Part 1 has a host of decent-hitting catchers, overlooked relievers, utilitymen, and various assorted aspiring bench help.
This batch of players represents those who might benefit from being healthier, different usage, or a change of scenery in 2008.
Josh Burrus, OF (Braves). Burrus is a not-so-common phenomena- a former Braves first-round pick (2001, 29th overall) out of a Georgia high school that hasn’t developed tools into skills. He’s hit as many as sixteen homers in a year and stolen as many as thirty bases, but hasn’t hit for average or contact above High-A ball. He’s still only 24, though, and the Reds could do worse for a part-timer to play at Sarasota or Chattanooga.
Brandon Claussen, LHS (Washington). 2007 was a mostly-lost year for the 28-year-old (just seven appearances, three in the GCL and four ineffective outings in AAA). Now that Jim Bowden & Co. has paid for the lefty’s rehab, is it time to see if he can regain the mid-rotation heights of 2004?
Robert Coello, RHR (Diamondbacks). Coello was drafted as a catcher by the Reds in the 20th round in 2004 out of a Florida community college. He signed but never made it to the field in the Reds organization. Fast-forward to 2007- he surfaces as a pitcher in the Arizona organization, posting a 1.37 ERA in 20 appearances in the AZL. The Reds liked his arm before- could they still like it now?
Jason Davis, RHR (Mariners). I think back to about five years ago when the now-27-year-old Davis was going to be the future of the Cleveland rotation with his six-foot-six, 230-pound frame and blazing fastball. Jason managed a 4.63 ERA in 27 starts in 2003, then proceeded to pitch his way out of the Indians rotation and into future-of-the-bullpen status. By the end of 2006, he was a free agent signing with Seattle. Davis struggled badly in the Mariner system in 2007, missing about half the season with injuries and walking thirty in just fifty innings. Can he recover the satellites somewhere else in 2008?
Hector Gimenez, C (Astros). Gimenez’ career line of .260/.312/.387 isn’t special, but the Venezuelan is just 25 even after missing all of 2007 due to injury. Catchers’ bats tend to develop late, and Hector’s shown enough promise with his to offer the possibility of more.
Brian Lawrence, RHS (Mets). New York’s need to use a still-recovering Lawrence in its starting rotation proved a flop (6.83 ERA in six starts), but the 31-year-old should now be over the arm surgery that cost him the entire 2006 year. (He still pitched decently in AAA before the callup.) Prior to surgery, Lawrence held down a spot in the San Diego rotation for almost five entire seasons, and his ERAs in those years (3.45, 3.69, 4.19, 4.12, and 4.83) are nothing to sneeze at.
Warner Madrigal, RHR (Angels). Converted to pitching after three and a half seasons as an outfielder, the 24-year-old Madrigal saved 20 and whiffed 75 in 61 innings for Low-A Cedar Rapids in 2007.
Cory Morris, RHS (Orioles). Morris, 27, was drafted by Baltimore in the 15th round in 2001 out of Dallas Baptist University (alma matter of Jason LaRue). He missed 2007 due to injury, but prior to that struck out a batter per inning while allowing just under eight hits per nine. What kept him from reaching AAA until 2006 was control problems- almost five walks per nine as a pro. I noticed that he’s been exclusively a starter; would the change of scenery plus a move to the bullpen where he can rear back and fire be worth a shot?
Clint Nageotte, RHS (Mets). Nageotte, 27, is an Ohio native and ex-Mariner phenom who was derailed by arm injuries that cost him much of the past three years. Let go by Seattle, he struggled badly in AAA for New York. This guy was a Homer Bailey-level prospect as recently as 2004; would a fresh start and maybe a move to the bullpen be worth a shot?
Chris Narveson, RHS (Cardinals). Narveson, 26, returned in 2005 on a waiver claim to the organization that originally drafted him after Colorado had claimed him the year before and then traded him to Boston for Byung-Hyun Kim. Chris had a great 15-start stint in the PCL in 2006 and earned a brief callup to St. Louis, but injuries derailed his 2007. Is the former second-round pick (2000) healthy?
Joe Torres, LHR (White Sox). Formerly the tenth player chosen in the 2000 draft (Angels), Torres struggled so badly with his control (76 BB in 43.2 IP in 2006, 92 BB in 56 IP in 2005) while trying to return from arm injuries that cost him all of 2004 that he was released and picked up by Chicago. He managed 21 appearances at High-A Winston-Salem in 2007, striking out 39 in 32.2 IP and permitting just 23 hits. Most importantly, he walked only sixteen. Torres is still just 25 and could be worth a flyer as a power arm out of the bullpen.
Scott Tyler, LHR (Marlins). Sent from the Twins to the Marlins along with Travis Bowyer for Luis Castillo in December 2005, Tyler was moved to the bullpen in 2006 before missing some of 2007 with injuries that cost him his control (49 BB in 40 IP between three levels). A former second-round pick by the Twins in 2001, Tyler was once a pretty decent prospect.
Doug Waechter, RHS (Rays). Waechter, 27, missed more than half of 2007 with injuries after pitching himself out of Tampa Bay’s plans. Doug spent part of each season from 2003-2006 in the Rays rotation (and also parts of each season on the DL), but did progressively worse each time out. Waechter was once a decent prospect with a classic pitcher’s frame and has always had pretty good control; a possible dark horse for a revived career.
Jerome Williams, RHS (Washington). Another injury-rehab that couldn’t make it back to his previous effectiveness (2003-2005 with San Francisco and the Cubs) with the Nationals. Williams is a guy who was an effective major-league pitcher at 21, then kept it going for another several years before arm issues caught up with him in the latter part of 2006.