AnalysisNL CentralNL EastNL West

1 MiLB Free Agent that could help each NL Team

Every team has its ideal lineup, but that ideal lineup will not play 162 games a year. Teams will have injuries, suspensions, days off, and other reasons for players to miss time.

The goal of this article is to look at spring training NRI’s (non-roster invitees) who were signed as minor league free agents who could make their MLB teams at some point this season. These are guys who would be able to fill depth roles and have one or two tools that will help their team survive an injury that will inevitably plague their team.

This article will consist of the National League teams. You can find the AL teams HERE.

Let’s get into it.

NL East

Atlanta Braves – Brian Moran

Over the course of the offseason, the Braves did not add too many big-time MLB Free Agents. This is the result of signing a large portion of their young core to contract extensions, including Sean Murphy, who they traded for this offseason. This forced them to look at trades and Minor League Free Agents for depth.

Brian Moran will serve in this role. Moran only made 1 appearance in the majors last season with the Angels, but last season in Triple-A, he had 9.62 K/9 and a 2.59 BB/9. He did struggle with the home run ball allowing, 7 home runs in 48.1 IP, but he did play in a hitter-friendly environment up in Salt Lake.

Miami Marlins – Richard Rodríguez

Rodríguez did not pitch in 2022 due to testing positive for a performance-enhancing substance called Boldenone. In 2021, Rodríguez pitched in 64.1 innings and allowed a 2.94 ERA over that span. He did see his K/9 dip to 5.88 (career 9.08 K/9) despite allowing a .222 BABIP. Rodriguez will also be reuniting with his former catcher Jacob Stallings, who he worked with back on the Pirates. Should Rodríguez be able to recover his ability to strike hitters out, he could offer them an option in their already re-worked bullpen.

New York Mets – Jimmy Yacabonis

With the loss of Edwin Diaz for the rest of the year, the Mets are looking very thin in their bullpen. Yacabonis could be the benefactor here.

Yacabonis is a side-arm RHP who over his career has pitched 116 innings and allowed a 6.03 ERA over that span in the Majors. The Mets could look to capitalize on his 13.50 K/9 (14 IP) in 2022, which is the highest it has ever been. He mostly relies on his Sinker and Slider, and thanks to the publicly available Trackman data at Clover Park, he has added a few RPMs to his Sinker while adding about 1.63 inches of Horizontal movement to his Slider. If these changes prove to be significant and he is able to maintain his control, he can offer the Mets a different arm slot in the bullpen later in the year.

Phillidelphia Phillies – Jim Haley

The Phillies just lost Rhys Hoskins for the season due to a none contact injury during Spring Training. They do have Darick Hall and Alec Bohm, who will take up a majority of the playing time, but depth will always be needed.

Jim Haley played his first 6 seasons in the Rays system until he signed this offseason with the Phillies. He is not a contact guy, but he was able to hit 18 home runs in 420 PAs and he stole 16 bags. Should the Phillies need a first baseman, Haley could provide some power while being a base stealer who may benefit from the base size increase.

Washington Nationals – Derek Hill

Unfortunately, Hill injured his hamstring at the beginning of Spring Training, so he was not able to fight for the fourth outfield spot on Opening Day.

Hill does not provide much with his bat, but he is a good defender in center field and should be a nice replacement for Victor Robles should he miss some time due to an injury. Alex Call will be the fourth outfielder, which may make it harder for Hill to make the team should he take a step forward this season.

NL Central

Cincinnati Reds – Alex Young

Unfortunately, the Reds have another looming uncompetitive season in 2023 which could lead to a number of unrecognizable players getting MLB time. Alex Young is a guy who could benefit from this.

In 26.1 Innings with San Francisco last season, Young had a 2.36 ERA and 2.89 FIP despite a .349 BABIP. He also increased his Groundball % from 44.4% in 2021 to 54.2% and dropped his barrel rate from 9.2% to 2.6% in the same span. It should be interesting to see if Young can replicate this in 2023 since he is moving from a pitchers’ park (Oracle Park) to a hitters’ park (Great American Ballpark).

Chicago Cubs – Luis Torrens

Luis Torrens could be the third catcher for the Cubs this season. Wilson Contreras departed the team through Free Agency this offseason, leaving Tucker Barnhart and Yan Gomes with a majority of the playing time. That being said, those two will not be the only two catchers the Cubs use this season, leaving Torrens the potential next option.

Torrens has not been able to hit at any point in his major league career. In 5 seasons, Torrens is slashing .226/.288/.354 in 777 PAs. If he can improve his hitting ability in an increased sample size outside of Spring Training, he may see a lot of playing time should a spot open up.

Milwaukee Brewers – Tyler Naquin

The Brewers signed quite a few fringe major league outfielders to minor league deals in the offseason: Skye Bolt, Monte Harrison, and Tyler Naquin. While I do see all of them reaching the majors at some point, Naquin could be the first option.

Naquin is a left-handed bat who has the best power out of those three. He may the worst fielder out of the three, but he does rank in the 96th percentile of Arm Strength, so he could bring some value in either throwing out or keeping runners from taking that extra base.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Daniel Zamora

A former Pittsburgh Pirate draftee, Daniel Zamora is now back with the Pirates on a minor league deal this season. Zamora, a two-pitch pitcher whose fastball does not have much velocity, could battle for a bullpen spot at some point this season.

Zamora did not play in the majors in 2022 but he pitched in the minors with the Dodgers Triple-A team. He has a career 11.05 K/9 and a 4.50 ERA in 22 IPs, including a 10.14 K/9 and a 3.86 ERA in 63 IPs last season in Triple-A.

St. Louis Cardinals – Oscar Mercado

The Cardinals make this exercise difficult because they are usually at the low end when it comes to signing minor league Free Agents. When they do, however, it’s for a good reason.

Oscar Mercado was signed as a Minor League Free Agent back in November. Since he was signed so early in the offseason, I do consider him a priority signee, which tells me he could get a lot of playing time should an injury occur in the outfield. He also played his first 5 seasons in the Cardinals system, so there is a bit of familiarity. He did struggle offensively last year but his major league experience could be beneficial for the Cardinals.

NL West

Arizona Diamondbacks – Jandel Gustave

Gustave can be a nice addition to the Diamondbacks later in the season. Last year with Milwaukee, he had a 3.86 ERA in 28 IP. He is not a strikeout-reliant pitcher, as he can get groundballs with his two-pitch mix (Sinker/Slider). Last year he had a 50% ground ball rate (the highest in his career) that led to a .228 xBA. However, he did allow the highest hard-hit rate of his career last year (43.8%), but those hard-hit balls won’t be a problem if they are hit into the ground. If he can maintain that high ground ball rate and limit those hard-hit balls into the ground, then he should be able to get some time in the Majors.

Colorado Rockies – Cole Tucker

The Rockies will be without Brendan Rodgers for the rest of the year due to a shoulder injury suffered in Spring Training. This leaves the Rockies thin within the infield, which should leave a spot for Cole Tucker to make the team late into the season.

Tucker is a former 1st round pick who has just struggled in his first 4 seasons with the Pirates. In his career, Tucker has 459 PAs where he has slashed .211/.259/.314, including a .249 wOBA. Tucker had a 4.8-degree Launch Angle (LA) in 2022, so if the Rockies can have him increase that LA and put him in a friendly run environment, Tucker will be able to improve his offensive output in 2023.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Wander Suero

Suero did not play in the majors last season, but he did play his first 4 seasons with the Nationals. In those 4 seasons, Suero posted a 4.61 ERA, 9.71 K/9, 3.71 BB/9, and 1.02 HR/9. However, he did struggle with the home run ball in 2021, which led to a 6.33 ERA. He did latch on with the Angels in 2022, but he struggled in Salt Lake City, which led him to get released in the middle of the season.

That being said, Baseball Savant has Suero’s Cutter spin in the 96th Percentile and the Curveball spin in the 77th percentile, so there is something the Dodgers could work with. If he can get back to limiting the home run ball, he could be a nice call-up for the Dodgers later in the season.

San Diego Padres – Pedro Severino

It’s safe to say the Padres want as many Major League players on the team as possible to maintain a high floor. Pedro Severino would be a player that fits this description. Over 8 seasons, Severino has accumulated 1241 PAs. He will be a nice depth option at the catcher position which already includes Austin Nola and Luis Campusano.

San Francisco Giants – Nick Duron

Duron made his MLB debut with the Phillies last season, and he was also an All-Star in the Phillies’ minor league system. Duron pitched for the Lehigh Valley Pigs, where he had a 2.77 ERA in 48.2 IP. He had an 11.65 K/9, but he did struggle with walking hitters via a 5.36 BB/9. Duron does provide the velocity, but the question is whether he can control it.

Featured Image via – @Dodgers

Related Articles

Leave a Reply

Back to top button