This is the second part in identifying Minor League players who could get significant playing time with their clubs in 2022. Part 1 looked at players from the AL/NL West. This article will discuss the AL Central and NL Central clubs.
Chicago White Sox – Brandon Finnegan P
Finnegan was a member of the Kansas City Royals World Series Teams of 2014-2015 (pitched 24.1 innings with Kansas City before getting dealt to Cincinnati in the Johnny Cueto deal) where he pitched a combined 31.1 innings in 21 games and sported a 2.13 ERA over those two years. However, once he set foot in Cincinnati, he wouldn’t have much success. They tried to use him as a starter, but it just did not pan out. In 2016, he pitched his best year, starting 31 games and had a 3.98 ERA in 172 IP. Unfortunately, the success would stop here. He would ultimately start only 9 games over the next two years and he hasn’t pitched in the Majors since 2018.
The White Sox will more than likely use him as a reliever this year and this could potentially be high reward move that costs them nothing should he find some success like he did when he was back with Kansas City.
Cleveland Guardians – Ian Gibaut P
The Guardians were one of those teams who didn’t operate in the Minor League free agent market in general, but one of the players they did sign was Ian Gibaut. Gibaut pitched in a limited sample with Minnesota in 2021, where he had a 2.70 ERA in 6.2 IP. In 2019/2020 he had ERA’s greater than 5 in both years and struggled walking hitters, having a BB/9 over 6 both years. However he was able to maintain K/9 over 10 both of those years. He does throw a Four-Seam Fastball that can reach 96 but mostly averages 95, and also throws a Change-Up and a Slider.
He has the ability to strike out hitters, so it’s about limiting the walks for Gibaut.
Detroit Tigers – Jacob Barnes P
Jacob Barnes could get some time in the bullpen this year. While he hasn’t been successful the last couple of years, he has been able to strike batters out. In his first 3 years in Milwaukee, he averaged an ERA of 3.34; the next three he has averaged an ERA of 6.40. While he has been able to maintain/improve his strikeout rate, his ground ball rate has dipped. His ground ball rate with Milwaukee was 50%, but over the last three years, it has dipped to only 43%. He has been able to maintain a high Swing and Miss%, so he still has the ability to get hitters out – it’s just about what happens when he doesn’t miss the bat.
If Detroit can some how bring down that launch angle that Barnes has been allowing and get more ground balls, he could be an effective reliever for them.
Kansas City Royals – Arodys Vizcaino P
Vizcaino hasn’t pitched since 2019 due to labrum and elbow issues, but when he has pitched, he was effective. He was in the 98th percentile in fastball velocity in 2018, but we saw his fastball dip from 97.4 mph to 96.3 mph. However, if he stays healthy this year, he could recover some of the velocity and be a nice piece in that bullpen. A possible high reward bullpen piece for Kansas City.
Minnesota Twins – Danny Coulombe P
Coulombe has pitched for the Twins the last two years, and he has played very well. He had a 3.67 EPA in 34.1 IP while having a 1.83 BB/9 in 2021, which was the best of his career. The familiarity alone puts him in a prime position to get some playing time and potentially get on the opening day roster.
Chicago Cubs – Jonathan Holder P
Holder was only able to pitch 2 innings last year before missing the rest of the year with a shoulder strain. Prior to 2021, he pitched for the New York Yankees for 5 years, with his best year coming in 2018 when he had 3.14 ERA and finished with 1.2 WAR as a reliever in 66 IP.
Holder does have a fastball spin rate that is in the 89th percentile in the league. This doesn’t seem to fit the mold of the Cubs Starting Pitcher as players like Kyle Hendricks, Alec Mills, and former Cub Zach Davies are guys with very low spin rate percentiles but very high active spin percentiles who throw Sinkers a majority of the time. However, Daniel Norris and Mychal Givens were added this offseason in the bullpen and are pitchers who have high fastball spin rates with lower than 90% active spin and throw Four-Seam Fastballs. The bullpen is where Holder’s pitch makeup and plan fits the Cubs, and we could see him get some time there.
Cincinnati Reds – Trey Wingenter P
Wingenter has not pitched since 2019 due to Tommy John Surgery in 2020. He pitched two seasons with the Padres in 2018/2019, and in 2019, he had a 5.65 ERA but a 3.61 FIP. Had a 12.71 K/9 and a .88 HR/9, however he did struggle in walking people with a 4.94 BB/9.
He only throws a Four-Seam Fastball and a Slider, but they have been effective pitches so far in his career – he is ranked in the 96th percentile in Whiff% and 91st percentile in Strikeout%. His Slider movement is very similar to Dinelson Lamet’s Slider, where they have at least 30 inches of vertical break (Lamet 31.9, Wingenter 38.3) but little to no horizontal break (Lamet .4, Wingenter 1.8). He has a fastball that hit 98 mph in 2019 as well.
Like Vizcaino in Kansas City, this could be a high reward pitcher who came off an injury.
Milwaukee Brewers – Abraham Almonte OF
Almonte has played in the Majors for the last 9 seasons, most recently with the World Champion Atlanta Braves. He had a .216/.331/.339 slash line with 5 home runs and a 97 wRC+.
The defense is not exactly stellar, but the value he brings is via his On-Base Percentage. He had a 14.9% walk rate in 2021 and he has had double digit walk rates in the last three years. He also had a career high Barrel rate at 7.2% last season with his most PAs since 2017.
Pittsburgh Pirates – Jamie Ritchie C
The Pirates traded Jacob Stallings to the Marlins this year, leaving a hole at Catcher. This leaves a path for Jamie Ritchie to get some playing time at that spot. He has played a majority of his career with Houston, and last year with Arizona in AAA, he hit .317/.417/.440 with a 12.8 Walk% and a 15.5 Strikeout%. He has hit every year in the minors and he should get opportunity to hit in the majors this year.
St. Louis Cardinals – Multiple
The Cardinals have signed very few Minor League Free Agents this offseason – Anderson Tejada (SS), Aaron Brooks (P) and Zach McAllister (P). While their inactivity in the Minor League Free agent market could mean they feel really good about the depth they have internally, there could be a good reason they signed these players. Tejeda has played for Texas the last two years and was a good defender, however he has struggled at the plate, striking out at an extremely high rate the last two years. Brooks has played the last two years in the KBO. Zach McAllister hasn’t played in the Majors since 2018.
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