A Jays From the Couch reader requested we highlight this offseason Blue Jays pending minor League Free Agents, so we here go
First, please reference MLB Rule 55 for an explanation on MiLB Free Agency.
The rules surrounding minor league free agency can be a tad confusing. To make it simple, this offseason’s crop of free agents come from the Class of 2011. This encompasses any player selected and signed in the 2011 Draft or any International Free Agents who played in 2011. An easy way to figure out if a minor league player is entering free agency is to count the number of seasons played. If they’ve played 7 seasons, they are likely entering free agency; however, there are some players who will be free agents this offseason with 6 playing seasons from the Class of 2011 because they did not play after signing their first contract in 2011.
Adonys Cardona made his minor league debut in 2011 but was listed on the disabled list for the entire 2015 season. When a player is listed on the DL for an entire season, that season doesn’t count as service time; therefore, Cardona will not be able to test free agency until after the 2018 season.
Despite suffering a number of arm/shoulder injuries, the 23-yr-old Cardona still possesses an electric arm. The talent is there; however, the results have not been. Cardona continues to struggle with his command, walking as many as he strikes out.
Keep an eye on Cardona. If he ever figures out how to repeat his delivery he could move quickly.
We can expect 32-yr-old Gregorio Petit to move on. Petit played 76 games for the Buffalo Bisons, batting .260 with 20 doubles, a triple, 4 HR and 30 RBI. Petit was a veteran presence for a youthful Bisons infield.
Alex Monsalve provided the Blue Jays system with catching depth at the Triple-A and Double-A level in 2017. He got into 43 games and batted .270 with 6 doubles, a HR, and 12 RBI across two levels. Monsalve has a chance to be re-signed as he is only 25-yrs-old and performed well.
Mike Ohlman is another catcher signed in the offseason who will be eligible to test the open market again this offseason. Ohlman split time between Toronto and Buffalo but was DFA’ed on August 16th. Ohlman tied Raffy Lopez to lead the Herd with 12 HR. The slugging catcher struggled to make consistent contact, batting just .216 with 16 doubles and 115 strike outs in 90 games. I doubt that Ohlman returns in 2018.
Shane Opitz decided not to become a free agent last offseason, returning to the Blue Jays farm system. The 2010 11th round pick quietly had a productive season in Triple-A. Opitz spent much of the year at SS (49 GP) but also saw time at 3B, RF, 2B, LF and 1st. The multi-faceted Opitz batted .252 with 15 doubles, a triple and a home run, and 20 RBI in 84 games. A return in 2018 in 50/50 as the upper minors is starting to fill up with higher rated prospects.
Class of 2011
Jon Berti is a personal favorite of mine, so I really hope that the 27-yr-old infielder returns in 2018. Berti struggled with post concussion symptoms this season. When on the field, Berti struggled to put up numbers consistent with his talent. Jonny Hustle still managed to show off his elite speed swiping 24 bases in 64 games despite batting just .203. The Blue Jays will likely offer Berti a contract but he may decide to find an easier route to the majors.
Christian Lopes has put together back-to-back productive seasons. Lopes appears to fit the mold of a late bloomer. While he is unlikely to wow anyone with eye popping numbers, Lopes possesses the skills to become a steady contributor at the major league level. Christian split time between 2nd and 3rd this season, playing 3rd for the first time as professional. Lopes batted .269 with 26 doubles, 3 triples, and a career high 7 home runs and 19 stolen bases. Toronto would be foolish to let Lopes get away.
If the 27-yr-old John Stilson were ever able to maintain a clean bill of health, he’d already been a major leaguer. Unfortunately, the power reliever’s career continues to be derailed by injuries. Stilson earned the Bisons Comeback Player of the Year with a successful season but finished the year on the DL. His last appearance came on August 21st. Despite landing on the DL twice this year, Stilson managed to post a record of 2-5 with a 3.19 ERA. John threw 53.2 innings across 38 appearances, converting 2-of-3 saves opportunities. He walked 22 and struck out 51 batters finishing with a 1.25 WHIP. Like Lopes, Toronto should definitely do their best to keep Stilson in the system.
Derrick Loveless lacks any plus tools but has proven to be a reliable minor league outfielder. Despite his power outage in 2017, Loveless batting .264 with 19 doubles, a triple and home run, and 33 RBI. With so many good outfielders starting to fill the lower minors, Loveless may have run out of time.
Tom Robson struggled as a starter and with his health. Robson finished the year on the DL, throwing his last pitch on August 25th. Despite another stint on the DL, 2017 was a successful season for Robson who made the transition from the rotation to the bullpen. Tom finished with a record of 1-3, 30.5 ERA while converting one save and striking out 31 over 38.1IP. He showed improved command of the strike zone with 12 walks and an impressive 1.12 WHIP.
Matt Dean is unlikely to return in 2011. Dean has shown flashes but has never been able to put everything together. A talented player, Dean is just 24-yr-old and could develop into a solid minor league corner infielder. Just not in the Blue Jays system. 2017 was another disappointing season for the big Texan. Matt split the year between Dunedin and New Hampshire batting .218 with 9 doubles, a triple, 4 HR, and 30 RBI in 72 games.
Up in the Air
Darrell Ceciliani and Dalton Pompey are both on the 60-day DL. While they were both on the 40-man roster prior to suffering their injuries, there is a possibility the club decides to remove them from the 40-man roster. This would require the team to waive and DFA each player, with their injury history, it is unlikely either would be claimed. Both are eligible to test the market.
The Toronto Blue Jays can retain the services of any of the players mentioned above by adding them to the 40-man roster or by having them accept a 2nd minor league contract with the club. Berti, Lopes, and Stilson should all get a long look next spring. If not added to the 40-man roster but resigned, Lopes and Stilson will get some attention at the next Rule 5 draft.
If the Blue Jays front office is serious about filling the upper minors with talent, they NEED to retain these three players.
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