As most teams’ seasons are over at this point, we start the parade of players declaring or being granted free agency. This particularly applies to players with MLB experience (or at least a lot of minor league experience) no longer on 40 man rosters (for many of them, they were designated for assignment earlier in the season, only to go unclaimed and go to the minors). These players were considered not important enough to the present club to be placed on the 40 man (as they want to sign their own free agents and perhaps protect some prospects from the Rule 5 draft) but can sometimes provide value to other clubs, usually on a minor league deal trying to make the team out of spring training. Here I will talk about 3 such players that may or may not be helpful for other organizations.
Tim Dillard is a right-handed reliever that was previously with the Brewers organization. In 84.1 career innings in the big leagues, nothing in his overall numbers stand out. He has a .1 FWAR and a 103 FIP- as a reliever, which is not very good. He hasn’t gotten a lot of strikeouts (16.7 K%), but he does get ground-balls (52.4%). For this reason, SIERA likes him (3.67 with a 99 xFIP -).
What is interesting about Dillard is the way he has re-invented himself. He used to throw 92-93 MPH on his fastball (in 2008), but now throws less than 88 MPH (87.4). He went from a traditional pitcher to a sidearmer, as I think these pictures from Brooks Baseball will illustrate:
So he has clearly dropped his arm angle in order to try to make it as a MLB pitcher. Weirdly, it seems that he raised it slightly from 2011 to 2012. If those graphs don’t give you a good enough look, here is his view from the side:
The fastball, the ball on top, is the old Dillard. The slider and sinker are where he is now. That is considerable drop. Here is the view from above to show the difference in the arm angle:
This arm angle makes him very close to the Arizona Diamondbacks submariner Brad Ziegler:
As you would imagine, this leads to quite a bit of difference in splits. This year, Dillard was ravaged by BABIP, giving up a BABIP of .356 BABIP to lefties and .351 BABIP to righties, and this is why many of basic numbers are not very good (111 ERA -). Dillard’s walk rate was basically equal to both righties and lefties, but he struck out righties 6.5% more and gave up just 1 homer out of the 106 righties he faced this year (good for a 3.13 FIP against them, not as great as you would want for a sidearmer, but FIP doesn’t discriminate between ground-balls and fly-balls, as long as they don’t leave the park. He got grounders from them 58.7% of the time). He was particularly worse at home, which is expected as Miller Park is a hitter friendly park (with a 104 park factor according to Baseball Reference, with 100 being average).
I think Dillard has value as a right-handed ground-ball specialist. We saw what a similar player in Cody Eppley did for the Yankees (.6 bWAR, .3 WAA) this year. Dillard also throws slightly harder than Ziegler, who has a 59 ERA – and 81 FIP – in his career.
Jose Morales is a switch hitting catcher who has struggled a bit with injuries over the last two years. Morales was originally drafted in the 3rd round by the Twins as a middle infielder and was moved to catcher and then eventually traded to the Rockies, where he would play just 22 games before being granted free agency. The Pirates signed him to their AAA team for 2012 where he would play in 58 games with mediocre hitting statistics (98 wRC +). Morales has a somewhat strange stance, as he is crouched with his hands above his head. He is definitely a big guy that looks like a catcher (or 1B/DH). This means he is predictably slow, as I timed him at 4.56 to first. Seems to swing at outside pitches and doesn’t have a really quick bat. Heatmaps show that he likes to swing at pitches that are low (or at least he did in his near 100 games in the Majors).
When he was in the Majors, the average ball he hit went 252.541 feet, which is not bad but not great either. However, since he had a good K/BB (11% walk rate and 19% strikeout rate), this gives you some reason to think that he might be able to hit in the big league level with some kind of success (especially since the bar for backup catchers is pretty low).
According to Matt Klaassen’s catcher rankings, Morales is a below average catcher, with his only positive rating being the ability to throw out runners. He is pretty quiet behind the plate, and seems to receive the ball relatively well. I can imagine him having some problems blocking the ball, as he seems to want to just catch the ball instead of getting in front of it. The arm certainly looks strong enough and he is athletic enough to continue behind the plate at age 29.
Trent Oeltjen has exactly 100 MLB games under his belt. In that time, he has racked up a .3 fWAR, about what you would expect from a 5th outfielder (that is, he is good enough for the Majors, but shouldn’t start and probably shouldn’t be your 4th outfielder). He mixed a good walk rate (nearly 10%) with a high strikeout rate (around what we have seen from B.J. Upton and Dan Uggla this season) and had a 88 wRC + with a .279 BABIP (he had a high GB % but not a high IFFB %). He really impressed with his speed, with a speed score of 8.4 (rated 86 speed by the Baseball Cube) and was 9 for 10 in steals. He breaks out of the box a little bit as he swings, but seems to do a good job of being able to use all fields. The spray chart also supports this:
In watching him, the stopwatch wasn’t really impressed with his speed, getting him at 8.21 on double when he slowed up a little bit at the end. He was also 3.74 on a bunt. He isn’t really fast as far as foot speed goes, but he is at least average to slightly above average. I am guessing he gets good speed ratings because he is not only aggressive, but smartly aggressive.
He played a lot of DH this year in the PCL with some RF and the occasional game in CF. He isn’t really built like a corner outfielder., but it didn’t look fast in the field and his arm doesn’t look very strong (the Fans Scouting Report actually rates his arm above average, but it looked sloppy to me). He is pretty much a platoon hitter, as he really struggled against left-handers this year. He showed some power to all fields with his high strikeout rate. He didn’t possess a great walk rate and he saw 3.69 pitchers per a plate appearance this year, which is about PCL average (3.71). Oeltjen had better numbers after being DFA’d early in the year. Of course, Alburquerque is extremely hitter friendly and is really deceiving statistically. The Isotopes Park Factor was an eye popping 117 this year in what is already a hitter friendly PCL. His splits were pretty big too, as he slugged .554 at home, but slugged just .410 on the road. League average for slugging in the PCL was .436 this season. His OBP was basically identical though at .352 to .353 and his LD/GB/FB was better than league average. At age 29, he seems to have the tools to fit on a MLB roster, but will have to prove himself in the spring with whatever team he signs with.