His minor league numbers point to averageness, but he hasn't translated them to any ML mediocrity. Because of his handedness and tools, he'll keep getting calls, but he needs to make a move this year if he wants to even be a Miguel Cairo-type.
FanGraphs, B-R (Majors), B-R (minors)

2B Rigoberto Silverio (24 years old, no ML experience)
Silverio has yet to progress past A ball and his numbers don't suggest he has any special tools. Keep moving, nothing to see here.

3B Lee Mitchell (28 years old, no ML experience)
Mitchell has gotten a shot at AAA three years in a row and has failed to do anything with it. His average power and on-base abilities fail to make up for his massive strikeout totals. Mitchell is another one of those guys who can play well in AA but can't hack AAA.

SS Gookie Dawkins (31 years old, 55 games of ML experience)
Reds. Dodgers. Royals. Cubs. Tigers. Pirates. Mariners. Phillies. Royals (again). White Sox. Marlins. Dawkins has played for 1/3 of the organizations in the league and will likely continue to fight until he can make it back to the bigs, where he last played in 2003. The one-top prospect's 2010 numbers in AAA weren't bad at all (.268/.332/.479), but his chances of making it back to the Majors in any significant role are pretty slim.
FanGraphs, B-R (Majors), B-R (minors)

SS Javier Guzman (28 years old, no ML experience)
Guzman is lucky that we've already discussed Wes Long on this list; otherwise, his failure to figure out AA at the age of 28 would be even more embarrassing. Guzman can't hit for power, field, or get on base, and his speed and contact has faded since his first few years in the minors. The end of the road could be near for Javier.

SS Ryan Klosterman (28 years old, no ML experience)
Klosterman is yet another name on this list that has little success above AA. He used to have decent power and speed, but it looks like those tools have faded. His ability to play 2B, 3B and SS combined with a decent batters eye will keep getting him opportunities, but even utility guys that can get on base have an expiration date.

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