The 2012 Oakland A's relied heavily on depth throughout the organization during their first playoff run in six years, calling upon numerous minor league players to make significant contributions to Bob Melvin's AL West champions.
The importance of organizational depth took center stage during the season's tipping point at the beginning of the summer, when Brandon Moss – who had signed with the team during the off-season as a minor league free agent – moved from the outfield to first base and catapulted an otherwise underwhelming offense to one of the better runs in team history.
As the calendar year comes to a close, we'll take a look at nine added minor-league free agents, some of which could see time with Oakland when the club faces the challenge of repeating as division champs in 2013. In part one of this two-part series, we profile the position players the A's have signed to minor league free agent deals thus far this winter.
Acquiring catchers from the Washington Nationals organization has become somewhat of a habit for the A's of late. Last off-season, the A's picked up Derek Norris in the Gio Gonzalez trade. Then during the season, Oakland acquired catcher David Freitas from Washington for Kurt Suzuki. Luke Montz is the third catcher drafted by the Nationals to be acquired by the A's in the past 12 months.
Montz was drafted in the 17th round in 2003 back when the organization was still the Montreal Expos. Montz spent seven seasons in the Nationals' organization, but the well-traveled Montz hasn't been in that organization since 2009 and has since played in the Miami Marlins' and the New York Mets' organizations.
Over the last two seasons, Montz has shown pretty significant power at the Double-A and Triple-A levels in Miami's organization. In 2011 and 2012 combined, he hit 51 home runs while slugging just around .500. He walked about five percent less last year in Triple-A than the year before at Double-A Jacksonville, which is nothing unusual. But his on-base numbers took a pretty big hit, down from .391 to .310 after the promotion.
Montz should begin the 2013 season with Triple-A Sacramento, seeing time behind the plate, at first base and at DH for the River Cats. He figures to share time at catcher with A's minor league Rule 5 pick-up Steven Hill and could also share playing time with Freitas.
Third baseman Scott Moore comes to the A's from the Houston Astros' organization. The 29-year-old was once believed to have a very high ceiling after being drafted eighth overall by the Detroit Tigers in 2002. Over five years of scattered major league experience, Moore has a .242/.302/.410 slash line paired with 16 homers and 53 RBIs in very limited playing time. Moore can play each infield position – sans shortstop – and the corner outfield spots.
The left-handed hitter was viewed as a high value prospect to a couple teams, as he was a key piece in a trade from Detroit to the Chicago Cubs that netted the Tigers Kyle Farnsworth and later from Chicago to Baltimore in a deal involving Steve Trachsel.
Moore had a pretty good season in 72 major league games with Houston last season, putting together a 778 OPS while playing mostly at the corner-infield positions. He had nine homers in 201 big league at-bats. For Triple-A Oklahoma City (where he played for former Sacramento River Cats' manager Tony DeFrancesco), Moore batted .318/.410/.555 with 10 homers in 245 at-bats. Moore should begin the year with the River Cats and could be a fall-back plan for the A's at third base should Josh Donaldson or Scott Sizemore struggle.
Outfielder D'Arby Myers is coming off a very solid season at Double-A in the Phillies organization, where the 24-year-old hit .306/.339/.421 after posting equally solid numbers for High-A Clearwater prior to his promotion. Myers is a former fourth-round pick back in 2006 out of high school. Despite seven years of professional experience, Myers is just 24 with still plenty of time to fill out his 6'3", 175 pound frame.
Myers has had solid contact numbers throughout his pro career, but leaves a plenty to be desired in regards to his walk rates. It's likely the lanky outfielder will start the year with Double-A Midland to help refine his approach at the plate in the Texas League, which is known for less than ideal hitting conditions.
Former Texas League All-Star Darwin Perez joins Oakland's organization via the Los Angeles Angels. Perez is an intriguing prospect despite a down year last season with Double-A Arkansas as a 22-year-old. In 2011, Perez compiled a 701 OPS thanks in part to a 13 percent walk-rate, leading to a .366 on-base clip.
The 5'10", 160-pound Perez combined to steal 38 bases over the last two seasons and he has above-average speed. His biggest asset as a player is with his glove, however. Considering how thin the A's have are at shortstop throughout the system, Perez will bring needed depth to the position. If he can get back to his 2011 proficiency at reaching base, Perez could be a prospect to watch for the A's.
Stay tuned tomorrow for profiles of the pitchers the A's have signed to minor league free agent contracts this off-season.