With the All-Star Game in the rearview mirror and the trade deadline here just passed, this gives us a chance to look at players who have made an impact on Major League rosters despite not signing Major League contracts coming into the season. I considered contracts that were signed since November 2021 and beyond.
Tyler Anderson – Los Angeles Dodgers
Anderson went from signing a Minor League Free Agent deal in March to being an All-Star four months later. Given that he signed with the Dodgers, its not that surprising he has been so successful. With the increased usage of his changeup here in 2022 (jumping 8% usage), he has slightly improved his decent K/BB numbers in 2021 (probably why they liked him in the first place) while also lowering his Exit Velocity, allowed putting him in the top 4% in the league. It doesn’t sound easy to replace pitchers like Buehler, May and Heaney in the rotation, but Anderson has been a stabilizing force in that Dodgers rotation, maintaining how elite their pitching development is.
Matt Moore – Texas Rangers
Moore’s first year in the bullpen has been a success to say the least. In 2018, Moore was with Texas where he had a 6.79 ERA, however in his second year he has been much better. He is currently sporting a 1.66 ERA in 48.2 IP and is posting a career high K/9 (9.62) and HR/9 (0.18) this year. He has done this by increasing his curveball usage from 15% in 2021 to 43% here in 2022 and dropping his cutter, focusing only on his 4-seamer, changeup and curveball. This has lead to a much higher Whiff% for his curveball (15.7% to 30.3%) and his 4-Seam fastball (17% to 21.8%). The expected stats all suggest this is no fluke either, his xBA (top 8%), xSLG (top 2%), and xwOBA/xERA (both in the top 7%) are all above the top 8% in the league. Moore has been a very good option for the rebuilt Rangers bullpen and was a candidate to potentially get traded at the deadline but the Rangers kept him instead.
Connor Overton – Cincinnati Reds
Overton is unfortunately on the 60 Day-IL due to a back issue, but his first 4 starts of the year were pretty good. Despite a 11.2 K% here in 2022, Overton has a 1.82 ERA in 24.2 IP. While it’s a small sample, there is no question he has been very lucky so far this year. He has a .208 BABIP on a team that is ranked 20th in the league in FanGraphs’ defensive WAR. He hasn’t allowed a home run yet this year, yet his ‘stuff’ also doesn’t jump out at you at all. Overton doesn’t have any elite movement or velocity on his pitches but the one thing he has done this year is change the usage. Each pitch is thrown at least 10% of the time, throwing a 4-Seam fastball (26.7%), slider (19.6%), changeup (19.1%), curveball (13.2%) and a sinker (12.4%). In 2021 he threw his 4-seam fastball 39% of the time, in comparison. The 11% K rate is not ideal especially at Great American Ballpark but, fortunately for Overton, he has avoided barrels (4.2 Barrel%). While it’s hard to see him being this successful for along period of time without generating strikeouts, the variability in his pitch usage has allowed him to be successful in that minimal time.
Adrian Sampson – Chicago Cubs
Sampson played in the KBO in 2020 but has played with the Cubs since. In 2021, his better year, he had a 2.80 ERA in 25.1 IP. He so far has a 3.74 ERA in 43.1 IP here in 2022. He only has a 6.65 K/9 but he has been able to limit the home run ball with a 0.62 HR/9 which is improved from his 2021 HR/9 (2.04). One case for Sampson’s improvement is his fastball usage. He has a 4-seamer that he uses interchangeably with his sinker, both accounting for 58.5% of his pitches used. His 4-seamer struggled in 2021 allowing a .238 BA and a .857 SLG but in 2022 he increased his usage of it to 34% while his SLG% fell to .390. The increased usage of the 4-seamer has allowed Sampson to use the upper part of the zone, Edge of the zone more often allowing him to induce more chase rates/whiffs resulting in less barreled balls. He may not be getting the same amount of swings in the zone anymore but he has shown an ability to allow weaker contact this year putting him as a decent fringe starter option for the Cubs.
Andrew Bellatti – Philadelphia Phillies
Bellatti has been a nice surprise for the Phillies here in 2022. His last major stint in the majors was in 2015 with Tampa Bay where he pitched 23.1 innings allowing a 2.31 ERA. He wouldn’t reach the majors again until 2021 where he would pitch in 3 games, allowing 5 ER in his first game while pitching scoreless games in the next 2. With an opportunity here with the Phillies, Bellatti has not looked back. He is a two-pitch pitcher who throws mostly his 4-seam fastball and slider that generate a large amount of swing and misses. He is in the 96th percentile in Whiff% and 98th percentile in K%. He has a much higher Barrel rate than in previous years which is not ideal. This could be due to a changeup that he throws 8.4% of the time and is allowing a .375 BA on that pitch. His slider has been his best pitch so far this year, allowing a 28% Hard Hit rate, .193 BA and a .183 xBA on batted contact. When he doesn’t make contact he generates a 38% Whiff rate and has maintained a 43.2 K% on that pitch. The slider has been a strong reason why Bellatti has been effective so far this year.
Yency Almonte – Los Angeles Dodgers
Yup, another Dodger makes the list (not the last one). In a forgettable year in 2021, Almonte had a 7.55 ERA in 47.1 IP with Colorado. However, signing with the Dodgers back in March proved to being the right decision for both sides. So far this year, Almonte has a 1.15 ERA in 31.1 IP. A big move for Almonte was the increased usage of a sinker. In 2021 he threw a sinker 3.4% while his 4-seamer was 45.4%. In 2022 the usage has flipped (sinker 37.1%, 4-seamer 8.4%). He also made his slider his most used pitch upping it from 41% to 48.4%. Due to his delivery and 4-seam movement (lack thereof) the Dodgers opted for him to throw a sinker which produces a lot more movement. His slider has added 5.4 inches of break while his sinker has added 4 inches of break as well. The results speak for themselves. His Soft% is up from 13.1 % to 25.3 %. He also has a much improved K%/BB% as well. For a team who has dealt with pitching injuries, he has been a much needed boost to the team. Unfortunately, Almonte himself was placed on the 15-day IL due to elbow tightness, on August 7th. We will see when he comes back to the team but there is no question this is another win for Dodgers Player Development.
Oscar González – Cleveland Guardians
González is having a decent first year in the big leagues. He has a 116 wRC+ and is slashing .296/.320/.444. He is in the 91st percentile in Max Exit Velocity and is maintaining a 45.3 Hard Hit%. He currently has a .360 BABIP which is not sustainable and a very low Walk % (3.0%), which is about where he has been at throughout his minor league career. He also has the highest Swing% of any Guardian on the team, and the 7th highest in MLB (minimum of 160 PA). Which is a polar opposite of guys like Steven Kwan and Myles Straw who sit below a 42.0 Swing%. Despite a high Swing %, he is only at a 20% strikeout rate which reflects how well he is able to make contact at the plate. Oscar is one of many young guys who have allowed the youngest team in baseball to be very successful here in 2022.
Brandon Drury – San Diego Padres
Brandon Drury has been by far the best hitter that was originally signed to a Minor League contract this year. He has a 128 wRC+ and has so far mashed 22 Home Runs. This has by far been the best offensive year Drury has had. He almost doubled his barrel rate from a previous year going from 6.5% to 11.4% here in 2022. He is swinging less often this year dropping his Swing rate from 52.2% to 45.1% and has also improved his chase rate from 41.2 % to 32.2 %. His improvement in swing selection has allowed him to have a career best swing and miss rate of 7.9%. This has been a win-win for both sides. The Cincinnati Reds turned a minor league contract into a prospect and Drury now gets to play in a lineup that features both Juan Soto and Manny Machado.
Matt Carpenter – New York Yankees
Matt Carpenter originally signed a Minor League Contract with the Texas Rangers before the season started. Once he knew he would not get an opportunity in the majors with Texas, he asked for his release and signed with the Yankees. What a pick up that has been. In 154 PA here in 2022, he is slashing .305/.412/.727 which amounts to a 1.138 OPS and 216 wRC+. He has hit 15 home runs while reducing his Strikeout rate by 8.2%! Carpenter has the highest OBP/SLG/wRC+ on the Yankees roster (min. 150 PA) and sporting the 4th highest WAR on the team. While the defense has not been great he has had time in the Outfield, First base and Third Base. Unfortunately, Carpenter fractured his left foot on his fastball which will take him off the field for quite some time but what a great story he has been so far this year.
Trayce Thompson – Los Angeles Dodgers
Old friend alert. Thompson signed a Minor League contract with the Padres before the season started. Once the Padres DFA’d him, he would sign a Minor League Contract with the Detroit Tigers. He then would eventually get traded to the Dodgers with the news of Betts going to the IL. It has been a very good 2nd stint with the team. Thompson has a 130 wRC+ and is slashing .281/.378/.510 which amounts to a .889 OPS. Thompson has K% over 33% but that 12.6 BB% is well above league average and the Dodgers will take it. He has been able to play all 3 OF spots increasing his availability.
Featured image via: @Yankees