Released: C Mike Payne
Signed: RHP Rick Bauer (LG (Korea)), LHP Scott Rice (Newark (Atlantic))
Bauer, 33, made three appearances in the Atlantic League last spring before signing on to play in Korea Baseball Organization. Rice, 28, struggled to find the strike zone last season, a problem that did not abate when the Padres released him in August. He finished with 6.4 walks per nine in his 34 combined relief appearances for Double-A San Antonio and Newark. Both players were originally drafted by the Orioles, Bauer in 1997 and Rice in 1999.
Released: 3B Michael Hollimon
The switch-hitting Hollimon seemed destined for, if not stardom, then at least utility when in '07 he batted .282/.371/.478 with 14 homers, 34 doubles and 64 walks as a second baseman in Double-A. Granted, the red flags were present. Hollimon struck out in nearly 26 percent of his at-bats with Erie, and that June he turned 25.
With Triple-A Toledo in '08, Hollimon struck out at an even more furious pace (33 percent of at-bats) but also clubbed 15 homers in 91 games. But wait! He had dislocated his left shoulder during spring training, at least partially accounting for his failings with the Mud Hens. Hollimon had surgery on his torn labrum in September '08, and his play appeared to be affected last season. In a 29-game spell in Double-A, the 27-year-old, now playing third base, batted just .212/.320/.385 with 35 whiffs and 17 walks. He did not play after June 23.
In wrapping up this rambling comment, I'd be remiss not to mention the parallels between (the healthy version of) Hollimon and Mark Bellhorn. A checklist of attributes: switch-hitter, solid defensive second baseman, plenty of walks, above-average power and many, many strikeouts. Bellhorn played his first full season in the big leagues for the '02 Cubs, when he was 27 years old and after he had changed organizations for the first time.
Released: RHP Bryan Hallberg
Reinstated from inactive list: OF Jacob Priday
An 11th-round pick in '08, Priday spent the entirety of last season on the restricted list.
Kansas City Royals
Reinstated from inactive list: C Jin-Ho Shin
Los Angeles Angels
Signed: RHP Chad Orvella
Los Angeles Dodgers
Signed: RHP Rick Rivas (El Paso (American Association), LHP Sean Thompson (New Jersey (Can-Am)), OF Garret Anderson
Anderson, a Los Angeles native, has the name recognition because he's rapped 2,501 hits in a 16-year big league career. But the other names are just interesting for the purposes of this blog, your headquarters for information on obscure minor league players.
You may remember Thompson from his days as a Padres prospect—he peaked at No. 8 on our '05 list—but of late he's made the indy ball rounds. The 27-year-old went to spring training with the Rockies in '08 and the Phillies a year ago, only to be cut each time. Undeterred, Thompson signed on last year with Evansville (for nine innings), then Windy City (for two more Frontier League innings) and finally New Jersey (for 23 innings). When the dust settled, he had compiled an ugly 22-to-28 strikeout-to-walk ratio in 35 innings.
Rivas, 26, declined to sign either of the times he was drafted out of El Paso CC, instead opting to attend Oklahoma State for the 2005-06 seasons. Undrafted after both those campaigns, he took the indy ball route, playing for Kansas City (Northern) in '08 and then El Paso last year.
Released: RHP Ryan DeLaughter
Signed: RHP Brad Hennessey, RHP Yoslan Herrera
Hennessey, 30, spent April and May of last year on the disabled list for Norfolk, the Orioles' top farm club. Baltimore cut him loose in June and he sat out the season. The Giants' first-round pick in '01, Hennessey overcame two tumors in his back to be a serviceable arm for the big club from 2005-07, logging a 4.22 ERA over 286 innings.
Back in '06, the Pirates heralded Herrera as their first foray into Cuba in more than 50 years. Perhaps they should have remained on the sidelines. Over the life of his three-year, $1.92 million contract, Herrera made all of five starts for the big club, going 1-1, 9.82 and allowing 35 hits and 12 walks in 18-odd innings. He barely sniffed Triple-A in that time, instead spending most of his time with Double-A Altoona. There he at least exhibited solid control (2.8 walks per nine innings) if not over powering stuff (5.4 strikeouts per nine). Pittsburgh released Herrera, 28, in October.
New York Mets
Signed: RHP Kiko Calero, RHP Kyle Snyder (re-signed), LHP Arturo Lopez (re-signed)
New York Yankees
Signed: 1B Myron Leslie (New Jersey (Can-Am))
Leslie had his moments as a member of the Athletics organization, making it to Double-A as a patient, switch-hitting third baseman with modest power. Cut during spring training last year, he spent his age-27 season in the Can-Am League, batting a solid .272/.410/.494 with 18 homers in 92 games. At a hefty 6-foot-3, 225 pounds and probably limited to first base, he'll need to continue to strike the long hits.
Signed: RHP Jason Jennings, RHP Brett Tomko (re-signed), SS Gregorio Petit (re-signed), OF Matt Carson (re-signed)
Signed: 2B Keoni DeRenne (York (Atlantic))
Released: RHP Reginal Simon
A 5-foot-7 middle infielder from the University of Arizona by way of Honolulu, DeRenne spent the last three seasons with York. Last year the 30-year-old batted .289/.378/.381 with a 63-to-47 walk-to-strikeout ratio, showing skills in line with his Triple-A résumé, i.e. lots of contact, singles and walks. The Braves made him a 12th-round pick in 2000.
According to Baseball-Reference, no player born in Haiti ever has made it to the big leagues. And if Simon, the sole Haitian minor leaguer to play in the U.S. last year, is to become the first, he'll have to do so with a new organization.
Released: LHP Chris Aure
Aure was a 15th-round pick in 2008 out of North Pole High in Alaska, making him the third-highest drafted player ever out of an Alaska high school. He pitched just 33 innings as a pro the last two seasons. (JM)
San Diego Padres
Signed: C Eric Munson
San Francisco Giants
Signed: RHP Matt Kinney (re-signed), LHP Andy Sisco, 3B Michael Sandoval (Newark (Atlantic))
A Cubs' second-round pick in '01, Sisco made steady progress in his first four pro seasons. But then Chicago left the 6-foot-10 lefty off its 40-man roster, and the Royals pounced, making Sisco a big league Rule 5 pick for the '05 season. Not only did he stick all year but the results weren't half bad—3.11 ERA, 76 strikeouts and 42 walks in 75 relief innings. The 22-year-old rookie seemed poised for bigger things. But alas, poor control undermined his progress, and in his two follow-up seasons in the bigs, Sisco posted a 7.34 ERA and 6.3 walks per nine innings over 84 appearances. He had Tommy John surgery in '08 and then appeared to be on the comeback trail with the A's last March. But his minor league pact was quickly voided and he sat out his second consecutive season.
Sandoval, 28, is the older brother of Giants third baseman Pablo. Though he hasn't played affiliated ball since '04, Michael has remained active on the international scene (Baseball-Reference Bullpen to the rescue) and in the Venezuelan League. Signed by the Twins in '97, he made it to high Class A Fort Myers before the ride ended. Sandoval batted a respectable .291/.375/.417 in 175 at-bats for Newark last season in his return to U.S. soil.
Signed: RHP Pat Bresnehan, RHP Wes Littleton, RHP Tom Wilhelmsen (Tucson (Golden))
Released: 2B Ben Billingsley, 2B Blake Trinkler
Wilhelmsen, 26, might be the active record holder for transactions-to-innings pitched ratio. A Brewers' seventh-round pick out of high school in '02, he debuted for low Class A Beloit the following season and went 5-6, 2.76 with 63 strikeouts in 88 innings. To this point, that's the extent of his affiliated ball experience.
Wilhelmsen failed two drug tests administered by the Brewers and spent '04 on the suspended list. He followed that up by taking a year off in '05—which goes down officially as a visit to the restricted list. He threw in the towel for good and retired on June 21, 2005. But even though Milwaukee still held his rights, they did not prevent Wilhelmsen from playing independent ball last summer—nearly six years after he had thrown his last pitch—with his hometown Tucson Toros. At least not initially.
Wilhelmsen recovered his 97 mph velocity and struck out 13 batters in 11 2/3 innings in the independent Golden League, prompting the Brewers to call him back for a tryout. He subsequently pinched a nerve in his shoulder, though, and drew his release from the Brewers in August. That's where this story picks up, with Mariners general manager Jack Zduriencik, who originally drafted Wilhelmsen as Brewers scouting director nearly eight years ago, helping to orchestrate his new contract with Seattle.
You owe it to yourself to read Geoff Baker's excellent story on the signing of Wilhelmsen, who had been working as a bartender in Tucson when the Toros beckoned.
Signed: C Toby Hall, OF Endy Chavez
Hall's deal with the Astros for last season was voided when he had surgery to repair a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder. He missed the season and will try again, this time with the Rangers.
Signed: RHP Livan Hernandez (re-signed)
Released: OF Aaron Seuss
Reinstated from inactive list: C Gianison Boekhoudt
Boekhoudt, a 26th-rounder last year, has yet to play professionally, having spent his time on the restricted list.
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