With many 40-man rosters full, anytime a player is added, that typically forces a corresponding move to open up a spot. Here are a quartet of players recently DFA’d and their chances of helping the Braves.
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Ji-Man Choi, Angels, 1B/OF
Signed out of South Korea in ’09 by the Mariners, Choi finally reached the majors last season for the Angels and showed surprising power. I say “surprising” because despite playing traditional power positions, Choi’s game doesn’t really include a lot of power. Instead, he relies on a lot of doubles and a well-rounded offensive approach at the plate, which has helped Choi sustain a career .408 OBP in the minors.
Once in the majors, however, he struggled to make solid contact and managed just a 16.5% line drive rate over 129 PA. While he took his walks at a robust 12.4% clip and belted homers at a higher rate than when he was at Triple-A during 2016, his wOBA slumped to .267 and his wRC+ was a bad 67. He’ll turn 26 in May and has two option years remaining so the Braves could stash him at Gwinnett. Plus, you have to love that his name is pronounced G-Man Choy. Yet, despite all of that, it seems unlikely for the Braves to find a place for Choi.
Angel Nesbitt, Tigers, RHP
Nesbitt is a prime example of how if you stick around long enough, eventually a situation will work out perfectly to get you to the major leagues. In 2015, Nesbitt’s seventh year in professional ball, the righty broke camp with the Tigers. He had been decent enough the previous year as a 23 year-old playing Advanced-A and Double-A ball. It had been by far his best season of his minor league career that included three seasons in the Venezuelan Summer League.
Thing was – the 2015 Tigers bullpen was really bad. It managed a 0.0 fWAR for the entire season. That was better than Atlanta, but that was hardly something to be proud about. Nesbitt wasn’t the worse option out of that bullpen and he was actually better than Ian Krol, but Nesbitt was still pretty horrid (4.70 FIP/4.93 xFIP). Detroit banished him to the minors a week-and-half into June. and he finished up 2015 pitching even worse in Toledo than he had pitched in Detroit. Last year was another lost year as he cycled through three levels while never finding himself. While a power arm, he’s not known for big strikeout numbers and relies more on groundballs. For Atlanta’s purposes, he’ll be lost in a sea of power arms vying for position in the Braves’ bullpen.
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national (Crop) [CC 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons
Peter O’Brien, D’Backs, UTIL
With teams looking at the possibility of an eight-man bullpen, benches must be stocked full of players with exceptional flexibility. O’Brien fits the bill. A former second-rounder by the Yankees out of “The U” in 2012, O’Brien was a catcher without the skillset to stay there. After an aborted attempted to turn him into a third baseman, O’Brien settled into a 1B and corner outfielder who also caught games. The D’Backs got him at the trading deadline in 2014 for Martin Prado and he spent time in the majors in each of the last two seasons.
The results over the 79 PA were fairly miserable. He did hit six homers, but hit .176 with 5 walks and 32 strikeouts. The problem is that those results are not too out-of-character for him. He’s never had strong on-base numbers and has always struck out a ton. His saving grace has been a decent batting average and plus-plus power. Over five years and 513 games in the minors, he’s sent 116 baseballs past the outfield wall. His best total, which came in 2014, was when he smacked 34 homeruns and then added five more in the Arizona Fall League. From a power standpoint, you won’t find much better on the open market. The problem is contact or the lack there of.
Still, if you are searching for positional flexibility, finding a 1B/OF who can also catch is rare. Is taking a chance on O’Brien a better use of a 40-man roster slot than keeping around Jason Hursh? I think that it probably is based on what a maxed out O’Brien could be versus what a maxed out Hursh might be. Further, O’Brien has only used one option to this point so he could be stashed in Gwinnett if it doesn’t work out this spring.
Jason Rogers, UTIL, Pirates
It would be a bit of a homecoming for Rogers if the Braves acquired him. Born in East Point, GA in 1988, Rogers attended Banneker High (College Park, GA) before attending Columbus State University. He began his career as a Brewers farmhand and came onto the scene in 2012 while playing for a pair of A-level squads. He hit .301 with 11 homers and a .854 OPS that year. His numbers improved in 2013 with a career-high 22 homers in Double-A along with a trip to the Arizona Fall League. He continued to hit in 2014 and earned an eight-game callup to the majors. He spent even more time in the majors the following year and handled himself well, hitting .296/.367/.441 over 169 PA. He was especially hot in the second half. After the season, the Pirates traded a pair of players to acquire Rogers.
He never got going in Pittsburgh. Before spending most of September with the team, he earned a pair of callups and struggled over the brief time he was in the majors. In September, he was used as a pinch hitter almost exclusively and managed just one single in 14 PA with 3 walks. His numbers in the minors were also a letdown (.263/.338/.371). He has experience at first, third, and both corner outfield slots (though mostly left field) and could be a nice right-handed bat off the bench if a change of scenery worked for him. He also has a pair of options left.
So, what do you think? Any of these guys worth a waiver claim?