Minor league contracts don’t usually draw a lot of a response over the course of a baseball offseason, with some uncommon exceptions. Everybody likes to see an out-of-the-blue comeback story on a non-guaranteed association, however most minor league offers of any word are injured veterans, struggling former prospects or fringe huge leaguers who’ve by no means actually solidified their standing as a contributor on the recreation’s high degree. Yearly, nonetheless, a handful of those no-risk investments produce stable returns.
We’re a few quarter by the 2021 season, so let’s test in on a handful of non-guaranteed pacts which have already confirmed to be sensible investments for his or her golf equipment.
- Tyler Naquin, OF, Reds: Naquin’s signing was met with a collective yawn, however one Ohio membership’s leftovers have was one other’s treasure. The previous Indians first-rounder has mashed his means into an everyday position in Cincinnati, raking at a .265/.346/.530 clip by 133 plate appearances. Naquin parlayed a robust spring and a March harm to Shogo Akiyama into an Opening Day roster spot, however he’s now fourth on the staff in plate appearances and third in wRC+ at 135 (min. 20 PAs). He’s hitting so significantly better than struggling middle fielder Nick Senzel that Cincinnati hasn’t hesitated to maneuver Senzel to the infield within the wake of Joey Votto’s harm, creating extra enjoying time for Naquin. This doesn’t seem like a mere small-sample fluke, both. Naquin ranks within the ninety fifth percentile of MLB hitters in common exit velocity and has equally robust percentile rankings in hard-hit fee (84th), xwOBA (89th), xSLG (93rd) and barrel fee (ninetieth). He’s additionally managed by the 2022 season through arbitration. For an Indians membership that has gotten nearly no manufacturing from its outfield over the previous two seasons, watching Naquin’s begin in 2021 has to sting, even when they’re completely satisfied for his or her former prospect on a private degree.
- C.J. Cron, 1B, Rockies: Cron’s skill to hit hasn’t actually been in query since his 2014 MLB debut, however accidents have dogged him lately. Recent off a season-ending knee surgical procedure in 2020, Cron inked a non-guaranteed pact with the Rockies, made the membership out of Spring Coaching and has unsurprisingly emerged as their major first baseman. He’s out to a wonderful begin, hitting .300/.397/.500 in 116 plate appearances. Cron missed 10 days with a again pressure and, not like Naquin, is a free agent at season’s finish, so he didn’t seize the highest spot on this checklist. Nonetheless, he’s been a vibrant spot for the Rockies and will give them a summer season commerce chip if he can keep wholesome. It’s nonetheless considerably puzzling that the Tigers didn’t carry him again, given how poorly issues have gone at first base in Detroit, however maybe Cron merely appreciated the chance introduced in Colorado higher.
- Matt Duffy, 3B, Cubs: Duffy started together with his MLB profession with a stellar 12 months for the 2015 Giants, wherein he hit .295/.334/.428 and completed second behind present teammate Kris Bryant in NL Rookie of the 12 months voting. He by no means actually adopted up on that debut effort, although, as underperformance and accidents knocked him off observe over the following two seasons. Duffy rebounded to play pretty properly with the Rays in 2018 however wound up launched after a troublesome 2019 marketing campaign. The veteran infielder spent 2020 on the Yankees alternate coaching website. This offseason, Duffy attracted curiosity from a couple of golf equipment in a training and/or entrance workplace capability, however the Cubs supplied him an opportunity to reinvigorate his enjoying profession and have been rewarded for doing so. Duffy made the Opening Day roster and has come out with a .281/.375/.360 line over his first 104 plate appearances, his high offensive output for the reason that aforementioned rookie season. The suitable-handed hitter isn’t an influence risk, however he’s an above-average defensive third baseman with an excellent strategy who makes loads of contact. Duffy solidifying the new nook has allowed Bryant to assist out an in any other case shaky, inconsistent outfield.
- Jed Lowrie, 2B, Athletics: There’s one thing about Lowrie and the A’s that simply clicks each time he dons the inexperienced and gold. In his third stint with the staff after lacking virtually the entire 2019-20 seasons as a Met, Lowrie is improbably hitting .254/.329/.394 by 158 plate appearances. With offense down across the league and a cavernous dwelling park, that’s good for a wholesome 108 wRC+. The veteran switch-hitter’s bat has cooled since a torrid begin to the season, however the early return on his no-risk minor league pact has been robust.
- Charlie Culberson, INF/OF, Rangers: A well-liked utility participant wherever he goes, Culberson is properly on his method to endearing himself to the Rangers’ fanbase. By means of his first 97 plate appearances, the 32-year-old is hitting .264/.316/.429 with three homers. Culberson has made one-off appearances at second base, shortstop and in left discipline, however the bulk of his enjoying time has come at third base.
- Pablo Sandoval, INF, Braves: Atlanta followers would possibly’ve groaned when the Braves introduced the Panda again on one other minor league deal, however Sandoval has thrived as a pinch-hitter and seldom-used bench bat. Sandoval has come to the plate as a pinch-hitter 26 occasions and homered in 4 of these plate appearances. On the entire, he’s hitting .250/.372/.583 by 43 plate appearances. Nobody expects the previous All-Star to proceed at this tempo, and you may definitely argue that since Sandoval is successfully a devoted pinch-hitter, this isn’t a super use of a roster spot. Nonetheless, it’s onerous to argue with 4 pinch-hit dingers, and we’re speaking about minor league offers right here, in any case.
We’ll test in on this 12 months’s crop of minor league signees a couple of months from now, because it’s fairly doubtless that we’ll see the tides activate a few of these (and different) contracts. A sizzling streak from Travis Shaw in Milwaukee may rapidly make his deal look all of the extra prudent, and Connor Joe is out to a sizzling begin with the Rox in a return from final 12 months’s most cancers analysis, which is a feel-good story in and of itself. A minimum of by the season’s 25 % mark, nonetheless, this group of bats is paying dividends for the groups that rolled the cube.