OAKLAND -- Interleague play used to be an early-season novelty. Now, it has expanded all the way…
Minor League Additions
The signee with the most illustrious past is right-handed pitcher Chien-Ming Wang who won nineteen games for the Yankees in both the 2006 and 07 seasons. The Taiwanese will turn 34 before opening day and try to revive his career after making 27 MLB appearances over the past four years with Washington and Toronto. Last year he appeared in eighteen International League games split between the Yankees' Scranton/Wilkes-Barre and Toronto's Buffalo affiliates and finished with a mid-three ERA over fifty innings.
26 year-old Tim Adleman has been laboring in the Independent Leagues since pitching in single-A for Baltimore in the 2010-11 after the Orioles selected the Georgetown University right-hander in a late round in the 2010 draft. In 2013 he posted a 1.46 ERA in 40 appearances for New Jersey in the Candian-American Association. The 6'5"/200# Adleman's brings a low/mid 90's fastball and his effectiveness as a closer earned him recognition as one of the top prospects in the Independent Leagues last season.
24 year-old Trevor Reckling was an 8th round selection of the Angels in 2007 and made it up to AAA while pitching six seasons in their developmental system. He was one of the Halos' top prospects after posting a sub-three ernie in 23 AA starts in 2009. Things didn't go as well for him after that and he left their organization after 2012 before pitching in a dozen Atlantic League games last year. He's considered having an average fastball that he mixes with a couple of off-speed offerings.
Perhaps if Billy Hamilton is not ready for regular MLB duty Jason Bourgeois might earn a chance to pick up some playing time. This is the eighth organization for the 32 year old since the Rangers drafted him in the second round in 2000. The right-hander has a lifetime average of .259 AVG/.305 OB in around 400 plate appearances with five different MLB teams. Last year he hit .290/.343 with Tampa Bay's AAA affiliate in the International League. While in center field he's run down over 2.6 per nine innings.
The Reds picked up 24 year-old third baseman Ray Navarro after he hit .283 AVG/.310 OB with a dozen homers in 119 games for the Royals AA affiliate last season. He also made an AAA debut and batted .300/.391 in seventeen games in the Pacific Coast League. The 5'10"/175# right-handed hitter is a veteran of seven minor league seasons since the Diamondbacks selected him in the third round out of Puerto Rico in 2007.
Max Ramirez is a 5'11"/215# 29 year-old catcher out of Venezuela that has spent the past ten seasons in the minor leagues. Last year he batted .263 AVG/.336 OB with nine home runs after cracking the .300 level the previous season for Omaha in the Pacific Coast League. He hits right-handed and has made almost 1,800 plate appearances at the AAA level over which he's hit .272/.347 with 49 homers. Given those stats it's a bit odd he hasn't made an MLB debut even though he's not played below the AAA level since 2008. Overall he's played in seven different organizations.
Cincinnati picked up another Venezuelan catcher in 24 year-old Rossmel Perez. The 5'9"/200# receiver could possibly platoon with Ramirez since he hits left-handed, however he's never made it higher than the AA level in eight minor league seasons for Arizona. The last two years he split time behind the plate for Mobile in the Southern League while batting .258 AVG/.337 OB with a couple of homers in 154 games. Other catchers in the organization will likely cause him to return to that league with Pensacola to start the season.
30 year-old Mike Wilson has spent twelve seasons in the minor leagues, mostly with Seattle before playing at Tucson for the Padres and in the Atlantic League last season. The right-handed hitter was the Mariners' second round selection out an Oklahoma high school in 2001. The 6'2"/245# right fielder has hit .273 AVG/.361 OB with 57 homers in 362 AAA games and also appeared in eight MLB games for the M's in 2011. As his physique would suggest, he hits for power and has a lifetime minor league slugging percentage of .476 with 167 home runs including three seasons when he hit more than twenty.
Left-hander Nick Schmidt was a first round selection by San Diego in 2007 out of the University of Arkansas. He pitched six seasons in the Padre organization, making it to AAA in 2012 after fast-tracking through AA with only fourteen starts. After that he struggled at the highest level the past two years with an ERA over five across 49 appearances. Last year they tried converting him to a reliever and his ERA did drop almost an entire run compared to 2012, but he was still at 4.71. He doesn't really light up the radar with a fastball that sits around 90 mph, but he does offer a developed curveball and changeup and it was once projected that he would be able to use his big frame (6'5"/235#) to drive pitches low in the strike zone.
Ross Ismail is a side-armed right-hander that Cincinnati signed as a foreign free agent out of Aruba. It's difficult to find much about him, but he did lead Aruba in innings pitched during the Under 15 World Baseball Championship in 2012. Given his age he'll likely debut in the rookie leagues after the start of the short season.
Cincinnati has made it no secret that they are looking for a utility middle infielder to take the place of Cesar Izturis and Argenis Diaz (27 yrs old in Feb) has been invited to spring training. They'll likely prefer someone with more MLB experience who'll sign with them later, but that's the same recipe as Izturis one year ago before he struggled at the plate hitting .209. Diaz played 22 games while debuting with Pittsburgh in 2010 and hasn't returned to the MLB level since. He's spent the past five years in the International League for Pittsburgh and Detroit and bats right-handed with a lifetime AAA average of .256 AVG/.315 OB while stepping up to the plate over 1,700 times.
31 year-old Ruben Gotay has played in the majors during four different seasons with Kansas City, New York Mets, and Atlanta while hitting .255 AVG/.315 OB with twelve home runs in over 800 plate appearances, the last of which was in 2008. He went all the way back to AA last year where he spent the entire season in the St. Louis organization while hitting .279 AVG/.366 OB/.438 SLG/16 HR/89 RBI. The switch-hitting third baseman was originally a late round selection by the Royals out of junior college in 2000.
The Reds lost one and added one in the minor league phase of this year's Rule 5 draft. Outfielder Theo Bowe is now with Washington while right-handed pitcher Michael O'Brien will come to Cincinnati from the Yankees. O'Brien was a ninth round selection by New York in 2008 out of a Roanoke, VA high school. He made it to AA in 2012 and has since put up an ERA slightly over four in over 200 innings with Trenton. His best pitch is a changeup that he mixes with a high-80's fastball while he's still working on a curve. He's a bit undersized (5'11"/190#) for a starter and there have been reports of a faster velocity in his past. He could be a candidate for a conversion into the bullpen in the future, especially if that role allows him to regain speed on his heater.
There will be additional transactions as other minor league free agents mull over their best options. They are typically longshots to make an impact at the MLB level, but sometimes an injury or a slump might open the door for an opportunity that might pay dividends for their persistence at trying to keep careers alive. Cincinnati will turn over a few rosters spots as they once again prepare for a year in which they will enter as post-season contenders. Last year's injury to Ryan Ludwick gave significant action to free agent Derrick Robinson and 2012 pickup Xavier Paul. It's difficult to tell who might get an unexpected call this year but if the Reds are again in the heat of a pennant race it will most likely go to an experienced option instead of throwing a youngster to the wolves.
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