MiLB Free Agent Team

The release of this year’s minor league free agents list got us to thinking: Could a team comprised only of those same free minor leaguers compete even with MLB’s worst teams?

Six big league teams—the Devil Rays, Pirates, Royals, Orioles, Marlins and Giants—finished with winning percentages below .440, meaning a 72-90 record would push the minor league free agent (MiLB FA) team to the top of the heap.

I’ve selected the team with which I’d battle Florida and San Francisco for second-division supremacy. Because they’re closer to the majors, Triple-A players, only, were considered, as were all players granted free agency after being designated for assignment and refusing that assignment. More than 600 players were available, but I settled on these 25: 

CATCHERS

C Mark Johnson
2007 Team:
Tucson (Diamondbacks). Age: 31. Bats: Left.
Draft Status: Selected by White Sox in 1st round (26th pick) of 1994 draft from Warner Robins (Ga.) HS.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 4 on 1999 White Sox list.

C Justin Knoedler
2007 Team:
Fresno (Giants). Age: 26. Bats: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Giants in 5th round of 2001 draft from Miami (Ohio).
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 16 on 2005 Giants list.

Johnson and Knoedler provide a natural platoon situation, though both fared well against same-side pitching in 2007. You may remember Johnson as the prospect who led the Carolina and Southern leagues in both walks and on-base percentage in successive years, 1997 and 1998, topping 100 free passes each year with .420 and .443 OBP marks. Knoedler was drafted as a pitcher—he caught in college, too—and the Giants quickly moved him behind the plate for his second season.

CATCHERS
PLAYER AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
*Johnson, Mark .320 .440 .410 244 37 78 10 0 4 34 52 21 0
Knoedler, Justin .288 .346 .470 302 44 87 30 2 7 42 26 78 7

INFIELDERS

1B Valentino Pascucci
2007 Team:
Albuquerque (Marlins). Age: 28. Bats: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Expos in 15th round of 1999 draft from Oklahoma.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 16 on 2004 Expos list.

2B Jason Bourgeois
2007 Team:
Charlotte (White Sox). Age: 25. Bats: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Rangers in 2nd round of 2000 draft from Forest Brook HS in Houston.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 8 on 2004 Rangers list.

3B Scott Seabol
2007 Team:
Albuquerque (Marlins). Age: 32. Bats: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Yankees in 88th round of 1996 draft from West Virginia.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 29 on 2001 Yankees list.

SS J.J. Furmaniak
2007 Team:
Sacramento (Athletics). Age: 27. Bats: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Padres in 22nd round of 2000 draft from Lewis (Ill.) University.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 21 on 2005 Padres list.

Pascucci (34) and Seabol (290) led the Pacific Coast League in home runs and total bases, respectively, in no small part because Albuquerque’s Isotopes Park is a ridiculously good hitting environment. Check out their home versus road slugging marks: .639 to .514 for Pascucci, and .704 to .458 for Seabol. Pascucci, who played in Japan in 2005 and 2006, also led the Eastern League with 27 homers in 2002. Seabol led the South Atlantic (1999) and Eastern (2000) leagues in doubles, and finished second in the PCL with 32 homers in 2007.

Bourgeois also plays the outfield, including center, and might have a ceiling as a big league utilityman. He’s a very good runner, too, having twice finished among the Texas League leaders in both stolen bases and triples, in 2004 and 2006. Furmaniak has provided steady production as a Triple-A shortstop, hitting .269/.328/.423 in 475 games at the level. He’s got the arm strength, if not the smooth actions, for the position.

1B Andy Abad
2007 Team:
Nashville (Brewers). Age: 34. Bats: Left.
Draft Status: Selected by Red Sox in 16th round of 1993 draft from Middle Georgia JC.
Peak Prospect Ranking: Not ranked since 1999.

SS Dave Matranga
2007 Team:
Oklahoma (Rangers). Age: 30. Bats: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Astros in 6th round of 1998 draft from Pepperdine.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 25 on 2002 Astros list.

UT Bobby Scales
2007 Team:
Pawtucket (Red Sox). Age: 29. Bats: Both.
Draft Status: Selected by Padres in 14th round of 1999 draft from Michigan.
Peak Prospect Ranking: Not ranked.

Abad is a natural fit as a platoon starter at first base or DH—or as a pinch-hitter—because of his strong contact skills and track record. He’s hit .297/.378/.475 with 136 home runs in more than 1,000 Triple-A games, but most remarkable is his walk-to-strikeout mark: 459 to 523. Matranga makes the team because somebody has to back up both middle infield spots, and up-the-middle players are tough to find among the minor league free agent ranks. His .266/.359/.440 averages from 2007 are well above anything he’d done at Triple-A previously. Scales offers an intriguing mix: on-base ability from both sides of the plate, some running ability and positional flexibility. He’s not a true utilityman in that you can’t play him at short or in center, but Scales does play all four corners spots, plus second base. He’s a better righthanded batter, but still managed .286/.368/.422 averages as a lefty batter in 2007.

INFIELDERS
PLAYER AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
Pascucci, Valentino .284 .389 .577 447 93 127 27 1 34 98 67 123 9
Bourgeois, Jason .311 .369 .444 338 51 105 18 3 7 34 29 49 23
Seabol, Scott .300 .366 .577 503 100 151 29 7 32 105 56 95 6
Furmaniak, J.J. .292 .373 .450 424 70 124 18 2 15 51 49 105 21
*Abad, Andy .316 .368 .494 269 49 85 12 0 12 59 24 35 6
Matranga, Dave .266 .359 .440 248 36 66 9 2 10 30 31 62 10
#Scales, Bobby .294 .373 .472 432 64 127 28 8 11 57 50 94 14

OUTFIELDERS

LF Jorge Piedra
2007 Team:
Sacramento (Athletics). Age: 28. Bats: Left.
Signed: Nondrafted free agent signing by Dodgers in 1997 from Notre Dame HS in Sherman Oaks, Calif.
Peak Prospect Ranking: Not ranked.

CF Tim Raines Jr.
2007 Team:
Corpus Christi and Round Rock (Astros). Age: 27. Bats: Both.
Draft Status: Selected by Orioles in 6th round of 1998 draft from Seminole HS in Sanford, Fla.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 7 on 2002 Orioles list.

RF Justin Leone
2007 Team:
Fresno (Giants). Age: 30. Bats: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Mariners in 13th round of 1999 draft from Saint Mary’s (Wash.) College.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 11 on 2004 Mariners list.

OF Chris Richard
2007 Team:
Durham (Devil Rays). Age: 33. Bats: Left.
Draft Status: Selected by Cardinals in 19th round of 1995 draft from Oklahoma State.
Peak Prospect Ranking: Not ranked since 1999.

OF Hiram Bocachica
2007 Team:
Sacramento (Athletics) and Portland (Padres). Age: 31. Bats: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Expos in 1st round (21st overall) of 1994 draft from Rexville HS in Bayamon, P.R.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 5 on 2000 Dodgers list.

Piedra and Richard offer solid lefthanded power production in left field or at DH, while Raines, Leone and Bocachica have more balance. Piedra, who was busted for performance-enhancing substance use in 2005, has hit .317/.376/.529 at the Triple-A level, while Richard—who has been traded for Mike Timlin and Jack Cust at different points in his career—has batted .280/.367/.476 in Triple-A. Leone went 20-20 in the PCL in 2007, chipping in 30 doubles as well. As is true with regard to the middle infielder, center field is a difficult position to fill on the minor league free agent market. Raines is as close as we can get to a true center fielder, and at least he hits equally well from both sides of the plate and runs very well. Bocachica has quietly been one of the better Triple-A hitters since moving to the PCL in 2004, hitting .292/.370/.527 in 426 games.

OUTFIELDERS
PLAYER AVG OBP SLG AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI BB SO SB
*Piedra, Jorge .336 .415 .543 265 42 89 24 2 9 56 33 37 0
#Raines, Tim .333 .368 .519 285 43 95 14 3 11 49 15 47 21
Leone, Justin .269 .383 .498 428 83 115 30 4 20 60 78 109 26
*Richard, Chris .284 .384 .488 342 63 97 24 2 14 57 42 85 9
Bocachica, Hiram .287 .434 .533 167 30 48 12 1 9 35 37 24 10

STARTERS

SP Matt Kinney
2007 Team:
Fresno (Giants). Age: 30. Throws: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Red Sox in 6th round of 1995 draft from Bangor (Maine) HS.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 6 on 2001 Twins list

SP Ron Chiavacci
2007 Team:
Toledo (Tigers). Age: 29. Throws: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Expos in 44th round of 1998 draft from Kutztown (Pa.) State.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 18 on 2002 Expos ilst.

SP Mike Smith
2007 Team:
Memphis (Cardinals). Age: 29. Throws: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Blue Jays in 5th round of 2000 draft from Richmond.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 13 on 2002 Blue Jays ilst.

SP Sun-Woo Kim
2007 Team:
Fresno (Giants). Age: 29. Throws: Right.
Signed: Nondrafted free agent signing by Red Sox in 1998 from Korea.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 3 on 2000 Red Sox ilst.

SP Jorge Campillo
2007 Team:
Tacoma (Mariners). Age: 28. Throws: Right.
Signed: Nondrafted free agent signing by Braves in 1996 from Mexico.
Peak Prospect Ranking: Not ranked since 1999. 

Kinney has made 58 big league starts, and Kim has made 38; the other three hurlers have combined for seven. While not one of these pitchers blows you away with stuff, all five commanded the strike zone and were durable in 2007. Though he’s the best strikeout pitcher of the group, Kinney also was the most homer-prone, giving up 25 and posting just a .63 groundout-to-flyout mark.

STARTERS
PITCHER W L ERA G GS SV IP H HR BB SO AVG G/F
Kinney, Matt 12 10 4.02 27 26 0 157 164 25 36 141 .266 0.63
Chiavacci, Ron 12 6 3.39 26 23 0 151 148 14 43 126 .258 1.12
Smith, Mike 11 13 5.19 31 25 0 160 182 17 49 127 .288 0.97
Kim, Sun-Woo 8 8 4.87 25 18 0 118 131 11 35 88 .284 1.19
Campillo, Jorge 9 6 3.07 24 22 0 149 151 11 39 99 .264 0.97

RELIEVERS

RP Dan Giese
2007 Team:
Fresno (Giants). Age: 30. Throws: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Red Sox in 34th round of 1999 draft from San Diego.
Peak Prospect Ranking: Not ranked since 1999.

RP Winston Abreu
2007 Team:
Columbus (Nationals). Age: 30. Throws: Right.
Signed: Nondrafted free agent signing by Braves in 1993 from Dominican Republic.
Peak Prospect Ranking: Not ranked since 1999.

RP Brian Sanches
2007 Team:
Ottawa (Phillies). Age: 28. Throws: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Royals in 2nd round of 1999 draft from Lamar.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 10 on 2000 Royals list.

RP Randy Choate
2007 Team:
Tucson (Diamondbacks). Age: 31. Throws: Left.
Draft Status: Selected by Yankees in 5th round of 1997 draft from Florida State.
Peak Prospect Ranking: Not ranked since 1999.

RP Brian Bass
2007 Team:
Rochester (Twins). Age: 25. Throws: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Royals in 6th round of 2000 draft from Robert E. Lee HS in Montgomery, Ala.
Peak Prospect Ranking: No. 8 on 2004 Royals list.

RP Marc Gwyn
2007 Team:
Salt Lake (Angels). Age: 29. Throws: Right.
Draft Status: Selected by Athletics in 7th round of 2000 draft from Rice.
Peak Prospect Ranking: Not ranked. 

The numbers say it all for these six relievers. Abreu is the best Triple-A strikeout reliever available, though Giese and Sanches aren’t far behind. And those two offer superior strikeout-to-walk marks: 7.6 for Giese and 6.5 for Sanches. Choate is a solid choice for obligatory bullpen lefty. Bass and Gwyn don’t have the same strikeout numbers as the other three righthanders, but they don’t walk batters and generate plenty of groundouts, giving the bullpen a little variety.

RELIEVERS
PITCHER W L ERA G GS SV IP H HR BB SO AVG G/F
Giese, Dan 3 1 2.82 47 0 2 73 65 2 10 76 .236 0.91
Abreu, Winston 3 0 1.20 37 0 5 52 24 2 20 82 .133 0.67
Sanches, Brian 2 3 4.75 36 1 16 47 57 5 8 52 .295 1.02
*Choate, Randy 3 1 2.98 55 0 3 63 68 3 16 61 .270 2.57
Bass, Brian 7 3 3.48 37 10 1 103 96 8 24 80 .246 1.87
Gwyn, Marc 2 1 3.79 47 0 15 57 68 5 17 54 .302 2.02

With no impact talent up the middle or power starting pitchers, this team would most likely struggle to keep pace with the majors’ worst teams. But as we’ve seen repeatedly in the big leagues, quality relievers and corner players can come from just about anywhere.

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