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 have a look at the Marlins!
Florida tied for the second-highest number of minor league free agents, with a whopping 32—not surprising considering the usual hyperactivity of their front office.
Tiny lefthander Willie Collazo, a former New York Met, turned in a serviceable 2009 as a Triple-A swingman. At 30, the prospects of him ever throwing a major league pitch again are diminishing.
Matt DeSalvo was once a highly-touted Yankees prospect, but his command comes and goes for no apparent reason nowadays. At 29, he may get a bullpen look somewhere in Triple-A, but I wouldn't expect much.
Nate Field is a rarity in these lists: a player who really deserves to be on a big league roster. He turned in an excellent 2009 (3.80 FIP) in Triple-A. Field has two excellent breaking balls that make him tough on righties, but he's an extreme flyball pitcher. San Diego, looking to cut costs, would be well-served to give Field 60 innings in 2010.
Why would I even bother to write up 26-year-old High-A pitcher Jon Fulton? The answer: he's a converted infielder who struck out 33 batters in 22.3 innings in only his second season on the mound. Fulton has posted sub-3 FIPs as a pitcher in both his seasons, and while he's certainly well behind other pitchers his age, he has enough potential for someone to give him a look.
Former Padres starter Clay Hensley spent 2009 in Triple-A being the same nondescript mediocrity he always was; he did it well enough that he'll likely spend 2010 as some team's eighth starter or tenth reliever on the depth chart. He resigned with the Marlins quickly, but there's no guarantee he won't bounce around in 2010.
A move from the Padres' hitter-friendly AAA affiliate (Portland) to the Marlins' pitcher-friendly one (New Orleans) midseason did former Padre Brian Lawrence wonders, as he posted a 6.28 ERA at the former stop and a 3.00 mark (3.77 FIP, 23/5 K/BB) at the latter. His fastball is almost laughably slow (78-84 mph), but he's pitched well in winter ball and could conceivably land somewhere as Triple-A roster filler.
Chunky righty Carlos Martinez was once a highly-thought-of relief prospect, but he seems to miss big chunks of every year, and at 27, his luster is gone and it's hard to know what he has left. A 20-inning sample last year wasn't encouraging.
Given my hatred of the Quad-A tag, I have a soft spot for Kasey Olenberger, a durable righty with good control who I think could be a nice fifth starter or middle reliever if given the chance. Now 31 years old, Olenberger had the misfortune of spending 2009 at Double-A , which, as one would expect from an accomplished Triple-A pitcher, he dominated with a 1.10 ERA and 2.32 FIP. He ultimately resigned with the Marlins; you'd think such a cost-conscious team would give him a chance, but they sure didn't last year.
For about a week in 2007, Henry Owens was a big-league closer with a 1.96 ERA as a rookie. Then he had a career-altering arm injury and has pitched sparingly and poorly since. The 30 year old may burst back onto the scene in 2010, his career may already be over, or anything in between can happen.
Matt Peterson is a former hotshot Mets starting prospect who reached Double-A in 2003 and has pretty much never left, even though he's put together three straight solid years there closing out ballgames. The Marlins brought him back—like Olenberger, he could be a decent MLB reliever for $400,000.
Former Washington National Levale Speigner is a small sinkerballing righty reliever. He's not bad at what he does, but he's not any better at it than a ton of other AAA/trash-time MLB types.
A control-oriented righthander with modest stuff, Nic Ungs had a nice season at Double-A—but he's 30 and, unlike Olenberger, he's never been more than an average Triple-A pitcher.
Mike Rabelo was a pretty solid defense-oriented switch-hitting backup catcher with Detroit and Florida for a year and a half, but he missed basically the entire 2009 season. There are only about 60 catching jobs in the majors, and given his originally poor hitting and ill-timed injury, it's unlikely Rabelo will ever win back his.
Chris De La Cruz is a utility infielder who used to be in the Indians system. He's a small switch-hitting speedster with impressive plate discipline, but he's moved very slowly through the minors and spent last season at Double-A at age 27. That said, his slick glove and .352 OBP point to a very slim chance at carving out an Augie Ojeda-esque utility role someday. He signed with Tampa Bay.
John Lindsey is what a "Quad-A" should be: a guy who can put up good minor league numbers, but not great ones, and isn't much of a defender. He hit 19 homers last year after hitting 26 in 2008, but his K/BB ratio (112/38) atrophied, and he's a 33-year-old who is athletically limited. The former Dodger prospect resigned with Los Angeles, and is likely to top 20 homers playing for Albuquerque.
Dave Matranga hit a homer in his first MLB at-bat in 2003, but the utility man is still searching for a second career highlight. A soon-to-be-33-year-old like Lindsey, Matranga put up an excellent .404 OBP last year in Triple-A. With his ability to play five positions, doubles power, and solid plate discipline, he wouldn't be a bad utility man in the bigs.
Lou Ott is a switch-hitting second baseman who put up a .388 OBP last year, but the positives pretty much end there. He's not a plus runner or defender, has very little power (.339 SLG), and he was a 24-year-old in High-A. He probably merits a Double-A look somewhere on the basis of the OBP alone, but his prospects are grim.
Speaking of old second baseman with good OBPs, Kevin Randel has seemingly been in Florida's organization forever; I have a baseball card of him from 2003. Randel put up a .371 OBP in Double-A last year, and has some nice pop for a second baseman, but he's average-at-best defensively and is 28 years old. He may have reached the end of his career, but there are worse guys in Triple-A.
It's a mystery to me why Michael Ryan, the former Twins outfielder, hasn't gotten more MLB time than he has. He had yet another great year in Triple-A in 2009, hitting .300/.375/.482, and he's not bad in right field defensively. Ryan, now 32, seems like a long shot to get back into regular MLB playing time; if he hasn't before, why would he now?
Lorenzo Scott is a toolsy center fielder who is now 27 and has yet to show enough polish to be anything. He stole 20 bases last year, but was caught 13 times. He hit nine homers and walked 61 times, but struck out 124. The strikeouts and caught stealings are simply unacceptable for a 27-year-old in Double-A. I don't see his career lasting much longer, if at all.
Brandon Tripp is a 24-year-old left fielder who did juuuust enough to get resigned by the Marlins, hitting .278/.348/.441 in High-A. He's not particularly athletic and doesn't control the strike zone well, but he has some power. Barring a huge breakout, he's not going to get much further.
That's all for this mega-edition of the minor league free agent rundowns. Another fairly large one (mercifully, not this long) is up next, with Houston.