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Say hello to 2021’s new (minor-league contract) Diamondbacks

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Maybe no 40-man roster arrivals of late, but plenty of minor-league deals handed out.

Tampa Bay Rays v Baltimore Orioles Photo by Mitchell Layton/Getty Images

While major-league contracts have been notable by their absence at Chase Field this winter, there has been a lot of activity on the “invite to spring training” front. We’ll probably be talking about all the non-roster invitees, including the team’s prospects, after they are announced. Indeed, don’t be surprised to see some of the paragraphs below showing up again there (I am a firm believer in recycling...). But it’s definitely worth being aware of who the team has signed, as there is always the possibility of a diamond in the coal-heap. Remember, we signed Clay Buchholz to a minor-league deal in May 2018, and he then went 7-1 with a 2.01 ERA over 16 starts for the D-backs. More of that, please...

The list below is in chronological order, and reflects signings since the end of the 2020 World Series. Of course, the lack of statistics for 2020 makes it hard to evaluate where most of these players might be. But, hey, when has that ever stopped us?

11/04 - Jamie Ritchie, C

You can never have too many catchers, so it’s no surprise the team’s first minor-league signing was in this department. Ritchie was part of the Houston Astros organization since the picked him in the 13th round of the 2014 draft. In 2019 was the everyday starter behind the plate for their AAA affiliate in Round Rock, where he played alongside now-Diamondback Josh Rojas. Ritchie batted .270 with five home-runs, though this was the PCL - for comparison. his OPS was about a hundred points below that of Rojas. But I’ll still be cheering for him, since Ritchie and I share a common heritage, with his father having been born in Scotland!

11/17 - Sam Moll, LHP

Originally a third-round pick by the Rockies in 2013, he was sold to the Athletics in 2017, and made his major-league debut for them as a September call-up. It didn’t go well, Moll giving up 13 hits and 8 earned runs in 6.2 innings. Since then, he has bounced around the Pirates, Mariners, Jays and Giants without ever reaching the majors again. But in the last year for which we have stats, 2019, he had a 2.39 ERA over 41 Double-A and Triple-A appearances, striking out 54 batters in 49 innings. Though a left-hander, he does seem to offer some potential fo length, with 18 of the 41 appearances being for more than three outs.

11/17 - Bradley Roney, RHP

Must have been, “Sign one pitcher, get another for 50% off” day or something. :) Roney’s most recent public action came in the 2019 Arizona Fall League where he looked quite impressive, striking out 16 over 11.1 innings, with a 1.59 ERA. That finished a very solid 2019, after he had missed close to two years due to injury. Our siblings at Talking Chop were very impressed, effusing “Pure dominance for Roney, and hopefully a precursor to 2020 as he has a legitimate shot to make it onto an MLB roster as a guy who has always been incredibly difficult to hit when he throws strikes.” Obviously, the events of 2020 did not work in his favor, but maybe 2021 will. Most amused by his Twitter handle: @ThePeppeRoney.

11/19 - Drew Weeks, OF

Another former Rockie, drafted by Colorado in 2014. He put quite gaudy numbers at Triple-A in 2019, hitting 20 homers in 125 games. However, that was in the PCL with Albuquerque, and his OPS of .875 came in at only twenty points above the team average. Appears to have had a bit of a rough 2020. MLB’s announcement that they would pay minor-leaguers $400 per week, appears to have saved Drew from a summer working at Tropical Smoothie. He had previously worked an off-season delivering packages for UPS: ah, the glamorous life of a professional sportsman.

12/10 - Tyler Gilbert, LHP

Selected in the Triple-A portion of the Rule 5 draft, Gilbert had been traded from the Phillies to the Dodgers in February 2020, but never got to pitch for them, outside of a couple of Cactus League outings. He turned 27 last month, and seemed pleased to be out of the logjam of pitchers in Los Angeles - albeit with a bit of a backhanded compliment. He said after the draft, “I’m happy. It’s a better opportunity... The Dodgers have so many arms. That door closed and another door opened. I don’t care who I pitch for, I just want an opportunity. Arizona is in a rebuilding phase, so it couldn’t be a more perfect situation.” Oops. I thought we weren’t using the R word around here?

1/18 - Edgar Arredondo, RHP

Here’s one for whom we do have some recent stats, since for the second winter in a row, Arredondo was a starting pitcher for the Tomateros de Culiacan in the Mexican league. He had a good season for them, going 5-1 in eight starts, with a 2.40 ERA, and allowed only one home-run in 48.2 innings of work. That got Culiacan into the playoffs. Yesterday, he got the win with six shutout innings, as they reached the Mexican Pacific League final - he has a sub-one ERA in the post-season. The Tomateros will now face the Naranjeros de Hermosillo, in a best of seven series which begins on Friday. The winner of that then qualifies for the Caribbean Series.

1/18 - Bryan Holaday, C

Yes, that’s how he spells it. He’s a veteran with nine years MLB experience, having played mostly with the Tigers, but also the Marlins, Rangers, Orioles and Red Sox. Though he has very much been a back-up, not reaching 175 PA in any season. He is also a bit of a pitcher, having made five appearances on the mound, with a not terrible 6.75 ERA. He was most recently seen there, finishing up a game for Baltimore against the Yankees on August 14 last year. In that appearance, he showcased a a 72.3 mph “heater”, to go along with a 60.7 mph knuckleball. Holaday even has a strikeout to his name, getting the Phillies’ Rhys Hoskins to go down swinging, to end a 20-1 blowout loss as a Marlin.

There are a couple more players that don’t appear on the team’s official transaction page as yet, but there seems to be enough evidence to include them here.

1/8 - Seth Frankoff, RHP

There was some discussion of Frankoff earlier, because he is like Merrill Kelly, in that he spent a couple of years pitching over in Korea, after making one appearance for the Cubs in 2017. He was with the Doosan Bears in 2018-19, and had a fair degree of success there. He went 27-11 with a 3.68 ERA; for comparison, Kelly was 48-32 with a 3.86 ERA over his four years. If he turns out to be as decent value as Merrill has ended up being, I’ll be fine with that. Frankoff returned to the US for 2020, and had a cup of coffee (2.2 innings) for the Mariners. It wasn’t a success, Seth allowing six hits, two walks and five earned runs, but we’ll see what he brings to the mound for Arizona.

1/11 - Christian Lopes, 2B

Lopes was drafted back in 2011, but that was out of high-school - he’s still only 28. As a kid, his stock seems to have been pretty high, being named the national U-13 player of the year by National Youth Baseball. Even in September 2010, he was regarded as “a five-star Baseball America prospect”. But for whatever reason, he became a 7th round pick by the Blue Jays, and has yet to make the show, now after more than 3,500 minor-league PAs. In 2019, he split time between AA and AAA in the Rangers organization with a line of .265/.366/.422. His brother, Tim, was drafted in the sixth round the following year, and played in the majors for Seattle in 2019-20.

1/19 - Ryan Butchter, LHP

Buchter was a former 33rd round pick who surfaced with the San Diego Padres in the 2016 season. He was a solid left-handed reliever option with the Padres, Royals, and Athletics from 2016-2018 that produced quality results. He regressed a bit with his command in 2019, seeing his walk rate jump to put ugly peripherals behind a 2.98 ERA. That led to Oakland non-tendering him before Buchter signed with the Angels for 2020. After 10 games, the Angels released him and he signed with the New York Yankees but never appeared for them. For more reading, check out Jack’s piece.

1/20 - Chris Devenski, RHP

Devenski is a former 25th round pick of the Chicago White Sox who would emerge as a dominant bullpen weapon for the Houston Astros in 2016-17. His career year in 2017 helped Houston win a World Series title, but he was never able to build on that success. After replacement level seasons in 2018-19, Devenski underwent elbow surgery to remove bone spurs and was not healthy for the 2020 season, which led to his non-tender. Home runs have plagued him the past few years, which is a troubling sign for a fly ball heavy pitcher.