AL EastAnalysisNL East

Minor League Free Agent Options – East

The is the third installment in examining Minor League Free Agents for all 30 teams. We will be finishing up with the AL East and the NL East.

AL East

Baltimore Orioles – Chris Owings UTIL

Owings has had the hidden benefit of playing at a variety of positions over the course of his career with Arizona, Kansas City, and Colorado. He has mostly played in the middle infield in the early part of his career, but has also found himself playing in the outfield as well. Prior to a a broken thumb in 2021, he hit .326 in 21 games, though his offense is not his strong suit.

The Orioles have a lot of older veterans in the mix for all the infield spots (not including 1B), so look for Owings to get some time at any of those positions over the course of the year, should he stay with the ball club.

Boston Red Sox – Silvino Bracho P

Bracho had played with the DiamondBacks since 2015, but missed all of 2021 due to Tommy John Surgery. Over his 5 seasons in Arizona, he averaged a 4.82 ERA with 9.43 K/9 in 89.2 IP. He mostly throws a Four-seam Fastball (55.4% in 2018) and a changeup (36.9%). In his last 2 non-injury riddled seasons (2018/19), his changeup has gotten a Whiff% over 30%.

If he shows he still has the ability to strike batters out, he could see some time with Boston later in the season.

New York Yankees – Jimmy Cordero P

Cordero missed all of 2021 due to Tommy John Surgery. It remains to be seen how much that surgery will affect his ability, but if it doesn’t, he will be a nice pick up for the Yankees. Cordero has pitched 3 years in the Majors, and his best year was in 2019 where he pitched in 37.1 IP and allowed a 2.89 ERA. Over his 3 years he averaged 7.05 K/9 while averaging a 3.47 BB/9. Lack of strikeouts and a high walk rate are concerning, however, the one thing he does do well is get soft contact. In 2020, he was in the 96th percentile in Average Exit Velocity and 80th percentile in Hard Hit%, which was the result of throwing a good Sinker.

Cordero was in the 92nd percentile in Fastball velocity in 2020, so should he be able to recover his velocity, he might be a good option in the Yankees bullpen at some point in the season.

Tampa Bay Rays – David McKay P

While the Rays are pretty deep with their position players, and regardless of how good they are at developing pitching, you can not have enough pitchers. The majority of the Rays Minor League Free Agents this offseason have been pitchers. They have signed quite a few pitchers that have high Strikeout Rates, but also have struggled with walking hitters (Seth Blair, David McKay, Zack Erwin, Dusten Knight). All these guys have at least a K/9 greater than 10 while also having a BB/9 over 4, which is not ideal. Out of all of them McKay, has the highest upside. He is 27 and has pitched in the Majors, while the others are older and not all have pitched in the majors. In 2019 (his last season with a good sample size), his pitch breakdown was 71.4% Sinker and 28.6% Curveball, and his Curveball spin rate is in the 98th percentile. He definitely has some stuff there to work with for the Rays.

Toronto Blue Jays – David Phelps P

Phelps played for Toronto last year and has re-joined them this offseason on a minor league deal. He pitched 10.1 Innings in 2021, where he had a 0.87 ERA and 13.06 K/9, however, his season was cut short in May due to a right lat injury he suffered that required surgery.

He has pitched this spring for Toronto and should get some time in the bullpen should he stay healthy.

NL East

Atlanta Braves – Michael Tonkin P

Tonkin has not pitched in the Majors since 2017. Since then, he has pitched in the NPB (2018), Caribbean Series, Atlantic League, and Triple A in the past three years. So far in 2022, he was a Non-Roster Invitee in Spring Training and has pitched 1.1 innings for Atlanta this spring training.

He has showcased a fastball that he likes to use up in the zone, a Slider and changeup. He did show an ability to get swing and misses up in the zone with his fastball. He’s not likely to get on the opening day roster, but could get some time in the bullpen later in the season.

Miami Marlins – Willians Astudillo INF

If you were to put ‘La Tortuga’ and David Fletcher side by side, they would look like two different ball players. However, their approach at the plate is not so different. Like Fletcher, Astudillo is a contact oriented hitter with not much power or OBP. In his 4 years with Minnesota, he averaged a 1.9% Walk rate and a 4.7% Strikeout rate with a .270 career Batting Average. He does have a much higher Hard Hit% compared to David Fletcher (15.7%) at 31.8%, but moving to the pitcher-friendly LoanDepot Park in Miami will suppress that small amount of power he could potentially have.

Astudillo has played all around the diamond for Minnesota and has followed suit here in Spring Training 2022. He has played 1B, 2B, 3B and even caught a Bullpen for Elieser Hernandez.

New York Mets – Félix Peña P

When Billy Eppler was the General Manager of the Angels, he acquired Peña via a trade with the Cubs. This time Eppler, as the GM of the New York Mets, signs Félix Peña to a minor league free agent contract. In 2021, Peña only pitched two games due to a hamstring injury.

The Angels used him in all facets in his time with the club. In his first year with the Angels, he started 17 games for the Angels. In 2019, Peña was used a lot as a long reliever, in particular because the Angels were using an Opener for a number of games that year. In the pandemic year, he was mostly used as a traditional reliever, where he pitched in 25 games with 26.1 IP. Peña could bring a lot of versatility to the pitching room for the Mets should he be able to stay healthy this year.

Philadelphia Phillies – Dillon Maples P

Dillon Maples has an opportunity to make the bullpen here for the Phillies at some point this year. Maples is known for having some of the highest spin rates in the league. In 2021, he ranked 99th in fastball and Curveball spin rate; but not only did the Statcast metrics stand out, his 2021 year for the Cubs stood our as well too. Maples had a 2.59 ERA, 11.49 K/9 and .57 HR/9 in 31.1 IP.

The problem with him was his walk rate. He had a 7.18 BB/9 in 2021 and this has been a problem through out his career. He has a career 19.4% walk rate, which is not good at tall. His strikeout rate does limit the damage walks can do to a pitcher, which is his biggest strength. Maple also had a career Left On Base% of 84.1%, so we should expect some regression in that area – especially with the team he will go to. The Phillies added Kyle Schwarber and Nick Castellanos, who are not very good defensively, and the team could benefit from a pitcher like Maples who will strike out a lot of batters, should he improve his control.

Washington Nationals – Maikel Franco 3B

The Nationals have signed a few players that can get some playing time with the Major League Club: Aaron Sanchez, Dee Strange-Gordon, Carl Edwards Jr, and Gerardo Parra. However, Maikel Franco is my pick here, because Franco has had sometime during Spring Training at 3B, and their current Third baseman Carter Kieboom just went on to the 60 day IL, leaving a lot of at bats for someone at third base. Franco will fill that role nicely.

Follow us @Diamond_Digest for updates throughout the season!

Featured Image: @Twins / Twitter

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