Every offseason free-agent signing has the potential to alter an organization’s prospect landscape. Typically, the acquisition of a free agent will in turn block a prospect’s immediate path to playing time in the major leagues. Furthermore, such a signing may even make a nearly big-league-ready prospect, or prospects, expendable.
Here’s a look at five prospects who will be impacted by this offseason’s free-agent signings, if they haven’t been already.
Selected in the fourth round of the 2011 draft out of Nebraska, Asche, 22, raked in his full-season debut this past season, as he split the year between High and Double-A.
A left-handed hitter, he batted .324/.369/.481 with 51 extra-base hits and 72 RBI, and he showed improved power (.513 SLG) in 68 games with Double-A Reading. With Placido Polanco out of the picture in 2013, Asche’s path to the major leagues will inevitably be impacted this offseason, as the Phillies are in the market for a third baseman. He’s not a long-term option for them at the hot corner, but Asche may be a low-cost, low-risk option in coming years.
Headed into the offseason, the Milwaukee Brewers’ projected 2013 starting rotation will be led by ace Yovani Gallardo. After that, though, the remaining four spots are more or less a toss-up.
Beyond right-handers Marco Estrada, Michael Fiers and Mark Rogers, the organization has two additional candidates in prospects Wily Peralta and Tyler Thornburg. Of the two, Peralta is seemingly the favorite after a strong showing in the starting rotation following a September call-up.
Set to lose Kyle Lohse via free agency, the St. Louis Cardinals will have a vacant spot in their starting rotation headed into the 2013 season. Given the amount of depth in their farm system, they could conceivably trade for a proven arm if necessary.
However, that same depth also gives them a slew of internal options in RHP Shelby Miller, RHP Trevor Rosenthal and RHP Joe Kelly. Miller, the team’s top pitching prospect for the last three seasons, is seemingly the leading candidate after a dominant second half of the 2012 season at Triple-A, followed by an impressive showing as a September call-up.
As I wrote the other day, the Tigers have made it clear that they don’t plan on re-signing free-agent closer Jose Valverde or any other presumably over-priced closer. Rather, they seem satisfied promoting from within, as flame-thrower Bruce Rondon appears to be nearly big-league-ready. The right-hander improved his command last season over three minor-league levels, and he boasts a fastball that touches 102 mph.
As with the Brewers, very little is definite about the Minnesota Twins’ 2013 starting rotation.
Rumored to be in the market for at least a No. 3 starter—relative to their rotation—they also have right-hander Kyle Gibson, who has worked his way back from Tommy John surgery and seems ready for a shot in the majors. He’s showcased three above-average to plus pitches in the Arizona Fall League, and it appears he’s regained his pre-surgery command.
Provided that the Twins don't sign three big-league starters, Gibson could even break camp as a member of the starting rotation.