Quick Thoughts On A Few MiLB Free Agents

As morineko noted in this morning's Winter League Notes, Baseball America has the full list of players who became minor league free agents this week. The Brewers have 18 of them, which is roughly standard across baseball. The Marlins and Phillies have the most with 31, and the Cardinals and Royals are the only teams in single digits with seven and eight, respectively.

Many of these players are guys who were signed at some point during last offseason or during the year as minor league free agents, failed to reach the big leagues and are now eligible again. The rest are players who the Brewers drafted and have held on to for six years: Once a player's minor league contract has been renewed six times, their drafting organization either has to add them to the 40 man roster or allow them to test free agency.

As you might expect, the list of free agents across baseball is largely composed of organizational filler, non-prospects and veteran journeymen. A handful of the Brewers on the list are interesting, though, for one reason or another.

Brendan Katin

Katin is a guy we've been talking about as a fringe prospect for a while now. 2011 was his fourth tour of duty in AAA and he's hit .262/.330/.544 in 361 career games for Nashville, with 80 home runs. He only appeared in 34 PCL games this season and this story suggests he was struggling with a knee injury.

A year ago Katin was left unprotected for the Rule 5 draft and went unselected. Unless he really likes Nashville, he'd probably be best served by looking for a new organization this winter.

Robert Hinton

A 40th round pick out of high school in 2003, Hinton has been in the Brewer organization for a long time working almost exclusively as a reliever. His numbers have never been really flashy but he's always been pretty good at striking batters out:

Season Age Level(s) K/9
2008 23 A+-AA 8.9
2009 24 AA-AAA 8.9
2010 25 AA-AAA 11.1
2011 26 AA-AAA 9.7

Hinton is probably coming off his best season, as he posted a 2.47 ERA in 43 appearances between Huntsville and Nashville (mostly Huntsville). He's 27 and already an eight year minor league veteran but his ability to get strikeouts will probably get him another look from someone, if not the Brewers.

Darren Byrd

I wrote about Byrd a couple of weeks ago on his birthday. Here's the salient point:

2011 was Byrd's first full year as a reliever and it might have been his best pro season: He made 41 appearances for Huntsville (the first time he's reached AA) and posted a 2.95 ERA in 64 innings. He still walks too many batters (4.5 per nine innings), but this was only his age 24 season so there's still time for him to figure things out.

Byrd is 25 now, definitely not too old to be worth another shot as a reliever.

Here are the rest of the guys on the list:

Many of the guys on this list will re-sign with the Brewers. In fact, some of them were minor league FA's who re-signed with the team last year. None of them would be a huge loss if they departed, although the Brewers would need to find a bunch of stopgap shortstops again. With that said, at least a handful of these type of players turn into useful parts every year.

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