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A’s Farm Report: A’s Minor League Free Agent Roundup

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Pitcher Brian Schlitter
Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Just thought I’d share this recent piece from my Athletics Farm site to provide a little Thanksgiving reading here on Athletics Nation

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.

Outfielder Nick Martini was a minor league free agent signee after the 2017 season and ended up posting an impressive .397 on-base percentage for Oakland in 2018 while spending plenty of time serving as the A’s leadoff hitter down the stretch. RHP Brian Schlitter was signed as a minor league free agent last offseason and wound up making a half-dozen relief appearances for the A’s in 2019. And catcher Beau Taylor, who was re-signed to a minor league deal last offseason, made it into ten games for the A’s last year.

So, with that in mind, let’s take a look at this offseason’s nine minor league free agent signees who were announced by the A’s on Monday. Each of them has been invited to spring training in 2020, and all of them have been assigned to the Triple-A Las Vegas Aviators roster. We’ll find out over the course of the coming year which one of them might end up playing key roles for the A’s as the team looks to make it into postseason play again in 2020...

Carlos Perez (C)

(AA/AAA: 374 AB / 14 HR / 21 BB / 56 K / .243 AVG / .293 OBP / .417 SLG)

Perez has played in 212 major league games, mostly for the Angels, but he last appeared in the majors in the 2018 when he made it into a total of 28 games for the Rangers and the Braves. He spent most of last season catching for Bowie, Baltimore’s Double-A affiliate in the Eastern League, but also made it into eight games for Triple-A Norfolk. Perez threw out 43% of attempted base stealers last season and also played 16 games at first base last year. The 29-year-old Venezuelan was clearly signed to provide some veteran experience behind the plate and is likely to pair with switch-hitting catcher Jonah Heim to form the team’s Triple-A catching corps at Las Vegas in 2020.

Ryan Goins (SS-2B)

(MLB: 144 AB / 2 HR / 17 BB / 44 K / .250 AVG / .333 OBP / .347 SLG)

(AAA: 273 AB / 10 HR / 39 BB / 77 K / .322 AVG / .406 OBP / .531 SLG)

Goins has plenty of big league experience under his belt, having spent time in the majors in each of the past seven seasons. The former 4th-round draft pick of the Blue Jays has appeared in a total of 541 major league games in his career and made it into 52 games for the White Sox last season. The 31-year-old tore up Triple-A pitching last year at Charlotte, slashing .322/.406/.531 while splitting time between shortstop and second base for the Knights. And with infielders Franklin Barreto and Jorge Mateo both out of options, it’s likely that the left-handed hitter will see plenty of time in the middle of the diamond for Las Vegas next year while also providing an experienced infield option for the A’s should the team need one in 2020.

Nate Orf (2B-OF)

(AAA: 405 AB / 11 HR / 65 BB / 74 K / .272 AVG / .399 OBP / .410 SLG)

The 29-year-old has been one of the Pacific Coast League’s most dependable hitters over the past few years, batting .320 in 2017, while putting up a .397 on-base percentage in 2018, and topping that with an OBP of .399 in 2019. Orf was hit by a pitch 22 times last year and has managed to swipe a total of 40 bases over his past three seasons in the PCL. The right-handed hitter made it into 15 major league games for Milwaukee in 2018 and has started over 300 games at second base in the minors. He’s likely to see plenty of time at second again this season at Las Vegas, but he’s also spent some time in the outfield if duty calls.

Eric Campbell (1B-3B)

(AAA: 333 AB / 16 HR / 54 BB / 68 K / .276 AVG / .382 OBP / .492 SLG)

The A’s re-signed Campbell to another minor league deal after he turned in a solid season for Triple-A Las Vegas last year. The 32-year-old, who’s appeared in 196 major league games for the Mets, slashed .276/.382/.492 and was second on the team with 54 walks while primarily playing first base for the Aviators last season. And with few experienced first base prospects behind Matt Olson in the high minors, Campbell is likely to spend plenty of time manning first again for Las Vegas next year.

Brian Schlitter (RHP)

(MLB: 9.2 IP / 12 H / 4 ER / 4 BB / 6 K / 3.72 ERA / 1.66 WHIP)

(AAA: 42.2 IP / 51 H / 22 ER / 11 BB / 31 K / 4.64 ERA / 1.45 WHIP)

Besides Campbell, Schlitter was the other minor league free agent re-signed by the A’s this offseason. The 33-year-old, who’d previously appeared in 78 major league games for the Cubs, made it into six games for the A’s last year. He also led Las Vegas with 11 saves last season and should be a critical piece of the Aviators bullpen again next year while also serving as additional bullpen depth for the A’s if needed.

Zach Lee (RHP)

(AAA/AA: 122 IP / 147 H / 69 ER / 33 BB / 100 K / 5.09 ERA / 1.48 WHIP)

A former 1st-round draft pick of the Dodgers out of high school back in 2010, Lee has thus far managed to make it into a total of four major league games for the Dodgers and the Padres in his career. The 28-year-old made a combined 24 appearances, 21 starts, for Triple-A Syracuse and Double-A Binghamton last year, putting up an ERA of 5.09 for the pair of Mets’ affiliates. With a plethora of minor league pitching prospects, including Daulton Jefferies, Grant Holmes, James Kaprielian, Parker Dunshee, Brian Howard and more, expected to be in the running for spots in the Triple-A rotation next season, it’s unclear whether the A’s plan to use Lee as a starter or if they might possibly plan on putting him to work in a bullpen role for Las Vegas next year.

Jaime Schultz (RHP)

(MLB: 5 IP / 6 H / 4 ER / 3 BB / 3 K / 7.20 ERA / 1.80 WHIP)

(AAA: 47.2 IP / 52 H / 31 ER / 27 BB / 62 K / 5.85 ERA / 1.66 WHIP)

Schultz has made it into a combined 26 major league games for the Rays and the Dodgers over the past two seasons, compiling a 5.86 ERA over 35 1/3 innings in the majors. The 28-year-old put up an ERA of 5.85 in 47 appearances for Triple-A Oklahoma City last year. All but four of the righthander’s 124 major and minor league appearances over the past three seasons have come in a relief role, and he’s expected to serve in a similar role for Las Vegas next year.

Ian Gardeck (RHP)

(AA/A+/Rk: 23 IP / 9 H / 5 ER / 10 BB / 27 K / 1.96 ERA / 0.83 WHIP)

The only one of the A’s recent minor league free agent signees without any major league experience, Gardeck missed all of the 2016 and 2017 seasons after undergoing Tommy John surgery twice. He also missed the first three months of last season due to an inflamed elbow. The 29-year-old has yet to pitch above the Double-A level, but the right-handed reliever looked strong after returning to action last season, putting up a 1.96 ERA in 21 total appearances, and a 2.41 ERA in his 17 games for Double-A Montgomery.

Lucas Luetge (LHP)

(AAA/AA: 68 IP / 57 H / 18 ER / 21 BB / 74 K / 2.38 ERA / 1.15 WHIP)

Like Gardeck, Luetge also endured Tommy John surgery, and he ended up missing all of the 2018 season. But the lefty looked good when he returned to action in 2019, putting up an ERA of 2.38 while notching 74 strikeouts over 68 total innings for Triple-A Reno and Double-A Jackson. Prior to his elbow trouble, the 32-year-old earned plenty of major league experience, making a total of 111 relief appearances for Seattle over four seasons. Luetge is likely to start the year as a key lefty in the Las Vegas bullpen, and if he can replicate his strong performance from last season, he could turn out to be a legitimate left-handed bullpen option for the A’s at some point in 2020.

Visit Athletics Farm for updates on the A’s minor league teams and all the top prospects down on the farm.