Profiling The A's MiLB Free Agent Class, P. 2

Minor league free agents rarely get much ink during the off-season, but they can sometimes make major impacts on the organizations that sign them. In 2012, the Oakland A's received a significant boost from their minor league free agent class. Thus far this off-season, the A's have signed 11 minor league free agents. In part two, Chris Biderman profiles the pitchers signed by the A's.

To view part one of this article, please click here.

Right-hander Yeiper Castillo – a 24-year-old starter coming from the Red Sox – spent the 2012 season at both A-Levels while showing progression as he moved up to the Carolina League. With the Greenville Drive of the South Atlantic League, he compiled a 4.05 ERA and 4.24 FIP in 17 appearances, 11 of which were starts.

At 6'3" and just 186 pounds, the Venezuelan has plenty of maturing to do physically, which should add to his live fastball that sits in low-90s and has reportedly been clocked as high as a 94 miles an hour. Fastball command was perhaps his biggest issue, but he was able to lower his WHIP from 1.41 to 1.16 in 11 starts after his midseason promotion to High-A Salem. His changeup is his out pitch, while his curveball needs to improve in order for him to keep ascending up the ranks. It's likely he will also need to add a fourth pitch to his repertoire.

Another righty, Mike Ekstrom, has made appearances in the majors leagues in five different seasons for San Diego Padres, Tampa Bay Rays and Colorado Rockies. He hasn't been particularly effective, however, posting a career 5.61 ERA despite a low walk rate. But his 4.33 FIP is likely indicative of a .325 career BABIP. In 2012, his right-handed and left-handed splits were pretty significant. He allowed righties a .217 average while lefties hit .458 against him. He's had a tough time with lefties throughout his career.

Ekstrom is not a hard thrower for a reliever, but the A's have never shied away from effective relievers just because of their radar gun readings. Look for him to be a reliever for Triple-A Sacramento and a possible candidate to add depth to Oakland's bullpen as the season goes on.

Right-hander Kyler Newby is another well-traveled reliever coming to the A's organization. The 27-year-old has spent a good portion of the last four seasons at the Double-A level, while having two separate cups of coffee in Triple-A for both the Baltimore Orioles and the Arizona Diamondbacks.

Last season, Newby made 42 appearances for Double-A Bowie (Orioles) in the Eastern League, yielding just 38 hits in 55.1 innings, while striking out almost four hitters for each walk. Not a particularly hard thrower, Newby relies heavily on deception while mostly throwing fastballs and sliders.

Once viewed as a top-tier prospect, former first-round pick Garret Olson comes to the A's with one of the worst ERAs (6.26) among starting pitchers that qualify since he came into the majors leagues. Like many talented prospects in the Orioles organization, Olson failed to live up to expectations. The A's took a flier on him this offseason and hope to reshape him into the player that many hoped he would be coming out of Cal-Poly, San Luis Obispo.

Olson has spent most of the last six seasons at the Triple-A level for four different organizations. Last year with Buffalo in the New York Mets' system, he went 4-7 with a 4.63 ERA and 1.520 WHIP. His strikeout numbers were solid, but he struggled with walking hitters and had a strikeout-to-walk ratio of just over two – in line with his career numbers in the minor leagues.

Many believe that he is a constant nibbler that has trouble finding consistency with his changeup, leading to his poor walk numbers. He won't blow hitters away with a hard fastball, but he should possess enough talent to be a competitive Triple-A pitcher given the right guidance. With the A's tendency to get the most out young pitching, there's a good shot that Olson could find success in Sacramento and be in the fold for depth should the A's need to dip deep into the minor leagues for an arm at some point over the summer.

Lefty Justin Thomas comes from the New York Yankees after being drafted in fourth round in 2005 by the Seattle Mariners. He bounced around as a free-agent to Pittsburgh, Boston and then to New York, making relief appearances in the big leagues with each team.

Armed with an average fastball and very good slider, Thomas has struggled with control throughout his career, leading to less than stellar strikeout to walk ratios. It's likely Thomas will play a key role in Sacramento's bullpen to start the season.

Another left-hander, Frank Gailey, is also joining the A's organization via a minor league contract. The Philadelphia native was a 23rd round pick of the Toronto Blue Jays in 2007 out of West Chester University. Gailey was the organization's Relief Pitcher of the Year in 2010. He was traded to the Phillies before the 2012 season for outfielder Ben Francisco.

In 2012, Gailey was well-traveled. He began the year as part of the Phillies' organization. He began the year at High-A, earned a promotion to Double-A and even had a one-game appearance at the Triple-A level. However, Gailey was released by the Phillies and re-signed by Toronto for the final month of the season. The 5'9'' southpaw has a 2.63 ERA with a 351:88 K:BB ratio in 363.1 career minor league innings.

Gailey isn't a particularly hard thrower (his fastball sits 90-91 MPH), but he has excellent command and has always been able to rack up impressive strike-out totals. He should challenge for a spot with Double-A Midland.

Brian Gordon is the A's most recent minor league free agent pitcher signing, and the signing with the most professional experience. The 34-year-old right-hander has been in professional baseball since 1997, when he was drafted as an outfielder in the seventh round by the Arizona Diamondbacks. Gordon had a decent minor league career as an outfielder, reaching double-digits in homeruns from 2000-2006. He made the transition to the mound in 2007 and hasn't looked back.

In five minor league seasons – all at the Double-A and Triple-A levels – Gordon has a 3.05 ERA with 321 strike-outs and 86 walks in 371.2 innings. He has allowed only 30 homeruns and has been able to both start and relieve. Gordon has had two stints in the big leagues. In 2008, the Round Rock, Texas, native made his major league debut with the Rangers, allowing a run on four hits in four innings over three appearances. In 2011, he made two starts for the New York Yankees, allowing six runs (and three homers) in 10.1 innings. Gordon spent half of the 2011 season and all of the 2012 campaign pitching in Korea.

Gordon isn't a hard-thrower, but he has a six-pitch arsenal and good command. He will provide depth and veteran leadership for the A's young pitching staff with Triple-A Sacramento.

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