Even as we prepare, via our contract-crowdsourcing project, for the commencement of free agency at the major-league level, a growing number of minor-league players have already — William Wallace-like, one imagines, while leading painted Scotsmen into battle — declared their freedom.
What sort of impact might this year’s class of minor-league free agents have? One never knows, of course. However, as Baseball America’s Matt Eddy noted earlier this week at that same site, a number of last season’s minor-league free agents turned out to be actually productive pieces on actual major-league teams.
Eddy identified 13 players who were signed as minor-league free agents last offseason and proceeded to provide some sort of value in 2012. Below are those same players, rendered into table form and sorted by WAR.
First, the hitters (WAR/650 is WAR per every 650 plate appearances):
|Pedro Ciriaco||Red Sox||76||272||85||.352||-0.2||3.4||0.9||2.2|
And also the pitchers (WAR/200 is WAR per every 200 innings):
|Travis Blackley||- – -||107.2||5.93||2.67||47.7%||4.10||3.96||4.32||1.2||2.2|
Because some of the hitters benefited from playing in a platoon — and perhaps for other reasons, as well — the rate stats here (WAR/650 and /200) might overstate the value of the players listed above. That said, if we acknowledge both that (a) a win was worth about $5 million in 2012 and also that (b) the players here were all paid something like the league minimum salary of ca. $0.5 million, then we can conclude something like (c) that these 13 players provided about $80-85 million in marginal value to their clubs, all told.
Which of this offseason’s minor-league free agents might play a role with next season’s contenders? To begin answering that question, at least, I’ve created a pair of custom leaderboards — one for hitters and one for pitchers — of the minor-league players to have declared free agency between the end of the season and now (as best I know, at least).
Of note, regarding the sort of player we find among the group of batters above, is that, with the exception of Brandon Moss perhaps, almost all of the top minor-league signings from last offseason are able to play a defensive spot that provides a positive positional-adjustment value. Justin Ruggiano, for example, played mostly center field. Luis Cruz played short and third. Gregor Blanco played left field, but played it like an average center-fielder probably would.
It’s possible, then, that the minor-league free agent most likely to make a contribution in the majors next season would fit that description — a player such as Angel Sanchez, for example (who’s capable of playing short), or Donnie Murphy (second and third), or Jason Pridie (who can play something like an average center field, it appears).