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2024 off-season: minor league signings in Reno

Anything that will pop out of the magician’s hat in 2024?

Arkansas Travelers v Amarillo Sod Poodles Photo by John E. Moore III/Getty Images

On November 6, when the off-season officially started, the following minor league players were released by the Diamondbacks (per Baseball America):

Position players

The player with most Major league experience (353 plate appearances) of them all was Phillip Evans. A versatile player with no clear spot on a roster, Evans saw extended action in Pittsburgh in 2021 but couldn’t impress and eventually lost his roster spot. He spent the entire season in Reno in 2023 with good stats but no power. With a crowded outfield he might have gotten an opportunity at 3B, but despite the disappointing production the Diamondbacks got at that corner, Evans was apparently no option.

Camden Duzenack hovered Rule 5 addition in 2021, but was too much a borderline player at 2B, having severe strikeout issues at the highest minor league level. In 2022 and 2023 he couldn’t impress in Reno in short stints and spent the majority of time in Amarillo.

Former Diamondbacks prospect Sergio Alcantara took a detour to the desert in 2022 and didn’t even do that bad in Arizona, but was no option for 2023. He signed a minor league contract with the Cubs but returned to the Diamondbacks in August.

Catchers Ali Sanchez and Juan Centeno were clear depth options on the roster, although Ali Sanchez might have been close to a call-up to the major league if it weren’t for Seby Zavala. Sanchez played 67 games for Reno where he was, basically, 1 of 4 catchers to spend time behind the plate (excluding Herrera, Kelly and Moreno). Centeno spent his entire second season in the Diamondbacks’ organisation in Amarillo. Quite a drop for a player who saw action in 7 major league seasons.

Pitchers

Except for the well-known Tyler Gilbert and Austin Adams, the Diamondbacks also released minor league veteran Tyler Ferguson (5.49 ERA in 78.2 innings in Reno), major leaguer Stephen Nogosek, who joined the Diamondbacks after getting outrighted by the Mets in June, and hard throwing Michel Otanez (6.08 ERA in 37.0 innings in Amarillo and Reno) and Raffi Vizcaino (5.23 ERA in 52.0 innings in Amarillo and Reno). Michel Otanez has been resigned by the club and got an invite for Spring Training.


And what have we seen happening so far at the highest level of the minor leagues?

Obviously most of these guys are far from major talents, but most guys definitely provide some possible upside and with a bit of luck could toss an inning here or there at the highest level. The majority were former farm prospects on FanGraphs’ prospects lists.

He is still on the 40-man roster, although he might soon be gone: Collin Snider was recently added as waiver claim from the Kansas City Royals. You’d have to conclude that he has had troubles striking batters out at AAA, but it didn’t stop the Royals from giving him 54.1 innings of action over the past two years at the highest levels. Snider apparently has excellent secondary stuff but has troubles to put guys away with the fastball.

At the end of October the Diamondbacks claimed Chris Rodriguez off waivers from the Angels, who since has been outrighted to Reno. It’s an interesting waiver claim as Rodriguez is said to have interesting stuff with high velocity; a back-end relief profile, if he ever manages to stay healthy. That has been his major concern so far. The 2016 4th round pick by the Angels has pitched just a bit over 100 minor league innings and got a brief look of 29 innings at the highest level in 2021. Last year he was limited to just 2.2 innings.

Ricky Karcher made his big league debut this season for the Reds and was outrighted in July after just 1 appearance, in which he achieved a 10-th inning save. FanGraphs mentions a possible back-end relief role, due to a big explosion in velocity in 2022. He had terrible command problems in 2023 in AAA and a lifetime 8.8 BB/9.

He was added to the 40-man roster in 2020, but didn’t make his (unsuccessful) major league debut for Philadelphia until 2022. Francisco Morales struggles with command and ended up on the Development List in his MLB debut season. According to FanGraphs, Morales’ biggest issue is punching his fastball in for a strike, but if he is able to accomplish that, his secondary stuff immediately puts him onto the steps for a high-leverage role. Whether he is able to work on his command in Reno or Amarillo remains to be seen though.

Gerardo Gutierrez is a weird signing. The 25-year old Mexican has never played in the United States and his track record in Mexico is hardly impressive, to say the least. Not sure what the Diamondbacks are looking for here.

Another question mark is 20-year old Daniel Nuñez. The right-handed relief pitcher tossed almost 15 innings against much older competition, but with good results. He will probably start at the Complex league, I guess.

Old friend Humberto Castellanos is also back. He’ll still be just 26 when the 2024 season starts. He didn’t pitch last season and this winter tries to get back in shape in Mexican Winter Ball. In 2021 he pitched to a 4.99 ERA in Reno, being especially homer-prone but other than he had some good stats, but wasn’t able to impress at the highest level.

Andres Chaparro looks like he’ll keep 3B warm in Reno until Deyvison de los Santos returns from the Rule 5 claim. Chaparro will become 25 years and hit .775 OPS at AAA for the Yankees last season. FanGraphs mentions he hits well below normal values for a 1B, hence the shift to the other corner. Chaparro is pure minor league depth as his defensive skills are rather questionable and he apparently does not hit enough to be a 1B or DH.

Minor league Rule 5 picks were Darlin Pinales (Dodgers), who showed promise in a short stint at Class A in 2022 but struggled severely with command in 2023, Andy Weber (Cubs), who repeated at AA for the second year in 2023 and John Matthews (Rangers), who has strikeout potential but also struggled with command in 2023.