This time of year, plenty of teams have a need for gap-filling players — some of whom can end up with more expansive opportunities. Sometimes clubs go with younger options, but there’s often good reason to go with a familiar player who has already spent ample time at the game’s highest level. Of course, you’ll also prefer a player who is active and performing well against the next-best thing to MLB pitching.
I thought it’d be interesting to round up some hitters who could be considered by their own teams or others over the coming weeks and months. Each of these 14 players has at least two years of MLB service but was forced to settle for a minor-league deal over the offseason. They’re also each turning in better-than-league-average production, though you’ll want to bear in mind that the outwardly gaudy numbers were logged in exceedingly hitter-friendly offensive environments.
Abraham Almonte, OF, Diamondbacks: The journeyman is one of several Arizona outfielders to warrant placement on this list. Indeed, his performance is arguably the most surprising and interesting of all. Almonte isn’t just on a hot run with the stick. He’s showing impeccable plate discipline (43 strikeouts vs. 41 walks) and heretofore unseen power (ten home runs, .279 ISO). Almonte has also swiped eight bags. Not a bad stat line for a center-field capable player.
Brandon Barnes, OF, Indians: Though he has seen just 21 MLB plate appearances since the end of the 2016 season, the former Astros and Rockies outfielder is clamoring for attention right now at Triple-A. He’s off to a .297/.352/.581 slash with 15 homers and five steals through 256 plate appearances. He was similarly impressive last year at the highest level of the minors, albeit in a very different offensive environment.
Andres Blanco, INF, Braves: Blanco’s late-career renaissance with the Phillies faded in 2017, but he has been turning in strong offensive numbers at Triple-A ever since. He didn’t earn a call-up despite a nice showing last year with the Brewers’ top affiliate. This year, Blanco owns a .261/.371/.450 slash with tetn long balls through 294 plate appearances. Perhaps his luck will be different this time around, though it’s tough to see a path up in Atlanta.
Drew Butera, C, Rockies: He has already been up and down to the majors this year, accepting an assignment back at Triple-A after clearing waivers. Nobody really thinks the veteran backstop — 36 in August — is a sudden offensive powerhouse. But hey, it’s a nice to see the glove-first performer enjoy a good run at this late stage of his career. He’s drawing walks at a 16.1% clip against a 17.9% strikeout rate and carries an appealing .311/.429/.467 batting line through 112 plate appearances at Albuquerque.
Danny Espinosa, INF, Mets: Espinosa had his moments over the years with the Nats, but there were times when his plate discipline reached untenable levels. It seemed he was all but done for after a brutal run over the past two years. But the switch-hitting middle infielder is showing new life at Syracuse, where he carries a .256/.340/.462 slash along with 11 home runs and eight steals. He’s striking out at a pleasing 21.1% rate while walking 10.5% of the time.
Ryan Flaherty, INF, Indians: Flaherty never turned the corner for the Orioles and couldn’t sustain a hot start last year with the Braves. Now, he’s turning in solid work at Triple-A with the Cleveland org. His .265/.370/.455 batting line is only good for a 108 wRC+, but that’s a notable enough showing for a guy who was valued a fair bit for his versatile glovework.
Ryan Goins, INF, White Sox: Say it with me, Jays fans: “I told you so!!!” Many of the Toronto faithful were sad to see Goins depart, though he was never much of an offensive performer. Now? He’s walking (12.9%) and slugging (.503) at personal-high rates. He’s now through 224 plate appearances of .314/.404/.503 hitting (133 wRC+) for the Sox’ top affiliate.
Logan Morrison, 1B, Yankees: It’s not clear whether there’s any chance the Yankees can shoehorn LoMo into their roster, but if not he might well end up elsewhere. Morrison is showing some signs that his power stroke could be back; through 120 plate appearances, he has recorded nine long balls and sports a .318 ISO/.564 SLG. He isn’t getting on base as much as one might like, but he isn’t striking out much either.
Chris Parmelee, 1B/OF, Dodgers: He didn’t even appear with an affiliated team last year, but the former Twins and O’s big leaguer is back in action at the Double-A level for the Dodgers. He’s striking out at a 27.2% clips but drawing walks at an even more robust rate (16.0%) and driving the ball (eight home runs, .239 ISO).
Jace Peterson, INF, Orioles: Peterson has appeared with four MLB organizations in his five seasons of action. He’s currently busy tamping down on the strikeouts that crept into his game (13.7% strikeout rate vs 11.9% walk rate) and showing a bit of a power boost (six homers, .178 ISO) at Triple-A with the O’s.
Rob Refsnyder, INF/OF, Reds: Though he couldn’t stick with the Yankees and Rays, Refsnyder is making another bid for the majors after an early season trade sent him from the D-Backs’ top affiliate to that of the Cincinnati organization. Refsnyder is a bit BABIP-reliant (.410) but is obviously making good contact, as he’s through 233 plate appearances of .325/.395/.522 hitting.
Travis Snider, OF, Diamondbacks: It seems hard to believe that Snider is still just 31 years of age and hasn’t sniffed the big league since way back in 2015. He’s edging back on the map now with an interesting return to the affiliated ranks after a year away. Through 232 plate appearances, the left-handed hitter has drawn 39 walks against 49 strikeouts while also managing to put the ball over the fence six times.
Matt Szczur, OF, Diamondbacks: Now a month away from his 30th birthday, Szczur is showing newfound power — albeit in a fairly small sample. Through 112 plate appearances with the Snakes’ top affiliate, he has a whopping .303 isolated power mark and seven dingers.
Ruben Tejada, INF, Mets: The 29-year-old is back with the Mets organization after a fairly memorable career opening there. He hasn’t touched the majors since 2017 but is busy raising eyebrows at Triple-A. Through 109 plate appearances, Tejada has as many walks as strikeouts and a cool .359/.450/.576 batting line.
A few other interesting or notable minor-league hitters who are performing well but did not quite meet all the list’s specifications: Dilson Herrera & Arismendy Alcantara (only 1+ years MLB service); Mikie Mahtook & Yasmany Tomas (not on minor-league deals); Yadiel Hernandez (signed a minor-league deal out of Cuba but has yet to debut in majors)