On the eve of the GM meetings and with a beefed up front office, the Cubs will head into Milwaukee looking to add assets to the team. I don’t expect them to sign a big name free agent in the next couple of days, if at all, but we could see them add a few minor league free agents to try and fill some holes. These wouldn’t be glamor signings by any means, but the Cubs may be able to find a hidden gem or two. Ryan Ludwick, Garrett Jones, and Casey McGehee are examples of recent minor league free agents who made impacts in the majors. Here’s 10 names to keep your eye on…
1. Shairon Martis, 24, RHP: Although he’s just 24 years old, Martis has already spent parts of two seasons with the Washington Nationals. Last year he spent the year in AAA as a starter where he went 8-6 with a 3.05 ERA. Just as importantly he showed good control and excellent strikeout ability with a 2.64/9.88 walk to strikeout ratio.
2. Brandon Moss, 28, OF: Moss was a former prospect in the Red Sox system and a player that Epstein was reluctant to give up in the Jason Bay trade. He spent last year at AAA Lehigh Valley playing for Ryne Sandberg where he put up a .275/.368/.509 line with 23 HRs.
3. Brandon Wood, 26, 3B: Once the Angels top prospect, Wood fits the Cubs philosophy of adding athletic players who can help on the defensive side of the ball. He showed the ability to hit for average with 25-30 HR power as a prospect but has come nowhere near approaching that kind of success in the majors. He spent most of last season with the Pirates where he hit .220 with 7 HRs.
4. Lastings Milledge, 26, OF: Once considered a 5 tool player, Milledge nearly sabotaged his promising career because of immaturity. He’s now older and hopefully wiser. He spent last year in AAA in the White Sox organization where hit a very solid .295/.364/.441. He has continued to play very well in the Venezuelan League (.309/.371/.500). Once a disaster, Milledge’s defense has improved since his days with the Mets.
5. Chris Lubanski, 26, OF: Lubanski was the 5th pick overall in 2003 by the Kansas City Royals. After a promising start to his pro career, Lubanski faded badly. He missed all of 2011 but had a resurgent 2010 in which he hit .293/.361/.538 for the Toronto Blue Jays AAA affiliate. Perhaps he can be a Ryan Ludwick type story who also went from top prospect to bust to minor league free agent find.
6. Will Inman, 24, LHP: Inman was once a top 10 prospect with the Padres. He’s a finesse pitcher who relies on control and command of his pitches. Oddly his walk rate has been going up while his strikeout rate continues to climb, all the way up to 9.23 last season. He’s still young, actually younger than prospect Chris Rusin, and if he can find his control he can still be a useful bottom of the rotation starter. It doesn’t make him better than guys like Rusin or Eric Jokisch, but he could add some depth and competition.
7. Mark Antonelli, 26, 3B: Antonelli was a top 10 prospect back in 2009 for the Padres before dropping off when he reached the upper levels. His defense has improved and, as a bonus, he can also play 2B. One much needed trait he would bring is excellent plate discipline. His line last season was .293/.393/.460. Antonelli can add some competition to the 3rd base derby or make the roster as a utility player.
8. Rob Delaney, 27, RHP: Delaney had a great year as a relief pitcher for Tampa’s AAA affiliate. He had a 1.86 ERA and a very good 2.26/7.58 walk to strikeout ratio.
9. Adam Miller, 26, RHP: Miller was once one of the top 2 or 3 pitching prospects in all of baseball but injuries have completely derailed his career. He was able to pitch for the first time since 2008 last year, throwing 44 innings. This goes under “he’s still young and if he stays healthy we could really have something” category. It’s low risk, high reward — but an extreme longshot to say the least.
10. Jhonny Nunez, 26, RHP: Nunez was in AAA with the White Sox last year where he was extremely inconsistent. The upside is he can hit 97 mph with his fastball, though he often works at 92-94 mph. He has a live arm had a very respectable 3.42/9.51 walk to strikeout ratio in 2011. He’s currently dominating the Venezuelan League with a 1.04 ERA
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