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Here's a Thought: Recapping Minor League Free Agent Losses-Atlanta Braves

LAKE BUENA VISTA, FL - FEBRUARY 19:  Pitcher Mariano Gomez #71 of the Atlanta Braves poses for a photo during Spring Training Photo Day on February 19, 2009 at Champions Stadium at Walt Disney World of Sports in Lake Buena Vista, Florida.  (Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Chris Graythen/Getty Images
Nathaniel StoltzSenior Analyst IDecember 23, 2009

In the offseason, much is made of the comings and goings of established major league players in free agency.

But many often overlook the same thing happening in the minor leagues.

In the "Recapping Minor League Free Agent Losses" series, I'll be looking at what, if anything, each team is losing at the minor league levels.

I'm not going to bother covering every player, because not all of them are very important and I have little to say about many of them. I'll just be touching on those who I think could be of value to another team in free agency.

Anyway, let's continue with the Braves!

Atlanta only lost 12 players to minor league free agency: six pitchers and six position players.

Bobby Brownlie, a former top prospect with the Cubs, threw some nice games as a swingman at Triple-A Gwinnett. With solid control of four pitches, he could be a nice fifth starter or middle reliever in the majors.

A big power righty, Jerome Gamble's control issues prevented him from being anything more than an average swingman between Double-A and Triple-A. At 29, he may be out of chances in the minors.

A big lefty with less-than-intimidating stuff, Mariano Gomez has succeeded with some smoke-and-mirrors pitching in Triple-A the past few years. Yes, he had a 1.99 ERA this year, but he rarely struck anyone out. He's best left in Triple-A in case of emergency.

Juan Perez is a lefty with velocity, but he struggles to find the strike zone and isn't getting any better on the wrong side of 30. He'll bounce around for a few more years, perhaps, but I don't see him being an effective major leaguer.

The final pitcher I'd like to discuss is more of a curiosity than an important player. Former MLB first baseman Lance Niekro began his knuckleballing career in Rookie ball last year, and didn't completely embarrass himself. I doubt it'll amount to anything, but it'll be interesting to see if Niekro's knuckler gets a full-season ball shot somewhere next year.

Former Rockies catcher Alvin Colina spent 2009 in Triple-A, showing just enough bat to be a palatable backup MLB option. He'll need some luck to stick in the majors.

Former MLB infielder Chris Burke, like Colina, didn't really impress, but didn't fall flat on his face either. He's still the same player he's always been—a fast guy with okay defense at seven positions and just the slightest hint of power.

Former top Tigers prospect Kody Kirkland, who's struggled in Double-A for years, struggled there again this year, but his bat oddly heated up in a brief promotion to Triple-A to cover for an injury. It returned to its normal poor levels upon being demoted.

Kirkland is a nice defensive third baseman with a ton of raw power, but he chases far too many pitches and can't hit a breaking ball.

Not much else to say about Atlanta's guys. All the players I mentioned are free agents right now, to the best of my knowledge. Stay tuned to "Here's a Thought" for the Cubs minor league free agent recap!

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