My apologies, Walk-Off Walkers. Wait, is that what we call fans of this blog? That’s just awful.
Anyway, I typically keep a better count of minor league free agent signings, but with a slow market, few signings to really get excited about, and the whole front office mess, I’ve been slacking on my job. No longer. Today, you will notice a new link to our Resources section on the right (unless you’re looking at this on your phone). The link will send you to a running list of free agent signings and goings on the minor league front. In addition, signings will be given some degree of analysis – including this article.
Let’s play catch up.
Rob Brantly – C – L/R
…Over 428 plate appearances, Brantley has a .277 wOBA in the majors. Once involved in a trade for Omar Infante, Brantley spent most of last season between the White Sox and Reds Triple-A team, hitting .293/.352/.443 in the process. He also appeared in 14 games in the majors and even pitched an inning for the White Sox. Brantley could find himself in the mix for time in Gwinnett if the Braves believe Alex Jackson needs more time in Mississippi. That would likely make Brantley Kade Scivicque‘s backup.
Christian Colon – IF – R/R
…The year was 2010 and the first four picks of that June’s draft went something like this: Bryce Harper, Jameson Taillon, Manny Machado, and Christian Colon. One of these is not like the other. Colon was a big prospect and expected to get to the bigs very quickly. I guess he did do that, appearing in 21 games with the Royals in 2014 and taking a hot bat into the playoffs. He scored the winning run in the ’14 Wild Card Game to advance the Royals. He also provided an RBI single that helped the Royals win a championship in 2015.
When he wasn’t delivering memorable hits, he wasn’t doing much else. The Royals designated him for assignment last year and he landed with the Marlins. In 57 overall PA, he hit just .160. He’s a slick defender but has never lived up to the promise attached to him when the Royals drafted him. Well, outside of two swings in back-to-back postseasons.
Jaff Decker – OF – L/L
…Decker has been in the majors for parts of the last five years with three different teams. Despite that, he’s received just 191 PA. Hard to push for more PA when you’re hitting .174 when called upon. Decker puts the ball on the ground a bit too frequently, but does take his walks and has flashed double-digit HR power in the past. He’s unlikely to fit into the picture in Atlanta but could help Gwinnett – though playing him in center might be asking for too much.
Sean Kazmar – SS – R/R
…If Kazmar is around when the ’18 season does open, it’ll be the sixth consecutive year he’s been in the Braves’ system with Gwinnett. Damon Hollins used to do the same thing in Richmond. Kazmar did flash some pop last year, hitting 11 homers – the most since 2006. You have to respect the kind of drive it takes to keep plugging away a decade after last appearing in the majors. If you didn’t know, Kazmar played in 19 games for the Padres back in 2008. His manager was Bud Black. The three most used players were Braves legend Adrian Gonzalez, Kevin Kouzmanoff, and Brian Giles. Greg Maddux started 26 games for that team. Trevor Hoffman saved 30 games. Glendon Rusch – GLENDON RUSCH, PEOPLE! – was also a member of that Padres squad.
You have to love the game to still be playing in baseball when the last complete game you played in the majors was started by Cha-Seung Baek.
Tyler Marlette – C – R/R
…A fifth-round pick by the Mariners back in 2011, Marlette has stalled in Double-A. He first appeared at this level in 2014 and he’s played in Double-A for most of the last three years, which includes a move from Jackson to Arkansas by the Mariners of their Double-A squad. He’s got some decent pop and there was some hope he’d be a solid sleeper earlier in his career. I don’t see an easy spot to put Marlette at post-spring training unless an injury opens some time.
Michael Reed – OF – R/R
…Another fifth-rounder from 2011, Reed has spent his entire career in the Brewers’ organization. Twice, he’s appeared very briefly in the majors, posting a .234 wOBA in a hyper-short sample size of 30 PA. Outside of that, Reed has been a fixture in the upper minor leagues the last three years, flashing only a little pop, decent speed, great walk totals, and not much else. The hit tool isn’t strong, but he can play some good defense and reminds me a bit of Lane Adams with less pop.
Joe Rogers – P – L/L
…There’s a scout somewhere in the Braves’ organization who is in love with Rogers. Another former fifth-round pick – this time in 2012, Rogers has rarely stayed healthy enough to deliver on any promise he may have had. He was cut at the end of camp last spring by the Tigers and the Braves came a’calling. In just over 30 innings spent mostly with Florida and Mississippi, Rogers flashed his strikeout potential but also struggled to find the strike zone or stay off the DL. Like I said, a scout must be high on Rogers and who knows? Perhaps he finally delivers.
I’m just not holding my breath.
Cleuluis Rondon – IF – B/R
…Once acquired in the Jake Peavy trade, Rondon finally exhausted his chances in the White Sox organization last year and they cut him. He landed with the Marlins and they weren’t overly impressed either. Rondon is going to be a best friend to any pitchers he plays with because his calling card remains his skills at shortstop, but he simply can’t hit. He hasn’t had a season with a WOBA over .300 since 2011.
Danny Santana – IF/OF – B/R…Last season, I was not a fan of adding Santana, who is basically a younger Emilio Bonifacio. Outside of the BABIP Gods taking pity on him in 2014 (.405 BABIP), Santana has been a -2.4 fWAR player. Five hitters have a worse fWAR than Santana since 2015. Even Erick Aybar only has a -0.6 fWAR over the last three years. All that said, I don’t mind this signing. Santana is the perfect player for Triple-A. He can play all over and his “hit the ball on the ground” style plays up much higher in the minors than it does in the majors.
You don’t want Santana near your 40-man roster, let alone your major league team. That’s why the Braves didn’t offer him arbitration, which wouldn’t have cost that much anyway. Santana is a good fit as minor league depth, though.
Miguel Socolovich – P – R/R
…Originally a Red Sox product who first appeared in 2006, Socolovich has played for three teams in the majors since 2012. Mostly, he’s been a member of the Cardinals. A sinker-baller with a changeup and slider, Socolovich has success when he can induce a lot of soft contact on the ground. If he’s able to do that, he can be successful despite not having the kind of power arm stuff we look for in bullpen guys nowadays. Last year, he got the ball up – a lot – while pitching for St. Louis and his FIP/xFIP went up about two runs compared to his 2016 numbers in the bigs. It all comes down to execution for Socolovich because there isn’t a lot of margin for error.
Kelvin Vasquez – P – R/R
…Half-way through 2014, Fangraphs’ Nathaniel Stoltz included Vasquez as a guy who was on the rise. He was controlling his low-to-mid 90’s fastball and found increased bite on his curveball. In one season, he dropped about 5% on his walk rate and even increased his K%. All of this lowered his FIP to 3.24 and it looked like Vasquez was going to be one of the Rangers’ better prospects. Yeah, so that didn’t happen. Vasquez’s walk rate has only climbed the last three years while his groundball rate has declined. Seven years into his career, he’s yet to throw a pitch above High-A ball.
Last year was rock bottom for Vasquez. He walked 28 in 28.1 innings. Scouts have long loved his arm and with any luck, perhaps the Braves can do something special here. I wouldn’t count on it, obviously. He’ll try to land a job with Mississippi or Florida this spring.
See any players you think could be this year’s Lane Adams? Let me know below.