Plenty of attention is paid each offseason to all the big major league free agent signings. But minor league free agent signees can often end up playing critical roles for many major league teams over the course of a 162-game season.
One shining example of that is outfielder Nick Martini, who was a minor league free agent signee last season and ended up posting an impressive .397 on-base percentage for Oakland while spending plenty of time serving as the A’s leadoff hitter down the stretch as the team surged to a wild-card berth.
So, with that in mind, last week I took a look at this season’s minor league free agent signees on my Athletics Farm site. We’ll find out over the course of the coming year which of them might end up playing key roles for the A’s as they look to make it into postseason play again in 2019...
Kyle Lobstein (LHP)
(AA/AAA: 73.2 IP / 71 H / 31 ER / 24 BB / 66 K / 3.79 ERA / 1.29 WHIP)
Tampa Bay made the high school hurler their 2nd-round draft pick back in 2008. Since then, the 29-year-old lefty has compiled a 5.06 ERA over 128 major league innings for Detroit and Pittsburgh. The southpaw averaged 8.1 K/9 last season while putting up a 2.56 ERA in 7 starts for Double-A Tulsa and posting a 5.14 ERA in 7 starts for Triple-A Oklahoma City. The Arizona native is likely to find himself in the mix for a rotation spot with the A’s new Triple-A affiliate in Las Vegas.
Jake Buchanan (RHP)
(AAA: 156.2 IP / 190 H / 90 ER / 47 BB / 86 K / 5.17 ERA / 1.51 WHIP)
Taken by Houston in the 8th round of the 2010 draft, the 29-year-old righty has registered an ERA of 4.73 in 64.2 innings of major league work for the Astros, Cubs and Reds. The control specialist has made over 100 career starts at the Triple-A level and posted a 5.17 ERA in 27 appearances, 26 starts, for Arizona’s Triple-A affiliate in Reno last season. The North Carolina native is expected to compete for a spot in the Triple-A rotation at Las Vegas in 2019.
Brian Schlitter (RHP)
(AAA: 67 IP / 66 H / 25 ER / 26 BB / 46 K / 3.36 ERA / 1.37 WHIP)
The 33-year-old minor league veteran, drafted by the Phillies in the 16th round back in 2007, served as the closer for Triple-A Oklahoma City last season, notching 21 saves while putting up a 3.36 ERA and allowing just 2 home runs over 67 innings of work. The 6-foot-5 righty has also seen some time in the majors, compiling a 5.40 ERA in 78 major league relief appearances over parts of three different seasons with the Cubs. The Illinois native should be seeing plenty of opportunities to close out games for Triple-A Las Vegas next season.
Kyle Crockett (LHP)
(AAA: 39 IP / 37 H / 13 ER / 7 BB / 38 K / 3.00 ERA / 1.13 WHIP)
Cleveland’s 4th-round draft pick in 2013, the 27-year-old reliever averaged 8.8 K/9 while putting up an ERA of 3.00 in 34 games for Triple-A Louisville last season. The slim southpaw has typically been more effective versus lefties and has compiled a 3.74 ERA in 122 major league relief appearances, including 15 appearances last season for the Reds. The Virginia native should start the season with Triple-A Las Vegas, but he could very easily end up seeing time in Oakland at some point if another lefty is needed in the big league bullpen.
Trey McNutt (RHP)
(IND: 121 IP / 121 H / 70 ER / 43 BB / 130 K / 5.21 ERA / 1.36 WHIP)
The 29-year-old minor league veteran, drafted by the Cubs in the 32nd round back in 2009, has yet to see time in the majors. The 6-foot-4 righty spent the past two seasons playing independent ball for the Fargo-Moorhead Redhawks in the American Association. In 2018, the Alabama native averaged 9.7 K/9 while putting up a 5.21 ERA over 20 starts for the Redhawks. McNutt has yet to pitch above the Double-A level, and he’s likely to start the season with the A’s Texas League affiliate in Midland.
Eric Campbell (1B-3B-OF)
(AAA: 326 AB / 6 HR / 58 BB / 61 K / .313 AVG / .420 OBP / .445 SLG)
Drafted by the Mets in the 8th round back in 2008, Campbell has compiled a .221/.312/.311 slash line in 438 major league at-bats over parts of three different seasons with the Mets. The right-handed hitter slashed .313/.420/.445 with 21 doubles and 58 walks in just 326 at-bats for Miami’s Triple-A affiliate in New Orleans last season. The 31-year-old has primarily played first base, third base and left field over his career, and he’s likely to see plenty of time at first base for Triple-A Las Vegas next season.
Dean Kiekhefer (LHP)
(AAA/AA: 58.1 IP / 65 H / 22 ER / 8 BB / 51 K / 3.39 ERA / 1.25 WHIP)
The Cardinals’ 36th-round draft pick in 2010, the lefty reliever made 4 September appearances for the A’s late last season. After being released by the Reds early last year, the A’s signed the southpaw and sent him to Double-A Midland, but he soon found himself working out of Triple-A Nashville’s bullpen, where the control specialist issued just 6 walks over 44.2 frames while posting a 3.83 ERA for the Sounds. The 29-year-old re-signed with the A’s on a minor league deal in October, and he should start the season working out of the bullpen for Triple-A Las Vegas, with a chance of seeing time again in Oakland if needed.
Beau Taylor (C)
(AAA: 302 AB / 3 HR / 50 BB / 89 K / .248 AVG / .360 OBP / .348 SLG)
Taken by the A’s with their 5th-round pick in the 2011 draft, the 28-year-old backstop made his major league debut for Oakland late last season, making it into 7 games for the A’s. The left-handed hitter spent most of last season at Triple-A Nashville, where he put up a .248/.360/.348 slash line with 50 walks in just 302 at-bats for the Sounds. The Florida native re-signed a minor league deal with Oakland this offseason and is expected to share time with the A’s top catching prospect, Sean Murphy, at Triple-A Las Vegas next season.
Visit Athletics Farm for updates on the A’s minor league teams and all the top prospects down on the farm.