Rays lose 18 players to minor league free agency
Tuesday, Baseball America released a list of 534 minor league free agents, featuring 18 Rays, and including several players who made the major league roster in the last few years. That group of 18 includes 11 pitchers, five catchers, an infielder and an outfielder.
Here is a rundown of those 18 who are free to choose another organization.
RHP: Jose Alonzo (SS), Andrew Bellatti (AA), Jaye Chapman (AA), Casey Coleman (AAA), Parker Markel (AAA), Alex Smith (Hi A), Tyler Sturdevant (AAA)
Right-handed pitcher Jose Alonzo has never pitched in a full-season league. After not pitching in 2015, he was pretty effective for Hudson Valley in the New York-Penn League in 2016 with a 2.23 ERA in 32 1/3 innings split between the rotation and the bullpen.
Right-handed pitcher Andrew Bellatti made a cameo as a top-30 prospect in the organization after a velocity spike in 2015. He pitched 23 1/3 innings for the Rays that season, but he was optioned to the minors at the start of 2016 and was later designated for assignment. Injuries limited him to 14 1/3 innings between three affiliates.
Right-handed pitcher Jaye Chapman was acquired by the Rays from Milwaukee in a cash transaction in July. They needed minor league bullpen depth for the stretch run, and the former major leaguer delivered for the Biscuits with 20 1/3 quality innings. He was an indy leaguer in 2014 before joining the Brewers organization in 2015.
Right-handed pitcher Casey Coleman is another former Cub, like Chapman. He last pitched in the majors with Kansas City in 2014, and his major league work was never really impressive. He was only able to pitch 16 2/3 innings with the organization after joining the Rays in July due to a month-long stint on the disabled list.
Right-handed pitcher Parker Markel was a pop-up prospect for the Rays thanks to a nice 2011 season with Hudson Valley, but his reported stuff never really translated into results. Now working out of the bullpen, he pitched well for Durham in 2016, and he does a good job keeping the ball in the park.
Right-handed pitcher Alex Smith was a former undrafted free agent signed by the Yankees before the 2012 season. The Rays signed him less than a week after he was released, and he ended up pitching 5 1/3 pretty lousy innings for Charlotte. He did reach Double A with New York, so he has beaten the odds as an undrafted player.
Right-handed pitcher Tyler Sturdevant was added to provide bullpen depth for Durham, but the Rays’ relief struggles allowed him to finally make his major league debut as a 30-year-old. He was decent for the Rays in a limited number of innings and struck out a lot of batters with the Bulls, so he should have a chance to keep pitching if he wants to.
LHP: Adam Kolarek (AAA), Justin Marks (AAA), Jonny Venters (Hi A), Adam Wilk (AAA)
Left-handed pitcher Adam Kolarek really needs to cut down on his walks, but he was effective against lefties, limiting them to a .468 OPS in 2016 with Montgomery and Durham. The Rays took him in the minor league Rule 5 draft last December, less than two months after Baltimore signed him to a minor league contract.
Left-handed pitcher Justin Marks threw a no-hitter for Durham and earned a September call-up for his second career stint in the majors. A long time ago, he was traded for David DeJesus and has bounced around several organizations in recent seasons. He’ll probably continue bouncing.
Left-handed pitcher Jonny Venters signed a two-year deal with the Rays in early 2015 in an attempt to return from a third Tommy John surgery. He made it back to the mound for the first time since 2012, but he was only able to make five appearances with Charlotte before tearing his UCL again. Now 31 years old, I can’t imagine he’ll try another comeback.
Left-handed pitcher Adam Wilk pitched decently for Durham to start the season, but he went on the DL in June and never pitched again. He was really effective against lefties before getting injured, so maybe he could’ve gotten another crack at the majors had he stayed healthy.
C: Mayo Acosta (SS), Armando Araiza (AA), J.P. Arencibia (AAA), Jake DePew (AA), Wilmer Dominguez (SS)
Catcher Mayo Acosta was a minor league free agent after 2015 too, but he re-signed on the verge of spring training in February. He’s played just 31 combined games for Durham the last two seasons and spent much of that time on Hudson Valley’s roster following “paper moves” used to give the Bulls room for an extra pitcher or other player without him actually reporting to the Renegades. In 72 career Triple-A games, the 28-year-old has a .331 OPS.
Catcher Armando Araiza was maybe the top defensive catcher in an organization not exactly short on defensive ability behind the plate. However, he never really hit in U.S.-based leagues until this season in limited action with Class A-Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery when he had a .785 OPS in just 27 games. He shouldn’t have a problem finding work with his defense.
Catcher J.P. Arencibia had a great September with the Rays in 2015, but he couldn’t find major league work at all in 2016. After not getting much traction with Philadelphia’s Triple-A affiliate at the start of the season, he re-joined Durham and had the quintessential Arencibia season with 15 homers and a sub-.300 OBP in 78 games with the Bulls.
Catcher Jake DePew was always known for his defense, but he never hit enough to rise above Double A. In 2016, his second season with Montgomery, he was able to set career highs in a lot of counting stats due to an increase in playing time, but his rates weren’t any better than usual. He’ll still be just 25 next season, and his defense could help him find work.
Catcher Wilmer Dominguez, like Acosta, was a minor league free agent after last season but came back for another season. Also like Acosta, he never really played much, appearing in just eight games since 2015.
Other position players: SS Juniel Querecuto (AAA), OF Eury Perez (AAA)
Infielder Juniel Querecuto got a late call for a cup of coffee in 2016 but was quickly outrighted by the Rays following the end of the season. He never really hit much, but his versatility helped him move up the ladder throughout his career. Good gloves always help players find jobs, and his nice offseason in Venezuela last winter probably got the attention of some teams.
Outfielder Eury Perez was acquired in June to help out Durham, but besides stealing 11 bases in 13 tries in just 27 games, he didn’t do too much for a mediocre team trying to sneak into the playoffs. He appeared in the majors in four straight seasons, but that streak ended in 2016 with underwhelming minor league stints with the Rays and Astros.
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