10 Intriguing Minor League Free Agents
By John Verburg
Motor City Bengals writer Chris Hannum yesterday gave us a list from Baseball America of the Tigers minor league free agents. Usually they are free agents for a reason, and if they were real good they would be protected by their franchise. However, there is some talent out there that can slip through the cracks, and a move to another organization can bring out the best. See Al Alburquerque from the Tigers last season. Now, A.A. managed to make it to the Tigers because of his command issues, but he had a great arm.
There are any number of issues which may lead a guy to make it all the way to minor league free agency. Command issues, roster priorities, injury troubles, personal troubles, or just a flat out mis-evaluation by their own club. After combing through the list by Baseball America, I wanted to give you all a list of 10 names that are intriguing for one reason or another.
So without further delay, here it goes.
1. Anderson Hernandez (SS/2B)-
Hernandez is in the mold of Argenis Diaz in that he can play the middle infield, and is a glove first guy. Hernandez for the most part is a better 2B, and flashes a plus glove there. He isn’t much of a hitter at all, but he does have some major league experience and could fill in if the Tigers were desperate. Hernandez at one time was a Tigers farm hand, and would be worth a sign to fill out the Toledo Mud Hens roster.
2. Henry Barrera (RP)-
You want a top notch arm? Barrera fits the bill. But he has his own issues, and the main one is staying healthy. Barrera is the type of guy teams want to take a chance on. He is 26 years old heading into next season, but he can run his plus fastball into the mid 90’s, and has a plus slider to go with it. A potential power reliever, Barrera has flashed plus K rates throughout his career, and while he only pitched 15 innings last season, he struck out 22 batters in those innings.
3. Yangevis Solarte (2B/OF)-
Solarte was a member of the Twins organization, and in the last couple years has begun to show he can hit. This came about after a bunch of years where it looked like he couldn’t. Solarte is 24, so maybe he is just coming into his own a little. He doesn’t walk much at all, doesn’t strike out a lot, doesn’t play defense well at all. Still, Solarte hit .329 in AA last year, and would be worth a look.
4. Aaron Thompson (LHP)-
Thompson is kind of the epitome of what you are looking for when scouring the minor league free agency market. A former 1st round pick that for whatever reason, hasn’t put it together for a full season. The Tigers could take a chance on this lefty, and hope that he has a Colby Lewis-like re-birth. It doesn’t hurt that he throws from the left side either.
5. Brandon Wood (3B)-
This guy here has a great minor league pedigree. Problem is, he has never put it together at the major league level, but again, this is the kind of guy you sign to minor league deals, or even a potential major league one and hope that things click. Wood has flashed massive power in his minor league career, and can play 3B and SS. To give you evidence of his struggles at the major league level, Wood hit .220 last year, and that was his best season. Wood has hit only .186 in 700 career at-bats. Not good, but at 26, he will still have a few more chances to prove himself.
6. Samuel Deduno (P)-
Deduno at one time was a well thought of prospect in the Colorado Rockies organization. Signed as a free agent by the Padres last season, Deduno once again had a strong season. A big right hander that has a good fastball, Deduno has always flashed good K rates, but isn’t a special arm. At 28 years old, Deduno could be looking for a place to get a real chance, as he has only gotten 5 major league innings under his belt the last two seasons. His major issue has been in giving up the free pass, as he tends to be right around 4+ walks per 9 innings.
7. Matt Antonelli (2B/3B)-
I tend to be a big proponent of adding a guy like Antonelli. He was a highly thought of prospect in the San Diego organization at one time, that has battled injury, and in 2011 saw a little bit of a bounce back. Antonelli has some pop, can run a bit, and has on-base ability. After 3 terrible years in a row, in which he missed a bunch of time, Antonelli hit .298 last year with an OPS of .847. He is just 26 years old, although it will be 27 in April of next year, but still has some development left, after missing all the time that he has the last few years.
8. Adalberto Flores (RP)
Flores is a huge right-hander out of the Texas organization that owns a big fastball. Flores has been clocked as high as 97, and can sit low to mid 90’s. At 6’7″, Flores can be an intimidating presence on the mound. Flores finished last season in AA with 3.32 ERA and struck out 80 batters in 81 innings. Flores is susceptible to giving up the free pass, but there is plenty of upside to take a chance on signing him. Flores just turned 25 yesterday, so more development isn’t out of the question here either.
9. Omar Beltre (RP)
Beltre is another guy with a pretty good arm out of the Texas organization. His problem has been injuries. Blessed with a low to mid 90’s fastball, Beltre has posted real good numbers throughout his minor league career. His career ERA is 2.45, and his K rate is 8.8/9. Beltre doesn’t walk a lot of people with less than 3 per 9 over his career. Beltre is 30 years old, and his experience might actually help him in this case. He could be more ready than most of your minor league free agents. I don’t know however if the injuries have taken their toll at this point and have affected his stuff.
10. Javan Williams (OF)
Williams is a 22 year old who played the 2011 season in the Toronto organization. He was drafted in 2010 in the 45th round by the Arizona Diamondbacks, but quickly found his way in the Toronto organization after being let go by Arizona. Williams fits the mold of what Toronto is doing lately, as he is an athlete who has yet to become a baseball player yet. In 154 career at-bats in the lowest levels, Williams has hit .284, and stolen 12 bases in 14 attempts. Williams looks the part of a guy that has tremendous upside, and if the Tigers just flat out wanted to add some talent that could play in low A next season, Williams could fit the bill.
So, there you have it, my 10 intriguing names. There are some other guys out there like Justin Thomas from Pittsburgh, as well as others, but I wanted to keep the list to 10.
Let me know what you think. Anyone out there intrigue you that didn’t make the list? Or that did?