With the free-agent season officially starting today, and all the rumors of C.C. Sabathia and Rafael Furcal garnering so much attention, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some less likely heroes. MLB.com today published the list of Minor League Baseball free agents. The link is posted below. I have compiled a quick list of the 10 players I think could be potential impact adds to the Giants system. I hope you all can fish out some unusual suspects of your liking from the MiLB pool.
Royce Ring ~ LHP - A one time top-level prospect, Ring still has some upside. He reestablished himself in August after missing most of the year. Control is his only impending hurdle.
Marcus McBeth ~ RHP - The one-time A’s prospect had a disappointing season in the Reds system after being swapped for Chris Denorfia. The Red Sox then scooped him on a waiver claim and McBeth finished ’08 in a dynamic stint with AAA Pawtucket.
Jason Lane ~ OF - A Santa Rosa native, Lane has stagnated in AAAA limbo since a standout ’05 season in which he hit 26 homeruns with the Astros. Two things the Giants lack: power and right-handed hitting outfielders. Lane is both, and can handle southpaw pitching at any level.
Matt Whitney ~ 1B - Once a power prospect with the Indians, Whitney slowed in repeating AA last season. He is just 24 however, and despite hitting .268 last year saw a 50-point spike in both his second-half batting average and slugging percentage.
Blaine Neal ~ RHP - Perhaps one of the most sensational AAA stories last year, Neal saved 26 games for Toledo in the Tigers system. Probably the only thing that prevented a big-league call-up was that the 30-year old was selected as the closer for the Olympic team.
Jarod Plummer ~ RHP - Very similar makeup as Neal, Plummer has been hovering as a fringe prospect in the Royals system for several years. Still just 25, he repeated AA with moderate results, but improved in the second half of the season.
Jordan Czarniecki ~ OF - Another guy who can fulfill the organizational need for a right-handed hitting outfielder, Czarniecki was scooped by the Angels last season after some decent years in the Marlins organization. He can hit lefties, and still boasts athleticism and speed as a 29-year old journeyman.
Justin Pope ~ RHP - After an exceptional season as a situational right-hander in AA Reading for the Phillies organization, Pope is struggling with control in the Venezuelan Winter League. He will turn 30 next year, and is an odds-on improbability to be an impact big leaguer. Still, he’s had a good minor-league career, having now played in the Cardinals, Yankees, and World Champion Phillies systems.
John Van Benschoten ~ OF - Just hear me out on this one. When the Pirates drafted Van Benschoten in 2001, most in the scouting world agreed he was a legit five-tool prospect as an outfielder. The Pirates wanted him as a pitcher. He is currently surviving in the Mexican winter league and could still flourish as a decent big-league pitcher. However, in 2001, I filled out 20 or so write-in all-star ballots for Ryan Vogelsong as a right fielder. So, now that Rick Ankiel has set precedent, you can see why I believe it isn’t all too crazy to consider converting Van Benschoten.
Lou Lucca ~ 3B - He’s a hometown product out of South San Francisco and has a storied minor-league career. He will be 38 next season and has never played in the big leagues. All Scott McClain references aside, Lucca has the skills and grit to affect the organization with or without a big-league promotion. And considering the need for corner infield depth, why not take a chance on a hometown guy and allow him to finish a prolific career in style.