Saturday, January 23, 2016

More Minor League Free Agent Analysis

With the snow bearing down on the mid-Atlantic states, I have some extra time to take a look at some of the minor league free agents that have joined Atlanta's organization since the end of 2015. Today's subject focuses specifically on guys who have already appeared in the major leagues. For a fairly comprehensive list of players who have joined the Braves on a minor league deal this offseason, click here. Links to further analysis are also included there.

Brignac - Kirk Irwin/Getty
Reid Brignac

From 2007-2010, Brignac was a fixture in the Top 100 rankings produced by multiple outlets, but has never been able to turn that hype into success in the majors. At his height, he was a middle infielder capable of a .321/.376/.549 slash in his Age-20 season while playing in A+ and AA. But his numbers since have largely been underwhelming as he's a .256/.326/.389 hitter over 480 AAA games. He's also never hit at the major league level outside of a 2010 season when he hit 8 homers in 326 PA, but still only OPS'd .692. A shortstop by trade, he has experience all over the infield and a little time in LF. His chances to make the roster were much higher when he signed in November than now considering the signings of Gordon Beckham, Emilio Bonifacio, and Kelly Johnson. Brignac is part of the group who might not be praying for an injury, but could definitely benefit from one (or three) affecting those in front of him on the depth chart.

David Carpenter

The Braves keep cycling through Carp like a fish market. The original will seek to make his return to the Braves bullpen after a year spent struggling with the Yankees and Nationals. He, like Atlanta, are hoping that by coming back to the Braves, Carpenter will get closer to his 2013-14 numbers where he had a 2.63 ERA and 2.88 FIP in 126.2 innings with 141 strikeouts. He also didn't hurt himself with walks (just 33 unintentional free passes). His velocity was down a tick last year, but the bigger issue was his slider. With the Braves, it was a pitch he could target at will and had a tight spin and fall to it. Last year, he lost control of it. If that is just a question of fixing some mechanical problems, Carpenter could be a great asset for the Braves bullpen this season. If not, the Braves will probably track down the other David Carpenter.

Chase D'Arnaud

I saw Chase when he was a quick moving Pepperdine product who played for the Lynchburg Hillcats in the second half of their Carolina League title-winning 2009 season. At that time, he looked like a pretty impressive prospect. But his power numbers quickly trailed off and bat stopped hitting for average. Similar to Brignac, though D'Arnaud started as a shortstop, he has since moved around with games at second, third, left field, and even center field. Also similar to Brignac, his chances of competing for a spot worsened as the offseason progressed. Likely ticketed for his sixth consecutive year in AAA where he hopes to earn a promotion to improve his .205/.231/.277 major league slash.

Freiman - Noah Graham/Getty
Nate Freiman

He's definitely tall enough to play first at 6'8", but the former 8th rounder out of Duke has simply not hit enough. Sure, his numbers don't look too bad in the minors, but those stats are probably aided by some notorious hitting leagues. Twice, he's made it to the majors and while he's flashed some power (9 HR in 301 PA), he doesn't get on base enough. Despite his height and presumably large strikezone, he doesn't actually strikeout that much. Limited to first base, he'll likely perform that role for Gwinnett in 2016 as there are few other options. He didn't receive an invitation to spring training. As an aside, looking at his size, I'm surprised he wasn't with the Duke basketball team as a last guy off the bench guy. I'm way more surprised that he was listed as a catcher/infielder for Duke. Can you imagine his giant frame trying to block balls in the dirt?

David Holmberg

Once traded for Edwin Jackson, Holmberg was a 2nd rounder by the White Sox in 2009 who made it to the majors for a start with the Diamondbacks in 2013. He spent the last two years with the Reds organization and the results were...let's say...awful. Of pitchers who have thrown at least 50 innings the last two seasons, only four have a FIP over 6.00. Only David Holmberg has a FIP over 6.60. For that matter, only Holmberg has a FIP over 8.00. To be exact, it's 8.07!!! It's actually really hard to earn a -1.7 fWAR in just 58.1 ING. It took Ross Detwiler 121.1 ING to get to -1.1. Unsurprisingly, Holmberg didn't get an invite to spring training. He throws five pitches and none of them are particularly good. If he pitches for the Braves in 2016, something went very wrong.

Ethan Martin

A decent prospect after the Dodgers took him with the 15th overall selection of 2008, Martin's career appeared to take off after he was dealt to the Phillies in 2012. He would appear in 15 games the following season in the majors, though the results were not pretty. The Phillies moved him to the pen and he got back to the majors, but only briefly in 2014. Last year, he spent most of the season at AA after injuries kept him out until June. He relies heavily on a hard sinker that's actually a pretty good pitch as far as whiffs go, but it doesn't sink enough and produces a lot of flyballs. His slider is his next choice and he can sprinkle in a change and curve as needed. He could at 26, develop into a half-decent reliever, but the Toccoa, GA product needs to refine his pitches and quickly to catch the eye of anyone.

Ogando - Mitchell Layton|Getty
Alexi Ogando

Probably the most intriguing player on today's list. The 32 year-old became a big name back in 2010-11 as first, a great setup reliever, and then a fairly impressive starter, earning him All-Star honors. He was moved back to the bullpen in 2012 and again was very good (if not homer prone) before injuries and struggles with his control finally led to Texas cutting him after the 2014 season. He spent 2015 for a bad Red Sox bullpen and though his ERA wasn't terrible at 3.99, his FIP of 5.32 and 1.7 HR/9 were less noteworthy. A big part of that was a nearly 17% HR/FB ratio (8% higher than his career norm), but he also benefited from a 83.3% LOB% so it's impossible to say he was unlucky. His velocity is still very good at 95 mph and though he can't hit triple digits anymore, he still had 98 mph heat in October of last year. The effort to re-work Ogando's delivery has taken away some of the bite of his pitches, specifically his slider, as the Rangers and Red Sox have looked to limit the violence in his delivery to the plate that led to his slim body breaking down. He's essentially coming from a higher delivery point. It's smart as it should keep him healthier, but to be effective, he's going to have to adjust his game. It's a good piece to bet on because he can still bring the heat and come after hitters. If tweaked just right, he might even become a solid asset that can be moved for a prospect later.

Matt Tuiasosopo

This guy. Should we talk about his brother, Marquis? Or should we talk about his cousin, Ronaiah (a.k.a Manti Te'o's dead girlfriend)? Neither because this is a Braves blog. A third rounder all the way back in 2004, Tuiasosopo has played 12 years in the minors with a few callups to the majors mixed in - most recently in 2013 when a good Tigers team called on him 81 times. He didn't suck (.351 OBP, .171 ISO), though the Tigers still waived him as soon as the season was over. He's mostly limited to 1B and the corner outfield spots, but has played a little second base and third base in recent years. A career .255/.355/.401 hitter in the minors, Tuiasosopo will be spring training fodder before heading to Gwinnett to help out there.

Chris Volstad

It's easy to forget about Volstad because he was the first signing of the offseason. The 16th overall pick of the 2005 draft, Volstad has thrown 10.1 major league innings since the end of the 2012 season. It's a quick fall from the 2008 rookie with a 2.88 ERA in 84.1 ING. He played three more years for the Marlins after that and was consistently bad. Volstad's basic issue is that he's a sinker ball pitcher who lacks an out pitch. When the ball elevates at all, hitters murder it. He basically has no margin for error. At his best, he's the 2010-11 Volstad - 6 K/9, 2.75 BB/9, 1 HR/9, 50% GB%, 4.30 FIP. Now, he was very good in AAA last year for the Pirates and his 3.16 FIP there was his best since he posted a 3.09 FIP with the Marlins' AA club before being promoted in '08. Pitching wise, you're going to get a lot of 91-92 mph sinkers, some curveballs, and a fairly hard changeup. He's also been known to throw fourseamers and sliders. Volstad is kind of lost in the minor league free agent starter battle since the additions of Jhoulys Chacin and Kyle Kendrick, but he probably has as good of a shot as anyone if he has a nice spring.

Wooten - Mike McGinnis/Getty
Rob Wooten

A 13th rounder in 2008 by the Brewers, Wooten has been a reliever from day one. Probably considered a closer-of-the-future guy by Milwaukee, Wooten put up some sick stats before getting hurt and missing 2010. Since then, he's been mostly good in the minors but hasn't stood out. It should be noted that his best success came when he was dominating sub-AA hitters who he was older than. In 71 games over the last three years with Milwaukee, Wooten has been pretty medicore. A strikeout artist before his injury, he's a sinkerball pitcher who mixes in a slider, curve, splitter, and even a fourseamer. Max velocity is about 92-93 mph. Wooten is minor league filler that bad Brewers pitching staffs have given chances to in hopes he somehow reaches his pre-2010 numbers again. It's probably not happening. He didn't receive a spring training invite and presumably will be part of what is likely to be a veteran bullpen for Gwinnett.

Out of these guys, I'd keep an eye on Carpenter and Ogando over any others. Carpenter has the familiarity angle and if he's able to be successful this spring, I'd give him a great chance to open the season with the team. Ogando's a bit of an x-factor. He could, theoretically, even be involved in the starter competition. While that's very unlikely, both Carpenter and Ogando have a good fighting chance to make the roster depending on how they perform this spring.

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