The Oakland A’s have signed eight minor league free agents so far this off-season. We take a look at those minor league free agents. (Note: the A's also purchased the contract of Brandon Mann from the indepedent leagues this off-season. For more on Mann, click here.)
Free agents re-signed by A's
Carson Blair: Blair returns to the A’s as a minor league free agent shortly after he was designated for assignment off of Oakland’s 40-man roster. The 26-year-old made his major-league debut last September with Oakland and is currently third on the A’s major-league catching depth chart. The right-handed hitting catcher has power in his bat and a strong throwing arm. The A’s have had to dip deep into their catching depth chart each of the past two seasons, so there is a decent chance that Blair will get another opportunity in the big leagues if he plays well next year.
Angel Castro: Like Blair, Castro made his major-league debut last season. The hard-throwing right-hander waited more than a decade to reach the big leagues. He allowed a run in four innings over five appearances for the A’s. Castro was taken off of the A's 40-man roster late in the season. He elected free agency but re-signed with the A’s. Castro had a 3.13 ERA in 60.1 innings for Triple-A Nashville last season. Castro is a groundball pitcher with good command, four pitches in his arsenal and life to his fastball. Castro will be a long-shot to win a spot in the A’s bullpen this spring, but he is familiar to the A’s coaching staff and will be in a good position to fill a role for Oakland should the need arise if he pitches well.
Ryan Doolittle: To people outside of the A’s organization, Doolittle is best known for being Sean Doolittle’s younger brother. However, those within the A’s organization know Ryan as a talented reliever who is finally hitting his stride after spending much of the early part of his career battling arm injuries. Doolittle has pitched for Double-A Midland each of the past two seasons, posting a 3.28 ERA with a 93:35 K:BB in 104 innings. Doolittle is an excellent athlete with a fastball that can touch 95, as well as a slider and split-change-up. He has good command and has allowed just 21 homeruns in 277.1 career innings. This is the second straight off-season that Doolittle has re-signed with the A’s after declaring minor league free agency. He will be attending his first big league camp.
Taylor Thompson: Thompson spent most of last season on the A’s 60-day disabled list. The hard-throwing right-hander injured his shoulder during spring training and he didn’t make his 2015 debut until July 20th. He threw only 17.1 innings in total. Thompson has 5.1 innings of major-league experience (all with the White Sox). He has a career 2.95 ERA and a 315:121 K:BB in 296.1 minor league innings. The A’s liked what they saw from Thompson before his injury and, if he is healthy this spring, he will get a close look from the A’s coaching staff.
Ryan Brasier: The A’s signed Brasier as a minor league free agent in July. He threw only seven innings between Triple-A Nashville and the A’s Rookie League team. Before signing with the A’s, Brasier had spent his entire career in the Los Angeles Angels organization. Brasier made his major-league debut with the Angels in 2013, when he allowed two runs in nine innings. Brasier injured his elbow in 2014 and missed the entire season after having Tommy John surgery. If healthy, Brasier brings some velocity to the A’s system. His fastball touched 96 before the injury. He also has a heavy sinker and a decent slider.
Free agents new to A's organization
Chris Smith: Smith is a veteran right-hander who began his career in 2002 as a fourth-round pick of the Red Sox. He was in an ATV accident in 2002 that slowed his progress early in his career. Over the past 13 years, Smith has amassed 838 innings at the minor league level and 68 innings in the big leagues. Smith pitched for Nashville as part of the Milwaukee organization in 2009 and 2010 and could return to the Sounds this season. He was released midway through the 2011 season by Seattle and was out of baseball until joining the independent Wichita Wignuts in 2013. Smith spent the past one-and-a-half seasons in the Padres’ organization after San Diego signed him out of the independent leagues midway through the 2014 season. He played for the Sugar Land Skeeters in 2014, the same club that Scott Kazmir pitched for before returning to affiliated baseball.
Smith has been a reliever for much of his career, but he made 24 starts for the Padres’ Double-A and Triple-A squads last year. He had a 3.40 ERA and a 132:44 K:BB in 137.2 innings. Smith isn’t a hard thrower, rarely topping 90, but he has excellent fastball command and two solid off-speed pitches in his breaking ball and change-up.
Eduard Santos: Santos, a big-bodied right-hander, joins the A’s from the Angels’ organization, where he spent his entire career up until signing with Oakland. A native of the Dominican Republic, the 26-year-old has a career 3.23 ERA in 295.2 innings. Santos has a career 333:133 K:BB. He pitched at the Double-A level last season with the Angels and struck-out 78 in 58.1 innings. He also walked 32. It was his first season above A-ball. Santos’ fastball can tick 95 and he has an effective change-up and two workable off-speed pitches.
Scout.com's Los Angeles Angels beat writer Taylor Ward says that Santos was clocked as high as 97 MPH. Ward said Santos' best off-speed pitch is a split-change that comes in around 80-84. He profiled Santos last off-season during his top-100 Angels' prospect showdown. Read the full report here.
Patrick Schuster: Schuster joins the A’s organization after spending the last half of the 2015 season with the Cincinnati Reds’ organization. Before being traded midway through last year, Schuster had been with the Arizona Diamondbacks since he was drafted out of high school in 2009 (save the spring of 2013). The left-hander gained national fame during his senior season in high school when he threw four consecutive no-hitters. He went in the 13th-round to the Diamondbacks that summer and signed an above-slot deal ($450,000) rather than pitch for the Florida Gators. He was the first selection in the Rule 5 draft in 2013, but he failed to make the Padres’ roster out of spring training. Schuster was claimed by the Kansas City Royals, but didn’t make their roster that spring either and was returned to Arizona.
Since turning pro, Schuster has been mostly a reliever. He has a 3.46 ERA in 408 career minor league innings. He has just 18 career innings in Triple-A, but a career 2.90 ERA in 80.2 Double-A innings. Schuster isn’t overpowering, but he has a deceptive delivery and two solid off-speed pitches. Schuster can have trouble with his command at times, but he has always been adept at inducing groundballs. He just turned 25 in October, so he is entering the prime of his career.
Josh Rodriguez: Infielder Rodriguez joins the A’s organization more than 12 years after Oakland drafted him as a senior in high school in 2003. Rodriguez elected to go to Rice rather than turn pro and he went in the second round to the Cleveland Indians in 2006. Rodriguez was one of the Tribe’s top prospects in 2006 and 2007. In 2008, he had a poor season in Double-A. He hit well in 2009, but missed much of the year with hamstring injuries. Rodriguez rebounded in a big way in 2010, but got off to a poor start in 2011 before the Indians traded Rodriguez to the Pirates. Rodriguez would make his major-league debut with Pittsburgh that season, collecting one hit and one walk in seven games.
Since then Rodriguez has moved around a bit. He spent 2012 and 2013 in the Mets’ system and 2014 with Miami before returning to the Mets’ organization last season. Rodriguez is 30 years old and has a career .421 SLG in 10 minor league seasons. He hit 19 homers last season, which was mostly spent in Double-A. Rodriguez has a plus throwing arm and has experience at shortstop, second base, third base and the corner outfield.