2010 Minor League Free Agents - Part One

Senior Minor League writer Dustin Mattison looks at the top minor league free agents that might be of interest to the St. Louis Cardinals.

Once upon a time, the St. Louis Cardinals were very active in the minor league free agent market. In recent years, the team has been less active in part due to the strengthening of the player development system.

But with the acknowledged lack of major league depth at the Triple-A level, it appears the Cardinals will once again revisit the process. The organization has hit the jackpot with some minor league pickups in the past. Ryan Ludwick, Abraham Nunez, and Joe Thurston came to the organization through the minor league process.

With lack of depth in the middle infield and left-handed pitching spots, I concentrated on those areas for this series. Also, with injury concerns regarding David Freese, the team could look to bring in depth at the hot corner.

Several players that I thought could be of definite interest to the Cardinals, Dana Eveland, Josh Barfield, Andy Sisco and Jay Sborz have already been signed.

We start by looking at players that I believe should definitely be of interest to the Redbirds. That will be followed in Part Two for The Cardinal Nation subscribers with a drill-down on the pitchers and in the final installment, a look at some of the available infielders and outfielders.

Remember, all these players have flaws and chinks in the armor. That is why their organizations have cut ties and made them available.

Top of the List

Clay Zavada LHP

The native of the St. Louis is a LOOGY with the best mustache in all of baseball. A 30th round selection of the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006, he is also a veteran of independent ball, having played with the Southern Illinois Miners. Coming off Tommy John surgery, Zavada posted a 3.35 ERA with 52 strikeouts in 51 innings in 2009.

Chuck James LHP

A fixture in the Atlanta rotation during the 2006 and 2007 seasons, injuries derailed what looked like a promising career. The 29-year-old has now re-invented himself as a left-handed reliever. James started the season in the rotation at Triple-A Syracuse where he pitched with moderate success. The Nationals then sent him to Double-A where his career rebirth took place. Appearing out of the bullpen in 19 games, he posted a record of 7-0 with a 1.24 ERA. He racked up 40 strikeouts in 36.1 innings and walked only six. If healthy, James could provide quality depth in Tony La Russa's bullpen.

Brad Snyder OF

The former Cleveland Indians first round pick hit 25 home runs and slugged .568 for the Iowa Cubs in 2009. Also, he made his big league debut and struggled to finish with a .185 average. Of note, he put together his first hitting streak (three games) in a series against the Cardinals in September. Synder reminds me a lot of another former Cleveland Indians farmhand, Ryan Ludwick.

Angel Salome C/OF

The former catcher had an interesting 2010 to say the least. He had to leave to be with his wife during a difficult pregnancy before later sitting out while dealing with anxiety issues. Add to that his desire to quit catching and play the outfield, the Brewers cut ties with Salome after he once ranked as one of their top prospects.

As an outfielder, his stats look pedestrian. But if his new organization can help him realize his value behind the plate, Salome might prove to be the most valuable player on this list.

Joe Bisenius RHP

The September call-up of the Washington Nationals opted for free agency after being taken off the team's 40-man roster. Signed as a minor league free agent by the Nats in May, he possesses a fastball that reaches the high 90s and finished with a rate of 10.8 K/9 in 2010.

Andy Marte 3B

Now 27-years-old, Marte was once considered one of the top prospects in all of baseball. Coming up as a Brave, the third baseman is looking to join his fourth organization in 2011. He has 838 major league at bats and has posted an unremarkable line of .218/.277/.358. Marte might be worth a look in spring training and provide some depth for David Freese.

Joel Guzman 3B

Once upon a time, Joel Guzman looked like the next great Dodger and a given to carry on their Rookie of the Year tradition. That never came to pass and he found his way out of Los Angeles to Tampa Bay. He has since spent time in the Nationals' and Orioles' organizations. Only 26, Guzman hit .33 home runs and posted on OPS of .863 at Double-A Bowie. The former shortstop now mostly plays right field and first base but does play occasionally at third.

Wladimir Balentien OF

A right fielder with plus power, Balentien has struggled to make contact with 114 strikeouts in 511 career Major League at bats. In 2010, the 26-year-old hit .282/.337/.536 with 25 home runs and 12 stolen bases in Triple-A for the Reds. For a Cardinals system lacking power prospects, the native of Curacao would be well worth a look.

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Dustin can be contacted at dustin@whiteyball.com.
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