Sunday, December 4, 2016

Another 5-Pack of Minor League Signings

Recently, I looked at five minor league free agents the Braves have signed for 2017. You guys gave me a lot of views and clicks so here I am back for more. Just a reminder - I have an updated collection of minor league free agents in the navigation line up top or you can click here to view it with links to their B-Ref pages.

Balbino Fuenmayor, 1B, 27 years-old

For the second consecutive offseason, the Atlanta Braves are running away with the Interesting Names Championship. Fuenmayor just finished his first decade of baseball and has now played in nearly 700 minor league games. After flaming out in the Jays' organization, Fuenmayor became an interesting bat after belting 23 HR to go with a .993 OPS for Quebec in the independent Can-Am League in 2014. That got him a job in the Royals' organization and he continued to crush the ball with a .358/.384/.589 overall slash in 2015 while spending most of the season at Double-A. Last year, in the hitter-friendly Pacific Coast League (AAA), Fuenmayer came back to Earth in a disappointing manner.

Fuenmayor is a fine minor league bat - when facing left-hand pitching, which he destroys. He's rarely handled right-handed pitching, though, and is pretty limited to first base. He's adequate at playing that position, though his bat is unlikely adequate FOR the position. Fuenmayor is a guy to fill out a Gwinnett Braves lineup. That said, it's a cool name to have in your lineup so there's that.

By User SD Dirk on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr
as "Sean Kazmar") [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Sean Kazmar, SS, 32 years-old

You have to appreciate a guy like Kazmar. In 2008, he appeared in 19 games for the San Diego Padres. In the eight years that have followed, he has played 743 games at Triple-A and has yet to be promoted back up to the majors. The last four years have been spent at Gwinnett, where he is now seven games short of tying Jose Constanza's team record for games played. He's already the career leader in doubles for Gwinnett with 76. Last season, "Kaz" saved his best for the playoffs and hit three homeruns and even had a 4-for-4 night when things mattered the most.

Kazmar can play all four infield positions and seems to be well liked by most people I've read who have encountered him. I had hoped the Braves might throw him a bone and call him up in September, but sadly, that did not happen. With even better depth this season, the chances of Kazmar seeing time in the bigs went from slim to microscopic. But something tells me that Kazmar is going to be a Braves fixture well beyond the time he eventually hangs it up.

Adam Kolarek, LHP, 27 years-old

After six years spent in the Mets organization, the former Maryland product tried his luck with Tampa Bay. The full-time reliever faired well in 2016 while spending time in Double-A and Triple-A. Kolarek has been around the game for some time. His dad, Frank, was a catcher in the A's system in the late 70's before becoming a baseball scout. Adam, a lefthander, works off a low-90's fastball that has glove-side movement and depth. He also has a slider (for lefties) and a changeup (for righties).

The Braves are searching for a lefty to pair with Ian Krol. The smart money is on Paco Rodriguez, who just agreed to a deal for 2017. However, could Kolarek play a role? Outside of 2014, Kolarek has handled lefties very well. Right-handed batters, on the other hand, is a different story. Could Kolarek still have a shot to stick? Well, sure, but I doubt Atlanta is anxious to go with Kolarek unless forced to.

By Joel Dinda on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational
(Crop) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Blake Lalli, C/1B, 33 years-old

The Braves brought back Lalli after outrighting him off the roster after the season. Last year, Lalli got his first taste of the big leagues since 2013 and went 2-for-13 with a double - his first major league extra base hit. That leaves the 33 year-old 7-for-52 in the majors with a double, a walk, and 13 strikeouts.

But he can catch. For that matter, he can pitch (has done it 23 times, including 3 times last year). But it's the catching that brings him job security right now. The Braves don't really have many better options at Triple-A and he often plays first base as well, which gives him a bit more value. He'll likely be a mid-to-late spring cut before heading to Gwinnett to begin the season.

Elian Leyva, RHP, 26 years-old (maybe?)

This one was a strange signing. The Braves, who have just had zero luck with Cuban imports outside of Adonis Garcia, brought Leyva aboard last month. For nine seasons, Leyva was an unimpressive righty in the Cuban National Series (Serie Nacional). Almost used exclusively as a reliever from 2007 until 2014, Leyva walked more batters than he struck out, had a 5.68 ERA, and wasn't even on anyone's list of potential Cubans to keep an eye on.

And then, he found work in Spain. Yes, they play baseball in Spain. Actually, you'd be surprised how many small baseball leagues there are around the world. Moved to the starting rotation, Leyva logged 64 innings over ten outings with an ERA under 1.00 with 82 K's to just 17 walks. Now, I've looked, but I have not found any park factors for Spain. That's not true. I didn't even try. Still, I would imagine that Spain's league is comparable to maybe the Pecos League or close to it. Those numbers he posted must have brought a scout out (do the Braves have a European scout?) and the Braves signed him. It'll be a fun name to keep in mind, but obviously, the expectations are super low here.

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