Early this season, we checked in on the players that were playing notable MLB roles after settling for minor-league deals over the winter. (Position players; starting pitchers; relievers.) It was small samples galore.
Unsurprisingly, many of the names that featured in the initial look have faded, while other minor-league signees have emerged. Accordingly, we’ll reexamine this year’s crop of budget acquisitions to see which players have provided real utility over the course of the season to date.
We’ll begin, as we did the last time around, with position players. Frankly, as is typical, there haven’t been many significant contributors from among the MiLB contract ranks. But these five are all worthy of note:
- Alen Hanson, Giants: Once a notable prospect, Hanson has made the most of his first extended MLB opportunity this year in San Francisco. Driven by a surprising .194 isolated slugging mark, the out-of-options 25-year-old owns a .276/.301/.469 slash with six home runs and five stolen bases through 208 plate appearances. While defensive metrics aren’t in love with the glove, Hanson’s versatility has been of use and he adds value on the bases, too. He seems like a keeper for the Giants, who control him through the 2022 season.
- Mark Reynolds, Nationals: The 35-year-old languished on the market before landing with the Nationals, but has proven he can still draw a walk and hit for power. On the year, he carries a .269/.359/.537 slash with 11 home runs in 156 plate appearances. That certainly helped keep the Nats afloat as injuries derailed the team’s original plans, though certainly Reynolds remains severely limited by his defensive limitations and poor baserunning.
- A.J. Ellis, Padres: Long a respected presence behind the dish, the 37-year-old Ellis has contributed with the bat as well in 2018. As usual, his most notable offensive skill is his plate discipline — his 15.0% walk rate even exceeds his peak levels — but Ellis has also hit for more average than usual thus far. While the .370 BABIP gives cause for skepticism as to sustainability, Ellis has been one of the game’s biggest on-base threats this year among players with at least 100 plate appearances.
- Max Muncy, Dodgers: Okay, this is cheating a bit. Muncy signed with the Dodgers in 2017, after all. But he did not appear with the organization at the MLB level until the present campaign, and the results have been too good not to warrant mention. True, Muncy has come back to earth of late, slumping out of the All-Star break, but he still owns a stunning .253/.380/558 slash line with 24 home runs on the season. Better still, he has not only received good marks on the basepaths, but has mostly drawn average marks for his fielding while lining up at five different positions.
- Jose Bautista, Mets: Yup, I’m bending the rules here again. Joey Bats signed onto the MLB roster with New York, but he squeezes onto the list because he initially inked a minors pact with the Braves. You also have to put up some blinders on his early showing in Atlanta. Since going to the Mets, though, Bautista has contributed a .208/.360/.372 slash. The once-prodigious power just isn’t there, and he’s striking out at twice his mid-prime rate, but a 17.5% walk rate has allowed Bautista to rate as an above-average offensive player despite a sub-Mendoza batting average for the season.
- Niko Goodrum, Tigers: With a hat tip to MLBTR commenter JosephofMichigan for the suggestion, we’ll add the 26-year-old switch-hitter here as well. Goodrum is swinging and missing too much and only has a .294 on-base percentage through 340 plate appearances, but he’s showing good pop (.188 ISO, ten home runs) and adding value on the bases (3.1 BsR, eight steals). As with Hanson, the metrics are somewhat bearish on Goodrum’s glovework, but he has been asked to play all over the infield along with both corner outfield spots.
Did I miss a worthy player? Let me know in the comments.